Therapy can change your life but for many it’s an unknown entity. It’s very normal to be hesitant when it comes to therapy because it can feel odd telling a complete stranger about your innermost fears and thoughts. I wrote this post to dispel some of the myths around therapy and to explain why therapy can be so amazing and helpful.
Sometimes in life we bumble along and we keep making the same mistakes. Bad habits persist and we fail to see the repeated mistakes we’re making. Think of a rat in a maze-always trying the same thing and always getting the same result. A therapist offers an objective perspective on your thoughts feelings and behaviours. A therapist’s added insight will improve your own self-awareness and help you understand your own strengths and weaknesses. Therapy can change your life by adding useful insights.
Therapy also helps you to be more aware of your thinking errors. For example you might find that you catastrophise often. Catastrophizing is not based on fact, it is based on our fears and insecurities. Catastrophic thoughts invade and we get caught up in them and our anxiety increases. Cognitive behavioural therapy is a fantastic way of analysing your thoughts and the feelings they produce. Feelings are like our inner compass that guide us and our feelings lead to behaviours.
For example if you catastrophize and believe that your boss is going to fire you and then feel frightened, that mental state will produce behaviour in line with your mood. Their behaviour is based on faulty thinking (not facts) and this can lead you down the wrong path. You might start looking for a new job or call in sick or find other ways to deal with your fear.
Identify errors in thinking
In fact the reality could be very different and you’ll thought that your boss will fire you could be completely inaccurate. Our brains worry in in an attempt to keep us safe but it’s a counterproductive habit. Mind reading is another typical error in thinking where we assume that we know what someone else is thinking. Because we all want to be liked and we are social creatures we can often be very in tune with other people’s body language. If we misinterpret somebody else’s body language our thoughts from that interpretation will be incorrect and the behaviour will be off track.
The importance of mindfulness
This is why therapists also teach mindfulness to help you get out of your busy head and focus more on your immediate surroundings. It provides a great relief for a busy brain that will not switch off.
Mindfulness is all about focusing on your senses – what can you see, here, touch, smell, taste? When your brains 5 sensors are in gear you are less likely to overthink. Watching a movie, going for a walk in nature and focusing on the sounds of the birds, doing a puzzle – these are all examples of mindfulness.
Overthinking is dangerous
We all tend to overthink and it’s a very dangerous hobby. Invariably “what if” thoughts enter our minds and the anxiety starts.
Therapy also teaches you how to dismiss your negative thinking. We have approximately 80,000 thoughts per day and only 10 to 15% of those thoughts are useful. The rest is just our brains way of trying to stay safe in a scary world. Anxiety is the result of overestimating what might go wrong and underestimating our ability to cope. Therapy can change your life by showing you how to quieten your mind and feel calmer.
Look back on your life and you will see that you have coped with many dilemmas. It is the uncertainty that keeps us anxious so learn to be friends with uncertainty. See uncertainty as possibilities. Just because you don’t know the outcome does not mean that it will be a bad outcome. Keep open minded about the future and try to be more neutral than fearful.
Your therapist is your ally in life
If you feel unhappy in your life and this has been a constant state for at least six months, therapy would really benefit your mental health. Somewhere along the way unhelpful habits have crept in and an objective therapist can help you identify these habits and replace them with helpful ones. Seeing a therapist is like having a non judgmental ally in your life. It offers strength, support and guidance when you feel lost. Therapists have heard it all before and they are not there to judge you. They are there to help you reach your full potential and self actualize. Isn’t that great?
So think of a therapist as someone who is on your side. In this world we can all do with someone that has our best interests at heart. You have nothing to lose by giving therapy a try.