When my patients start psychotherapy, many have taken a long time to get to the point where they would act seeking my help. For highly sensitive people who process things deeply, this makes some sense. But…does it? Really? Why wait to feel a great sense of relief to know someone will be there with expertise to help you solve your concerns?
Most of us would get help from a plumber to fix a toilet faster than going to our doctor or therapist. Why is it that our toilets have priority over our lives? A broken toilet can be a drag, but it feels way easier to get a plumber than to open one’s innermost concerns to another human. That can make one feel very vulnerable.
What folks usually do not know is that unlike plumbers, who do not need to help the toilet feel safe, psychotherapists are trained to help people feels safe and protected. When you come in, we do our best to help you feel less weird about it. Many of my patients don’t realize how many others I have seen with similar problems, so they feel exposed. They do not have to.
Our society is rather predictable in this regard. For example, Canada is one of the happiest countries on Earth, according to a recent poll by the Ipsos foundation. Yet it is fairly common for Canadians to think they have depression or anxiety. Much of that is generated by common life changes and ups and downs, or life circumstances, which we believe should not happen. We Canadians expect life to be even.
When life happens, we get worried when we have strong unfamiliar emotions in response to those events. Since one of the features of highly sensitive temperamental trait is high emotional intensity, we get strong emotions in both directions, up and down. Unfortunately, we tend to get distressed by the intensity of the less desirable emotions.
Having problems can be distressing in itself, without the extra burden of being worried that one is worried. The world we live it cultivates this tension. Much of the mediatized environment that surrounds us is engineered to make us feel less than adequate, so we avoid at all costs to accept we may need help.
Having a problem is not a problem, it is part of life. Neither it is a failure.
This belief that having problems makes us a failure gives us anxiety and leeches away the energy we might need to fix the problem in the first place. It also prevents us from facing the problem sooner. Tackling this mindset can help improve our life.
Next time you have a concern with your health or your mind, think of your priorities (health vs toilet, for example) and whether you want to buy into the engineered mindset that nothing needs to be wrong with you. Expecting surprises and change from life is a mindset that can help solve them without extra suffering that comes from avoidance. It is about letting the world unfold as it does. It is about compassionately letting yourself live your life as it presents itself, without judging it or yourself.
Ariel Blau has a formidable passion for helping his clients energize a joyful, loving and creative life. He has more than 30 years of experience helping people bloom. His formal education includes a Master’s degree in Social Work from New York University, a Master’s in Fine Arts from Brandeis University, and a great number of workshops, certificates and seminars. He has been studying mindfulness and how to bring compassion into the world for more than 15 years. His passion for helping others is matched by his enormous drive for continuous learning. Ariel completed his professional clinical training at Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital and served as Lead Clinician at the Jewish Family Service of Greater New Haven.