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I always correlated therapy with being mentally broken and something to consider as a last-ditch effort.
Which I realize is pretty ironic coming from someone who is fascinated with psychology, the way people think, and just coming short of a bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Psychology myself.
One of the key elements I learned from being in counseling is that, just by being in therapy you are strong enough and smart enough to know when it is time for change .
If you are in therapy then it is because you are intuitive. You are able to recognize that life can be better and seeking an alternative way to navigate different situations is bettering yourself. Not too many people are able to actually admit that their life isn’t working and seek professional help, rather than self-medicate, glossing over the issues.
The biggest and obvious outcome from counseling is to gain a new perspective. Seeing issues from an objective stand point, by trying to remove yourself and your emotions directly.
This was huge for me!
Asking instead why people act the way they do, why you allow people to treat you like they do, unveiling the answers beneath the surface of the projected actions. Most people will project their insecurities, emotions, problems, worries, bad mood, etc. onto you. You can’t let another person’s junk penetrate you, throwing you off course. Recognize it, offer a lending ear, but don’t let them unload their feelings onto you. They have to take responsibility for their own feelings.
Taking Ownership of Your Own Feelings
Speaking of feelings, I learned just how important it truly is to take ownership of them. I would talk to my counselor and say “that person made me feel like crap” and he would immediately correct me. Stating that no one can physically reach inside of me, take my feelings, bend and twist them however they want and put them back!
If a person made me feel terrible it was because “I” gave them that power. So, in actuality if something made me feel bad it wasn’t another person, it was because I just felt bad, or mad or sad, at something they said or did, and those are MY feelings, that I am in control of and entitled too. You have to own your feelings and not say that someone else is dictating them because they are not!
Are you following me?
I never knew the difference! My mind was blown. All because of the presence or absence of one word “made”. I learned that that word can just be left out, and I had to own my own feelings.
You Don’t Give up on Your Kids
When I would get frustrated with my teen falling prey to the same actions that consistently get him in trouble, I felt hopeless. I thought nothing is going to get through to him and I might as well just give up. After all, that is what he is pushing me to do anyway. Let him just figure out life on his own. But if I had the money, I would just send him a way to boarding school like they do in the movies.
Or better yet send him away to live with other family members like my mom did me when tensions were too high in our home.
My counselor was quick to point out that God does not give up on us. He never has and never will. We are forgiven everyday and given another shot. We are learning, and we are shown mercy while we make mistakes.
My heart sank!! How could I bail on my son? How can I not show him the same forgiveness God shows me? With that one statement from my counselor it was all put into perspective!
I will walk with my son. I teach him by my actions and demonstrating love and forgiveness. And by praying for him. Kids have to know that they are worthy and that you are willing to fight for them, not give up on them.
Always Waiting for the Silver Bullet
I let myself get overwhelmed easily. To the point where if things get too much to handle, I want to throw up my hands and run away. I’m like this in all areas of my life, even to the simplest of tasks. For example, even if my house gets too messy or the laundry gets to be too much, I am totally overwhelmed and unable to start. In order to counteract my procrastination or unwillingness, I try to make sure that everything is kept up on.
However, you can’t do this with life as a whole.
So, when things get too be too much, too messy and too broken in life I want out! I want to start over with newer and better things. I search for my knight in shining armor to come and rescue me.
Pulling me out of this life into a much better one! I know it sounds ridiculous, even to me as I type it, but it is true.
I don’t like this town, I want to move, I don’t like my relationship, I want a new one, I don’t like how divided and dysfunctional my extended family is, I want to be adopted into someone else’s. Of course, my counselor was quick to shut this one down right away! Everything takes work and effort. And whatever is broke you try to fix it, and if you can’t you have to learn to accept it, within reason of course. That’s a hard pill for me to swallow but I’m working on it.
Can I just say……. Ugh!
Our entire existence will always be revolving around our relationships. Whether, our boss, co-workers, classmates, friends, mother, father, children, siblings, in-laws or romantic relationships, we have to learn the dance. Literally, that is what he said. ALL relationships are a dance. You have to learn the give and take to EVERY relationship. Coming from someone who has been married, divorced, and back again with the same person I divorced, clearly, I struggle big time with this.
Then a slap to the face with a cold, hard realization. My counselor told me if I couldn’t learn the dance, then l will always struggle with all of my future relationships.
Ouch! That doesn’t sound very promising. He recommended Sue Johnson’s book Hold Me Tight, among several other books for hers, and this is an area of my life I will have to continuously work on.
No Subject Off Limits
We even dove into some things about my teenage relationship with a married man when I was 17. How misconstrued my reality was then, my reasonably misunderstood lack of expectations, and even certain behaviors from my ex that I didn’t understand. Nothing like hearing from a professional that your ex has his own issues and insecurities resulting in a lot of the problems in his life. Such sweet irony but also a great insight into something you weren’t able to see at all then.
This next subject caught me off guard. I was sitting there on one of my rants about one of my relationship issues when he told me I had co-dependency issues.
I felt defensive and misunderstood for the first time since I started counseling. I don’t depend on people! If anything, I feel like people depend on me way too much, for me to make everything okay.
Little did I realize, that is exactly what codependency is. It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.
Okay that is true. My whole life! That has been an issue. Let me say, it is a lot of pressure.
I have always felt, in several of my relationships throughout my life that I have to keep everything balanced just so and take care of everyone’s needs, in order for everything to run smoothly. Apparently, that is really wrong! This is another thing issue that will take time and is a current work in progress.
The final area in my life I was forced to cope with during counseling was grief. We didn’t get to focus on this as much as I’d like, or as much as I needed. However, I did take away one important thing, the only thing that actually made me feel better.
Our loved ones live on through us. I know that sounds so cliché but I really understand it now.
Every time I do something that I learned from my grandma, or a trait that I unknowingly emulate of my grandma, that is her living on through me.
Let that sink in!
You are a living, breathing embodiment for those you love, that can no longer be in this life with us. Their legend lives on through you.
They did that! They imprinted on you in such a way during their time here that it will carry through for future generations. And sometimes that is the only thing that gets me through.
Relearning Everything You Thought You Knew
So, in conclusion, counseling can give you a new found perspective on every aspect of your life. Shifting your focus, to look at things from a learning stand-point and implementing a new way of life.
It has a way of forcing you and teaching you to look at each obstacle as it comes with proactive solutions, instead of being way-laid, chalking it all up to hopeless and throwing your hands in the air, like I so often like to do.
It is like learning to live life over.
Relearning everything you ever thought you knew about life, how to treat people, how people should treat you, your way of thinking, and your perception. Being stripped of all the old ways of dealing with life’s problems and starting from scratch. I wished I had known these coping and relationship skills long ago. There is so much to be learned. So much improvement that can be made on all our parts to be a healthy, functioning, and thriving human being.
“Emotions: we feel them and we carry them until we manage them”