Here’s How Therapy Could Improve Your Life
A therapist’s job isn’t to make you feel better, it’s to help you feel more.
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Going to therapy is like learning new songs on the piano — or whatever instrument you play or dream you could play.
And as a therapist, I provide a practice space and a firm but compassionate voice to help guide you along.
You might not realize it yet, but you’re a phenomenal piano player. You already know a bunch of songs. Super intricate, Mozart-level, three-part compositions.
Maybe your mind won’t stop worrying about things — even things you have no control over.
Or maybe you play nice when someone gets angry at you — even if you feel like they’re wrong.
Or maybe you don’t talk about your emotions with anyone — even those you love.
Or maybe you can’t fully relax after a long day of work — even if you’re exhausted.
Or maybe you can’t stop eating, drinking, smoking, masturbating, or numbing out in some other way when you feel stressed.
Or maybe you feel responsible for others’ comfort and happiness — even if it means you forget about your own.
Or maybe you judge or fear certain types of people based their gender, sexual, or racial identity — and you feel guilty about that.
You started practicing your habits and emotional patterns when you were young and small, and the world felt scary and big. They were your protection. They likely kept you from feeling lonely, sad, empty, or some other form of emotional pain. They might even have protected you from experiencing physical pain inflicted by adults.
“You can have childhoods were no overt trauma, occurs,” says physician and trauma expert Gabor Maté. “But when parents are just too distracted, too stressed to provide the necessary responsiveness, that can also traumatize the child.”
That’s why you know your songs so well — why they come out of your fingers, mind, and heart so automatically. Your body unconsciously plays them when certain things (“triggers”) happen.
It’s like your pupils dilating when you walk in a dark room or your body sweating in hot weather. It’s automatic.
To learn new emotional habits and patterns you’ll have to stretch further than you ever have before.
You’ll have to try new things that might terrify you. Your body (especially your nervous system) will have to learn that it’s safe to do things differently.
It’s a difficult journey. You’re not a piano virtuoso who can play anything and everything — none of us are. Learning new emotional patterns is like going from Mozart to salsa music. Therapy literally rewires the brain.
That’s why you need help. We all do.
We need someone to listen to our awkward new tunes — truly listen. We need someone who won’t judge us, even when we sound awful or mean or annoying or angry or pitiful.
We need someone to encourage us to keep stretching past our emotional edges — not try to make us feel better, which is what friends are for.
As my therapist once told me, a therapist’s job isn’t to make people feel better, it’s to help them feel more.
Hi, I’m Jeremy, a therapist and writer. Subscribe to my weekly email to get posts like this straight to your inbox here.
To work with me in individual therapy, join one of my therapy groups, or hire me to teach wellness skills to your organization, get in touch.