“How do I go about knowing that I need therapy but I don't want therapy nor do I care to even try it again?”
This article is not specifically about therapy.
Sometimes we're faces with hard choices. We know what's important for our future, and yet we struggle to accept a decision that needs to be made now.
This article is about how to make those hard decisions that you don't want to make.
Imagine you’re making lunch.
You’re slicing a gorgeous avocado and then whoops! you slip, and get a nasty cut. Damn. It's pretty bad.
After a moment of shock and disbelief, and “!@%$@ well that was stupid…” ( we’ve all been there ) you have a decision to make.
Do you ignore it, wrap it in a towel and duct tape, and hope it goes away? Or do you head to the doctor’s to get some stitches?
I’m hoping you’ve never been in this particular place, having to make this particular decision, but it’s a valuable setup for what I’m about to show you.
A battle of the minds
In this decision, there are two different parts of your brain talking.
For this article, the most useful perspective will be to call them “the parent” and “the child.”
- The parent mind says “Of course we need stitches, because things will be far worse later if we don’t. We could get an infection, suffer a lot of future pain and injury if we neglect this. We might even lose an arm. We’ll also never be able to do art, or play guitar again properly until this is healed. Obviously, for our future, we need to go to the doctor now.”
- The child mind says “I DON’T LIKE STITCHES! NOOOOOOOOOO”
Yeah that’s basically the conversation.
As you consider an uncomfortable decision, you are experiencing the same thing. One part of your mind - your rational mind - is considering your future happiness in life. It’s the parent, and it has pretty good ability to predict, and motivate you towards difficult choices.
Another part of your mind - your emotional mind - can only see the present situation.
“What... stitches? Are you serious right now? You want more pain?! Hell no.”
It has very little perspective on the future, so it measures cost-benefit very differently than your future-oriented mind does.
It sees all cost, and no benefit.
Making a choice
Which is right?
Well, either could be... it depends on the situation.
If you knew that you are going to die tomorrow, then what’s the point of stitches exactly?
But if you intend to live a long happy life, then you need to consider your future happiness at least as much as your present happiness.
And guess what? You probably have a whole lot more future, than you do present.
With that perspective, you should probably get those stitches today, so that you heal to 100% as quickly as possible.
You're not alone
If you can relate to this problem, congratulations, you're 100% human.
There is probably no more defining characteristic to the psychological challenge of being human, than the conflict between the rational mind, and the emotional mind.
Most people I coach who struggle with emotions struggle with an imbalance in that inner parent-child relationship.
Either the “child mind” runs the show, and they feel emotional tantrums in their head all day long, which they continually cave to and seek to appease. This leads to problems like-
- Victim mindset
- People pleasing
- Pleasure seeking
- and Pain avoidance
Or the “parent mind” is over-controlling, and they feel repressed, miserable, cold and unfeeling. These people suffer from frequent self-abuse and have occasional explosions like a volcano.
- Cold and unfeeling
- Anger issues
All of these are normal, but they're not fun.
And they're absolutely unnecessary.
Ideally, your rational and emotional minds should work together, like a jockey and a horse. It’s a trust relationship, where together, they are far more powerful than either are alone.
Once you see it clearly, it's not difficult to correct that balance. Are you too strict with yourself? Lighten up. Are you letting your kid run the house? It's time for some structure, boundaries, and discipline.
At the end of the day, you're an adult now, which means you're parenting yourself.
Be a good parent.
For the original person who asked me about therapy.
If you do decide to return to therapy - and I hope that you do - make it clear to your therapist that you really struggled with the decision to do therapy. Dig into your aversion to therapy. Discuss the thoughts and feelings you had, and exactly what you fear. You’ll get a lot out of exploring that, and it will relate very centrally to everything else you want to work on.
Your therapist will be better prepared to build your therapy around your specific challenges, and to help you in the best way possible through any emotional triggers you encounter along the way.
Start there, and once you’re more comfortable, you can dig into the more personal things you want to work on.
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