The Same Old Sad Song
‘I just don’t see the point. I’m going to die one day, it’s all pointless, it means nothing really in the long run’.
‘It’s never going to get better’.
‘But what if I get better and then it comes back? I’m so terrified of that happening’.
‘This is too hard, I’m never going to be able to get through this’.
‘I don’t know, you’re the therapist, you tell me’.
‘You’re only here because you’re getting paid, you wouldn’t care otherwise’.
‘I know I did the right thing, but I can’t get over the guilt’.
‘I feel so alone’.
I could go on forever to be honest. (TIAT323)
Start Making Changes
“I feel too [unpleasant emotion] to do [behavioral change that needs to happen to improve life].”:
This is something that often gets in the way of people making progress in therapy—waiting until they feel happy before they start living their lives. The reality is that we are able to make choices and choose behaviors regardless of how we feel any given moment. I can feel happy and can simultaneously choose to tell you to go fuck yourself. I can also feel depressed and at the same time choose to go for a walk or dance around my apartment.
This idea is really important because tons of studies show that behaviors HIGHLY influence how we feel. Exercise, participating in enjoyable activities, having an enriching occupation, obtaining adequate sleep, eating well… we know all of these have a huge impact on mental health, but people often tell me they need to change how they feel before they can get started living the life they want. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. We actually have little to no direct control over our emotions. Consider your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors: You have near-complete control over behaviors, some control over your thoughts (in that we can tell ourselves to think certain things, but we can’t tell ourselves to NOT think certain things), and no control over your emotions. If I asked you to feel terrified right now, could you do it? Nope. How we actually go about changing emotions is by changing behaviors and, to a certain extent, changing thought patterns.
Sometimes people interpret a recommendation of behavioral change as akin to saying, “Just get over it.” It’s not. It is akin to prescribing a medication. Waiting until you’re happy to start making changes is like telling your doctor that you want to wait until you’re not sick until you take your medicine.
One of the most common things I hear people say, in some way, is that they help others even at the cost of themselves. Helping others is such a positive thing, but so many people forget to take care of themselves in the process. I have had clients loose jobs, not be able to pay rent, or even just put a serious amount of stress on themselves—all in an attempt to help somebody else out. It’s just not worth it. You are not REQUIRED to help anybody out, thus you can make a choice when to do it. If it is something that will seriously affect you then you have the right to say no. Is it fun say no to someone in need of help? No, but is it fun sitting in overwhelming stress and not being able to pay for rent? No. Make choices that don’t push yourself down. People understand that and respect it more than you would think. (hybriss099)