Do we all need therapy?

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;

I have been in a total rut for years but just couldn’t get out of it. Since my divorce over 10 years ago, it has been such a struggle to keep the house, clean up the messes and re-align my frazzled brain that I haven’t had a chance to come up for air.

After a recent three week trip to the other side of the world, I returned home to have a sudden epiphany about my entire life- I could see how I had gotten sucked into putting others’ needs before my own, accepting blame and selling myself short, and padding the corners to help ease the pain. I had not only lost weight while away but also a whole lot of misguided notions in my head. I am seeing clearly for the first time in many years.

my question is this- the experience of getting away gave me a perspective that all the therapy in the world couldn’t have given me while my day to day life was numbing me with it’s onslaught of demands. Isn’t there some kind of treatment that therapists could provide that would have a similar effect? I’ve watched some of my friends remain in therapy, and on medication, for years and their lives never seemed to have changed appreciably.

Is therapy something we really need? Or is it something we developed a need for because few of us, with our demanding lives and jobs, has the freedom to simply relax and gain perspective in ordinary ways?

Wanda Ing

Dear Wanda,

Travel certainly is good for perspective but so is time, age, and readiness. Many people travel blind if they are not ready to question their givens.
In therapy, which can be a form of travel, it is much the same. Too often people just tell stories or rely on medications- thus they go nowhere. However, intent based treatment is very useful as it helps you travel to the future you wish to create.
Travel should be a tad unsettling- the challenge of dealing with unknowns helps you grow and learn about yourself. Therapy that’s not unsettling is just comfort food. Our culture is all about comfort.

So to answer your question- yes, therapy is something that many people can really benefit from. People need to be challenged in order to reexamine whatever truths they were taught in life. Many of our ideas are pure B.S. Only exposure to other truths help one gain perspective and realize new possibilities in choices.

Studies show that the cathartic epiphanies that people have after extreme experiences are not in and of themselves tied to genuine improvement in one’s life. Real and permanent changes need to be tied to consistent on-going behavioral change.
You seem to already know your story, so talking about it wouldn’t be useful. So get out and forge that future you’ve just had an inkling of.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny says: when students of Zen Buddhism are sitting in zazen seeking satori (enlightenment), there are stick wielding monks who circle slowly behind them, watching carefully. If one of the monks senses that a student is falling asleep, they apply a carefully timed whack to wake the student up.

It sounds like your travel experience was the whack you needed to wake you up. But you have to realize that if you hadn’t been seeking enlightenment, you probably wouldn’t have found clarity of vision. More likely, you would have just found a really good price on shoes.

The important thing with all change is continuance. You have to ACT on the truths that you see and keep up your efforts. If not, you will fall back into the daily rut that ever beckons.

Too many people put off important acts, saying “I’ll get to it. Soon.” But if one does not act when the energy is there, how on earth do they expect to act when the impetus is gone?

We need to be first certain we have made a good decision; but when we decide to act we need to do it with absolute purpose and continue on to the goal.

Bon voyage. I hope you make it to your new goals. Please write when you get there.

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About Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Dr. Brilliant Cliché and the Granny Dr. are a fictional web presence and advice blog. Together we offer a joint perspective that is deep but not academic, entertaining but not fluff, and educated yet street smart. By joining the internet community we hope to share thoughts and stimulate insightful conversation around pressing issues that affect us all. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. (This is not a site for therapy nor does it intend to replace medical or other professional care. ) You can leave comments here or email The Dr. at dr.brilliantcliche@yahoo.com and don’t forget to like us on facebook. Our facebook page is Dr. Brilliant Cliche
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4 Responses to Do we all need therapy?

  1. Ken Bryant says:

    Hi Wanda,
    I’m sorry to hear things have been tough for ten years. That’s a long time to be under without coming up for air and to have your brain frazzled. In any case, I’m glad you got such a good result from going on vacation. As far as therapy goes, the therapeutic relationship can be as refreshing as the vacation. It takes mutual trust between the patient and therapist, pondering unique perspectives concerning the presenting issues, an a plan of action with a clear understanding that some discomfort will be a necessary part of growth and improvement. I want you to put yourself on the list of people to pamper; in fact I want you to briefly interrupt any thoughts you are having of doing things for others until you do something for yourself first.

    • “I want you to put yourself on the list of people to pamper; in fact I want you to briefly interrupt any thoughts you are having of doing things for others until you do something for yourself first.”

      I hear many therapists say this to people. Only those very people they are saying it to only get confused by it as they often either see themselves as others or see others as themselves. “I am doing for me by helping everyone else. It is what I do? If I stop then I will cease to exist. “
      It isn’t about stopping from helping others and pampering oneself. It is not about disconnecting but instead connecting into a system that becomes a full circuit, reciprocal. This often means not pampering oneself but getting mad enough to say, “Cut the shit.” I need you to help me and in this particular way. And at the same time having somewhere in your life where you can absolutely help, Like volunteerism, raise a baby, get a dog. But even these need boundaries to be healthy.
      Our cultural mythology teaches us to help without abandon even if it means your own death. This only works for superheroes who can’t die. The rest of us have to set boundaries. You don’t do that closed in the bathroom pampering yourself. Although it is nice to do that from time to time, it won’t change your life, boundaries will.

  2. Dear Wanda,
    While you were traveling, you were “ready” to gain some perspective on your life — to re-evaluate how you were living and how you wanted your future to look. On the flip side of this, I can also imagine you taking the same trip and simply enjoying yourself and your novel surroundings and NOT coming to any revelations about changing your life. The significant difference between these alternatives is your “readiness” to re-evaluate your life. In other words, it was your “readiness” that allowed you to experience your epiphany, not the fact that you were traveling.

    This “readiness” can occur at any time. For you, this occurred while you were traveling and were able to take a break from your day-to-day life. But, breaking from your life via an extravagant vacation isn’t required for “readiness” to occur. One can experience “readiness” at any time and at any place, including in therapy.

    So perhaps the friends that you have watched continue in therapy and on medication for years without improvement have not been “ready” to make changes in their lives. Good therapy can help someone to become “ready” to make changes in their lives, but even when the person is “ready,” therapy can only take them so far. The person has to be willing to reflect upon him/herself and do the work necessary to make the changes happen.

    So, is therapy something that we really need? It depends.

    Are you “ready” to reflect upon your life and make some adjustments? Many are able to work through this process of self-reflection and change independently or with the help of friends and family. Others find that therapy helps them find their way through this process.

    Are others telling you that you need to make some changes, but you are just not sure? Perhaps you are not “ready?” For persons in this situation, therapy can offer you the assistance of someone outside of your circle of friends and family that can help you to evaluate your lifestyle and help to nudge you into being “ready” to make changes, if necessary. Then, of course, therapy can help to support you through the process of change.

    You seem to fall into the group that can forge ahead with change independently – good for you!! If you ever find that you need the assistance of therapy to help you find your way, just know that it is always here for you.

    Good luck!!

    • @ CG LMHC-to-be: All Excellent points. I think readiness means the willingness to go to uncharted territory and challenge ones givens. In the book, Mutant Message Down Under, by Marlo Morgan she describes doing a walk about. This relooking at all that we take for granted allows us to survive an inhospitable environment, one with challenges everywhere. Growing up we were all lied to. We were told the world is hospitable. We don’t expect to be challenged everywhere and with everything. As such we are entirely unprepared to live our lives, make good decisions, and fight for what we need. Carlos Castaneda in The Teachings of Don Juan calls it the way of the warrior. We are all warriors. We just don’t know it.

      Dr. Brilliant Cliché

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