From late 2010–early 2013, I saw a therapist — two, actually (one moved). Specifically, they were cognitive behavioral psychologists. They could prescribe medicine, but I never asked for any and they never offered. I had previously seen an LSW (Licensed Social Worker), but by their very nature, they are more supportive, so all I got in those sessions was that I was too hard on myself and I should be proud of what I’d done. I didn’t need that.
I also didn’t need pills. That’s not why I was there. Rather, I went to modify and improve my behavior and to help me understand why I acted and reacted in certain ways to certain situations or events. What was it about myself and how I had experienced life to that point that dictated why I did the things I did — both good and bad?
I found the experience to be difficult, painful, unsettling, relieving, and even enjoyable. Most of all, I found it to be extremely helpful. I had always known I had trouble with moderation — why not order the extra large? — and that I’m in a constant struggle between short-term gratification and long-term happiness, but therapy helped me to not only understand the reasons for my actions, but also provided me with a toolbox that I could employ in my everyday life outside of the doctor’s office. After all, that’s the ultimate goal of therapy.
I didn’t want to stop going, but when I snagged a great job that was two hours away from my home at the time, I no longer had time to go. But I had the tools and the knowledge of how to implement those tools, so that I would always be able to handle situations ideally, even if I were no longer speaking to anyone on a daily basis.
The problem is not only that tools get dull if they’re not used often, but also that the person using the tool gets rusty and may even forget how to use it at all. Have you ever passed by something in your basement or garage that you completely forgot about but immediately knew you could use? It’s kind of like that.
I’ve noticed my old, bad tendencies continue to flare up over the past couple of years and the coping mechanisms to which I immediately default. I can tell the difference in my attitude and temperament, even my perspective.
I’m in a good place, but we can always be better. So, after months of searching, I’ve found a psychologist that I really like. And I find myself wishing I could go more often. That feeling will change, of course — as it progresses, it becomes more difficult — but for now I already know it’s helping. Besides, I’m not doing it just for me. I’m doing it for those I love and those that love me.
Freud said, “Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise,” and sometimes we need someone else to help us be honest with ourselves.
And if I’m being completely honest, speaking to someone helps me be a better person and, ultimately, a happier one.
Christopher Pierznik’s nine books are available in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Medium, Fatherly, Hip Hop Golden Age, and many more. Subscribe to his monthly newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.