Are we fundamentally broken or just disconnected? Considering the most public ideas about psychotherapy, many people come in believing that seeking therapy is an admission that we are somehow broken. We are told we have to accept that we are pathological in order to get better. It is difficult to know where to begin with this line of thinking. There is the aspect that demands we subordinate our understanding to that of a “more healthy” person (i.e, the therapist). There is the aspect that demands that we “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” until we can no longer stand it. There is the aspect that implies that benefitting from a caring relationship is a sign of an inner defect.
We get hypnotized by these implied meanings even while knowing full well that they are ridiculous. People get business coaching. People get the oil changed in their cars. Sure, you could figure out how to change your own oil. But why would you when you can put your energy into becoming good at what YOU do and letting other people bring their expertise into your life. You could learn to play the piano from a book. But would it work as well? And why would you want to do it the hardest possible way?
We know relationships matter. We know that other people’s responses to us help us gain perspective, challenge ourselves, and rethink our assumptions. We know that getting out of our comfort zone and changing familiar patterns sometimes requires a lot of effort and a push from outside ourselves. We know that mentoring and coaching help us achieve a much higher level of understanding and functioning. We know all that.
But when we stumble, or ache, or find ourselves unable to get where we want to go in our lives, we forget what we know, and we feel an exaggerated sense of inadequacy and incompetence. We feel we have somehow failed, and, worse, we often feel as if everyone around us is doing fine. We feel more limited than the other people we see in our lives. Sometimes when we feel psychological distress, we feel like children trapped in an adult body. We may feel like we are pretending to be functional when inside we are anything but confident.
Psychotherapy is about getting reconnected when we are disconnected. Reconnected with our inner selves and reconnected with our relationships and reconnected with our world. It is about growing in the next chapter of our lives. It is about finding out what we can do and who we can be when we can tolerate and accept our difficulties without letting them stop us. It is about having an advocate in our corner to remind us who we are and to help us piece together how we want to engage in this fascinating game of living our lives.