If you’re reading this, you probably don’t need to be told that life is difficult.
You probably know all too well.
And you’ve probably been told this, over and over— by parents, teachers, coaches, peers, the culture at large.
Yeah. We know life is hard.
We know that painful things are going to happen.
And we know we’re not entitled to either a perfect childhood or a perfect adult life.
Nobody goes into therapy to be told how difficult life is, or how they’re going to have to suck it up if they want to get better.
Yet there is a subset of people out there who seem to think that’s what we “need” to hear.
There really is a subset of people out there who think “entitlement” and the desire for a good life without work or pain are the big problems many people bring to therapy.
This hasn’t been my experience.
My experience is that many people who come into therapy or embark upon recovery have plenty of experience with “sucking it up.”
Many of them have been “sucking it up” for years— treating themselves with the “tough love” that had been shown to them their whole lives (well…the “tough” part, anyway).
Chances are you already have plenty of relationships in your life where you have to prove how “tough” you are.
You’ve had plenty of situations where you felt you had to “earn” your success or prove your worth.
If you’re seeking the support of psychotherapy or a recovery community now, you’re probably not seeking yet another environment in which you’re going to be reminded that life has sharp edges and the world doesn’t owe you anything.
Different therapists have different approaches to their work. I would’t dare tell any other therapist how to apply their skills.
But the people I see most in therapy aren’t there because they want to find the “easy” way out of suffering.
And they don’t need yet another relationship in their life where they feel their worth is conditional.
I don’t want my patients leaving my office wondering if I like them, if I support them, or whose side I’m on.
They deserve one relationship in their lives in which they can feel secure and safe.
It’s not, at all, that I want the therapy relationship to replace the flawed attachments they may have experienced growing up. I couldn’t be their “surrogate parent” even if I wanted to.
But I do not believe in therapy relationships that reenact the childhood dynamic in which they were left alone in times of fear or pain to “cry it out.”
As I say: different therapists have different training, styles, and goals. I like to say every therapist out there is right for someone, and every patient out there can make HUGE strides when paired with the right therapist.
My perspective is undoubtedly colored by the fact that I work mostly with people who have experienced trauma, often in their closest relationships.
Complex trauma survivors have had enough relationships in which they’re not quite sure if they’re liked, wanted, or respected— and what they’ve experienced is not their fault.
They don’t need the therapy relationship to recreate the doubts and pressures of relationships past.
You deserve to know I like you.
You deserve to know I’m on your side.
You deserve to know that, while we might disagree and I may not agree with or approve of everything you say or do, my regard for your worth as a person is unconditional.
You deserve to know that you are— for once— emotionally and physically safe in my presence.
I don’t think that’s unreasonable to ask for or expect in a meaningful therapy relationship.