My Top 5 Takeways from Attending Therapy
It was with great trepidation that I attended my first therapy session. I had to attend 60 hours as part of the criteria for my counselling degree. At the time I hadn’t really considered how useful it would be and how much it would change me. Knowing what I know now, I wish everyone had the opportunity to attend counselling. I believe all would benefit in some way.
I recently heard that the new counselling graduates from my old university are preparing to attend their award ceremony, so thought I would reflect on the top 5 things I had learned by attending my therapy. It was a struggle to pick my top 5 because I learned so much. I hope some of my learnings resonate with you too.
Lesson One - All feelings are good. As children we are given certain messages around showing our feelings. Maybe that crying or showing sadness is a sign of weakness, or displaying anger is rude and unacceptable. In therapy I learned the importance of being able to feel all emotions. By avoiding feelings of hurt, sadness and guilt also deprives us of feeling joy, excitement and peace. You can’t feel some and not others. The alternative is to go through life feeling flat and numb or anxious or depressed. I learned to welcome and embrace all emotions as part of being human. I also learned that they are all temporary like everything else in life.
Lesson Two - Fear drives a lot of our behaviour and stops us from thriving. Our mind is there to protect us from danger. It doesn’t like uncertainty so holds us back. It makes up all kinds of scary stories and assumptions to prevent us from taking risks or making changes to our lives. It will come up with lots reason why you shouldn’t change your job or leave your relationship or tell your partner how you are really feeling. By becoming familiar with the feeling of fear and recognising it for what it is, led me to acknowledge it but push through it. This has led me to living a more rewarding and fulfilling life.
Lesson Three - With awareness comes choice. As children we adopt certain behaviours based on how our parents / caregivers relate to us. We may become people pleasers if our parents were critical or strict, or we may have a need to be perfect if we only got praised when we overachieved academically. We internalise the message “I am only loved if……” which results in us being unable to fully be ourselves. We unconsciously carry these messages through to adulthood. Therapy raised awareness of the patterns that had served me well as a vulnerable child dependant on my parents, but no longer served me as an adult. With my new-found awareness, I chose to change those internal messages to more healthy, balanced ones.
Lesson Four - We always have a choice. Sometimes when we are feeling stuck in life and it feels too fearful to make a change, it appears as though we don’t have a choice. This can lead to feelings of helplessness and overwhelm. In therapy, I was reminded that I always have a choice. I have the choice to either take action and make a change or to choose to accept my current circumstances. This simple way of thinking that I hadn’t considered before felt quite empowering. It really helped me with decision-making and moving on. I felt that I was back in control again.
Lesson Five - We are responsible for ourselves and no one else. We can go through life either blaming others for our circumstances or feeling responsible for other people’s needs / behaviours / feelings. I learned that we are the author of our own lives. Not our parent’s or our friend’s or our partner’s. They are responsible for theirs, however they choose to live. It serves us and them no purpose by feeling responsible for them. We all write our own life script and therefore when looking back on our lives we need to take ownership for the choices we have made and the values we have lived by. This really helped me focus on my own life choices and priorities. It helped me realise that thinking of my own needs wasn’t selfish, it was an important act in self-care. It didn't mean that I didn't care for others. It just gave me the freedom to live a life that is true to me and with no regrets.
Reflecting back at all I have learned, I guess the other main takeaway for me is the fact that you don't need to be broken, or damaged or at the end of your tether to seek counselling. In fact it's an incredibly worthwhile (and I would go as far as saying necessary) investment for anyone who wants to live a happier, more fulfilled life. It's left me wondering, what importance and priority do you currently put on your self-care and happiness?...
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Marie is a BACP qualified counsellor and psychotherapist whose mission is to help you live a happier, more fulfilled life. If you would like to learn more, or are wondering if therapy is the right choice for you, please get in touch for a free 30 minute free telephone consultation.