There’s a myth that people who “need” therapy or who are interested in self help (or “personal growth,” “personal transformation,” insert whatever the currently fashionable synonym is for “self help”) are somehow “weak.”
The myth says that these people reach out for professional help or read books or attend seminars about how to improve their lives because there’s something “wrong” with them.
My experience is exactly the opposite.
In my experience, the vast majority of people who seek therapy (especially the kind of treatment that I specialize in, working with complex trauma and dissociative disorders) are exceptionally strong.
I say “exceptionally” strong because that’s precisely what I mean: they’ve HAD to be stronger than most of the people around them.
They’ve HAD to be stronger, in fact, than most people will ever really know.
A lot of people don’t seem to appreciate what it takes to grow up in an abusive or neglectful environment.
Which is ironic, because growing up in an abusive or neglectful environment is actually a lot more common than many people think.
A lot more people around you are traumatized than you’ll ever know.
Why won’t you know? Because people who have been traumatized learn to keep it to themselves.
We learn, over time, that nobody wants to hear about our pain.
We learn, over time, that advertising our woundedness can sometimes make us vulnerable.
We learn, over time, that people are uncomfortable hearing about what we went through and how it affected us.
So: we learn to keep it under wraps.
Do you realize how difficult it is to function out in the world, when you’re keeping a significant chunk of your life experience in the closet like that?
(If you’re reading this, chances are you DO know something about this.)
As a result, people who have struggled have HAD to learn to be strong.
We develop defenses.
Sometimes those defenses work well, sometimes they don’t— and a lot of times, our defenses outlive their usefulness over time, and end up creating more problems than they solve for us.
But the point is: to even get up and function in life, when you’re secretly carrying the kind of burdens a lot of people out there, carry, takes strength.
It’s almost a miracle that so many people are able to do it.
So, no: I don’t think people who seek therapy are weak.
I think many people seek therapy because they’ve HAD to be strong for so long…that eventually, something has to give.
When you drive a car for years, and you max out the engine and drive it over rough terrain and overload its weight capacity and subject it to the kind of pressures that it wasn’t designed for— eventually that car’s going to need service.
So you take it into the shop.
And the mechanic will tell you the kinds of things that are wrong with the car— and they’ll give you a list of things that will need to be done not only to fix the car, but to keep it it in good working order once it’s back on the road.
That’s what therapy and self-help do.
There is not a car out there that will NEVER need to go into the shop.
Likewise, there is not a survivor of trauma out there— or depression, or anxiety, or addiction— who will not at some point need the support of therapy or self-help resources.
There’s no shame in it.
There’s no connotation of weakness.
In fact, the it’s a testament to how strong you are that you took the car into the shop when you needed to, instead of continuing to wear it down.
Accept that you’ve been strong.
Accept that you’ve HAD to be strong.
Give yourself credit.
And give yourself the gift of the resources and support that you need to get back out there on the road.
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