I hate when mental health professionals or advocates say that trauma can “only” be healed in relationships, or that addiction can “only” be overcome in a fellowship.
It’s true that attachments and connections can often be very helpful to people in recovery from trauma or addiction.
But it’s also true that many people really struggle with forming and maintaining relationships— especially if they’ve been harmed or traumatized in them.
Telling people that their emotional or behavioral struggles can “only” be healed in relationships— including professional relationships, like therapy— can have the effect of encouraging some people to not even take the first step in their recovery journey.
Some people would prefer to continue suffering rather than take the risk of getting into new relationships, including relationships that are supposedly healing or supportive.
Not to mention the fact that I just don’t believe it’s true that we can “only” heal in the context of relationships.
The history of understanding human behavior is largely the history of trying to understand how humans relate to other humans.
Some version of the sentence, “we are wired to connect” or “we are social creatures” is in virtually any introductory psychology textbook out there.
Psychotherapy is largely framed in relational and attachment terms, because therapy is, fundamentally, an intense, intimate relationship.
The Twelve Step addiction recovery traditionally holds that involvement with the fellowship, specifically “getting active” within one’s group and forming trust with and attachment to other members, is integral to recovery— and that isolation is a major risk factor for relapse.
I’m not denying that connection and social support can play a huge role in our human experience. Of course they can.
However, I know that, growing up, I was an introverted, anxious kid.
The very reason I got into self-help literature— which was how I initially got into psychology in the first place— was because I was looking for answers to my depression that DIDN’T involve me interacting with other people.
Given the choice between continuing to suffer and forming new relationships, I would absolutely continued to suffer.
And I know I’m not the only person out there who was or is dismayed by the idea that we can “only” heal in the context of relationships.
There are LOTS of reasons why you may not need or want to form new relationships right now.
There are LOTS of reasons why supportive relationships like therapy aren’t available to you right now.
For a lot of people reading this, it may very well be you— and maybe your pet— agains the world.
I STRONGLY feel you deserve the tools to recover, too.
I think psychology, as a field, owes it to people in pain to not only focus on healing-through-relationships.
One of the reasons I talk and write so much about coping skills and what goes on on the inside of our head and heart is because I know there are moments when we will not be able to access external supports.
There are gonna be moments when we are all we have.
We need to be realistic about the fact that, in the end, we are kind of in this on our own.
There may be people who have our back out there. I hope you, reading this, have people who will have your back, who are on your side.
But whether you do or don’t, YOU still need to have your own back.
YOU still need to be on YOUR side.
I am on your side— but to most people reading this, I’m a guy on the other side of a computer or smartphone screen. It doesn’t matter if I’m on their side, I’m not physically there with them when they’re triggered.
I believe that you can recover, whether or not you find it easy or possible to form new connections or relationships right now.
Yes, social support can be enormously helpful— to some people, sometimes.
But you, you right there, reading this— you have the tools to recover. Even if you DON’T happen to have people in your life who would make it easier and safer.
I really believe that.