In my early twenties, I found myself in psychotherapy. Despite the fact that I’ve wanted to be a psychotherapist since I was 17, I was completely resistant to going.
I felt deep shame about needing to go. I worried that the therapist would uncover something horrible about me. It was as if I was preparing for a cancer screening.
Part of this was that I had waited so long. Things got really hard before I was willing to “admit defeat.”
I thought I should be tough enough, smart enough, good enough not to need it.
I thought psychotherapy was only for the “severely mentally ill” and I didn’t identify with that. I also didn’t identify with the idea of being part of the “worried well.”
I had seen some serious shit in my life that was hard to reconcile. I also didn’t want to be yet another woman with problems. That felt very anti-feminist to me, and I definitely knew I was a feminist.
Saying those thoughts out loud may sound ridiculous. But I know that I am not alone in this. And, I also know that those ideas weren’t even mine. They are cultural notions that I inherited. Notions that were completely counter to my desire to be a therapist.
If I felt this way and my dream job was to be a therapist, then how must others feel?
Psychotherapy to Counter Oppression
Now, as a therapist, this experience keeps me curious about how my clients might feel coming into my office. I’m careful to label problems, not people.
I am careful not to minimize people’s problems or feelings due to their outward armor. Armor that may make it seem like everything is fine when it’s not.
Moreover, many of us who have dealt with trauma or systemic oppression in our lives may end up in therapy. Not because there is something wrong with us, but because we have been burdened by these kinds of abuses.
When I think about stigma from this standpoint, I can’t help but feel that it is an extension of abuse. A self-perpetuating way to keep us down. A way to keep us from helping ourselves and living into our own unique greatness.
While therapy may feel like a burden under layers of other burdens, it can also be seen as an act of rebellion. A way to say fuck you to the oppressors. A way to reclaim ourselves.
And that’s not just some feel-good, woo-woo bullshit. While we can never make any guarantees, the benefits are real and plenty.
Break Free From Your Past by Cultivating Your Inner Badass
So many of us have pasts that loom around like personal rain clouds. This shows up in our lives in myriad ways.
Dating the same kind of people over and over.
Finding ourselves acting like the abusers in our lives.
Quickly making unwarranted assumptions about people in our lives based on prior relationships.
When this happens it is not fair to us and not fair to the other person.
Being a doormat.
Conversely, being a control freak.
Feeling hopeless about ourselves and hopeless about our futures.
Not letting anyone in. Letting everyone in.
Feeling like we are living in Shame Central Station.
These are just a few examples of the kinds of patterns that we can address in therapy.
In a lot of ways, psychotherapy can be like the training wheels to life that perhaps you didn't get before. It's a space to unlearn patterns of the past and learn new patterns that help you be the best version of you.
Space where you get to put you first, heal, and discern what’s going to be best for you. A space to figure out what it means to be you and how to bring a little more you into the world. As if you were a secret treasure trove of rainbow sprinkles ready to be spread on a globe-shaped cake.
Psychotherapy helps develop self-awareness. Greater self-awareness allows for more moments of choice. With choice, a little courage and experimentation, you can tap into your inner badass. Once that inner badass becomes real and known, it's easier to maintain changes gained in therapy.
This is how we break free from the past. This is one of the many ways that therapy can have such lasting effects.
So, let's say fuck you to the oppressors - together. Let's help you rise up.