Getting therapy isn’t just good for you. It’s good for the people in your life.
I’m a therapist, so maybe I’m biased. From my perspective, there are benefits of counseling that are important, not just for the one getting counseling, but for everyone in their lives. Therapy is the opposite of self-indulgent. It is actually a win-win; it is pro-social. This is because of the effect we have on each other. The more we are happy and self-accepting, the better we will treat others and the more accepting of others we will be.
The whole is the sum of its parts.
Our human family is made up of seven billion individuals. Each of us makes an impact on the world― primarily in how we affect other people. Most of us yearn for a more peaceful and happier world. We can each do our part to make that happen ― one more peaceful and happier person at a time.
But today, a lot of people are unhappy. They struggle with depression and anxiety and low self-esteem. This is noteworthy because we see the world through the lens of our own wounding. Parents who are abusive, neglectful, or just oblivious to their kids’ struggles, mostly because they are dealing with their own struggles, leave us feeling like we are not enough. Schoolyard bullies, who try to assert their place in a Lord of the Flies type of environment, leave wounds that are just as indelible.
We can do better, and I believe we should make a collective decision to do so. As adults, when we choose to heal our old wounds, we are less likely to inflict those wounds on others. It seems that this is a high calling. Indeed, parents can learn to be more attentive and mindful of their kids. They can even heal the wounds that lead to their abuse and neglect. Schoolchildren can learn the value of compassion; this is a hallmark call from the Dalai Lama.
Hurt people hurt people
There’s an old saying, “hurt people hurt people.” This is often quite true! When I work with couples, for example, I find that people are often projecting their own hurts onto their partner. Recently, I asked a husband and wife (I’ll call them Bill and Susie) to tell each other what they appreciate about each other. Bill told Susie that he appreciated that she’s a great, devoted mother, and that she’s very loving.
I asked Susie to repeat what she’d heard Bill say. “He said he appreciates that I’m a devoted and loving mother,” she replied. This led to an interesting conversation about how lovable she believes she is; where in her life the breakdown started, or the origin of the wound; and most importantly, how to begin to shift her thinking so that she can believe that she, in fact, is lovable.
Healing the wounds
Many adults in modern Western society are living with the aftermath of parenting that was less than ideal, or the impact of other children’s cruelty. Unless and until they work to uncover and heal those old wounds, they move through the world feeling that they are not enough: not lovable, not worthy, not safe, not deserving. Most people agree that all human beings have worth. Believing it’s true for you is one of the benefits of counseling.
Can we heal those old wounds? Can we soothe the pain and learn that we are, in fact, all worthy and deserving of love, peace, freedom, and happiness? We can, and it’s not even that hard to do! Therapies working in the subconscious level are very effective in helping us achieve rapid, positive, lasting change. These therapies include EMDR, NLP, hypnotherapy, and EFT and other forms of energy psychology, and modalities that are grounded in Eastern practices, such as “heart breathing.”
The yoga sutras teach us that when a negative thought is present, we should cultivate its opposite. The Dalai Lama says that we overcome negativity by cultivating positivity. Indeed, we can learn and practice self-compassion. When we do, we have more compassion to give to others. This matters, because when we have compassion, we are able to create a more peaceful world.
In order for humanity to thrive, maybe even to survive, we need to do our healing work. It is not selfish or self-indulgent to do this work. It is essential. I don’t just do the work for me. You don’t just do the work for you. We do the work for all of us. When we do, we are doing our little part to create a more peaceful world, one more peaceful person at a time.