This is a question I think about often. It was the question I asked myself before I started writing this blog. Why was therapy so life changing for me? It was important for me to answer this to myself before I started sharing this blog. I felt I needed to have some kind of answer for people before they started their own journey in therapy. So the question really became, “can therapy be as effective for everyone as it was for me?”
Short answer: yes.
Surprisingly in my experience it actually had nothing to do with the therapist. I only make this statement because I have seen and talked to two different therapists in my journey and it really didn’t seem to make a difference for me. Obviously there has to be a level of care, safety and trust between you and your therapist. But the actual fact of the person sitting opposite never seemed to make a difference.
What I discovered is that it had to come from inside me. A desire to change and a level of self evaluation which isn’t possible by just seeing a therapist. No one could make therapy work for me but me.
Many people told me over a long period to go see a therapist. At those times in my life I always responded the same way. Often yelling ensued and the idea was immediately squashed.
Well I was trying to protect my ego. My inner self was thinly balanced on a bunch of self destructive character traits which were holding the whole thing together. The mere thought of seeing a therapist was to me at the time an admission of failure. The sheer disappointment of the person I had become. I would say this is the hellish state I existed in from about 15 till just before I turned 21. It really was a time in my life where it seemed I had no regard for other people’s feelings or my actions. From the outside looking in I was an aggressive, mean and unkind person. Which was true in a sense because all my actions reflected this.
In my quiet moments however I never saw myself like this, my consciousness was trying to show my inner kindness and desire to help others. The problem was that my ego and the surrounding character traits were controlling my reactive actions. Oftentimes finding myself in situations with an outcome I was truly ashamed of. The more the guilt built up, the more I had to deepen these character traits to protect myself. In no way am I passing off my actions as something out of my control. The first step in healing is taking responsibility for the things I had done as a human. Because at the end of the day existing is hard and we make mistakes. I am a firm believer in the fact that no matter what has happened if there is a deep desire to change anyone can.
I spoke briefly about it in my last post but it finally took an experience so traumatic and life changing to completely obliterate the ego on which my inner self was constructed. This is the essence of why therapy was so effective for me.
At 20 years old my ego was destroyed.
Every character trait I had built up to protect myself from the truth about the reality of my life at the time fell away with it. This was an extremely painful experience for me and at the time I didn’t realize what was occurring. Simply, I was in pain and I needed to change. Still however I don’t think therapy would have worked for me at that time in my life. Even in my deepest lows I was still not ready to see a therapist. I had to figure out for myself who I truly wanted to be. I think this is a very important distinction. I didn’t go to therapy to fix myself, I went there to give myself space to explore the conscious self that was already there. Yes, therapy can help you find your inner self in a way but from my experience it is more of an exploratory journey. To look deeply into what is already there.
Having a solid foundation of self and an idea of the person I wanted to be was very impactful in my experience during therapy. It is never too late to change. Never too late to look at yourself in the mirror and decide that you can be a better version of what is staring back at you.
Essentially therapy was so effective for me because I had no ego. Nothing to hold me back from exploring myself completely. The walls had already come down which made the process of stepping inside myself very easy. It not only fast tracked the process but it also compounded the effectiveness of those sessions.
By no means am I saying you have to destroy your ego before you go to therapy. That would be a ridiculous, ungodly task for anyone to do alone. I am simply sharing my quite extreme example to highlight the outcome of thought-out self evaluation. Regardless if the intention is to go and see a therapist, exploring the ego is a very important exercise for anyone. Without self evaluation we simply drift through life at the whims of our so-called character.
Is your character truly what you want it to be ?
Mine definitely still isn’t and will never be perfect. But I do know for sure that is a hell of a lot better than it was. Without exploring the self it doesn’t seem an unrealistic outcome to wake up 30 years from now with no idea how you got there and disappointed with the direction your life has taken. We really do only have one opportunity to live a beautiful, fulfilled life. To me it seems incredibly worth it to go through some short term pain to really understand who you are and what you really offer this world.
For me the most effective thing I have found to continue to evaluate my ego is through daily journaling. This builds on last week’s idea of daily gratitude. Personally I like to focus on gratitude in the morning and dig deeper into an evaluation of my life before bed.
Just to be clear I am not writing massive life changing evaluations every night. Some nights just simply answering the question of “how I am feeling?” is enough to start a conversation with myself about the direction of my life.
If you only take away one thing from this, let it be this.
Therapy CAN be effective for everyone.
But it goes an extremely long way in adding value to the experience by taking initiative and evaluating your ego through journaling beforehand. Not only will it add value to your therapy journey but it may be the first step in changing your life.