First, let me be explicit. This post, Become Your Own Therapist is about developing solutions to commonplace problems like coming off too strong at work, overreacting, or letting emotions get the best of you.
Anyone who is immobilized by depression has uncontrollable urges, or suicidal thoughts should seek professional help.
The goal of therapy
The goal of therapy is self-actualization , like what Maslow and Carl Rogers made their life’s work. In fact, Carl Rogers’s ‘growth potential’ theory posits that integrating our ‘real self’ with our ‘ideal self’ is how we become ‘fully functional’ human beings.
As no one else can know how we perceive, we are the best experts on ourselves. Carl Rogers
Therapists help make you aware of the deeper reasons for behaviors and feelings, and ideally, you grow to be untethered or detached from thoughts and emotions. Troubling thoughts and emotions are still there, but the process helps you shift from an unaware actor to an intelligent observer. But you could do this for yourself and become your own therapist!
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate. Carl Jung
This happened to me. I was destined for a life of dysfunction. My less than perfect childhood instilled patterns of intolerance and impatience. I was easily frustrated, and disappointment made me catastrophize and overreact. Anger and resentment welled up into daily life, and I used the defense, I’m sorry, I don’t know what got into me repeatedly, like an addict trying to recover.
Also, I was overly sensitive. I couldn’t talk about my shortcomings (that’s an understatement) with anyone. I wasn’t courageous enough for a raw ‘look in the mirror.’ Insecure but desperate to climb out, I started holding inward conversations and observances to learn the causes of my destructive emotions.
Become your own therapist: Awakening the helper within
Redirecting my attention was like having a flashlight in dense fog. I realized that my reactions to life’s problems are conditioned patterns originating in the subconscious and learned through childhood, society, or modern life. I then recognized the immensely critical role I play in overcoming destructive patterns of behavior. At this juncture, a therapist is like a third person on a date.
I learned how to pinpoint the deeper causes of my behavior, unlearn ineffective (offensive) patterns, and change my behavior.
Once I observed my unconscious patterns and learned that I held the cards to overcoming life’s problems, the change was automatic. I didn’t struggle to find motivation or build habits.
It’s comforting to read that something works, but it’s liberating to discover it for yourself!
I was so compelled to change; I drove right past what it meant to be mindful, the references to the term, I didn’t even know the definition of mindfulness. What I recognized was that thoughts formed, and I took those thoughts at face value. Thoughts controlled my life.
I didn’t know what to call it when I noticed that I was not using my mind as Nature had intended; my mind was using me. I learned the term mindfulness later, and that was probably a good thing.
“This thing up here, this consciousness, thinks it’s running the shop. It’s a secondary organ; it’s a secondary organ of a total human being, and it must not put itself in control. It must submit and serve the humanity of the body.” — Joseph Campbell.
I followed Jon Kabat Zinn’s dictum before I knew what it was. Mindfulness is an innate human capacity that is not difficult or perplexing. We only need to develop access and familiarize ourselves with this capacity, this dimension, which is more authentic and more useful than any college degree, training, or practical skill you can acquire.
Looking back and connecting the dots, I now understand what is meant by the refrain, what we seek we already are. There is nothing to appeal to externally.
Become your own therapist
The human psyche is subject to imbalance, clutter, and irritation, leading to destructive emotions and irrational eruptions. We are all vulnerable, tender, and sensitive.
The vital thing to know is you are not defined by disruptive patterns. Your past is not your destiny.
Here are five things that will help you become your own therapist
- Know thyself. Guilty experiences exacerbate childhood insecurities. When you observe something destructive in yourself, don’t self-punish. Many people harbor guilt on top of feeling insecure. They think they deserve to be punished. The resulting constant background of uneasiness makes people unconsciously increase their efforts. Overly hard work provides a sense of (temporary and unhealthy) relief to feeling guilty. Notice what you’re feeling and where it originates. Forgive yourself and make every effort to do better.
- Maintain a healthy psyche. Have you ever noticed one person drowns in the same waters in which another swims with vigor? Angry outbursts and emotional upheaval drain us of vital energy. Even seemingly small things like complaining about the weather, traffic, your neighbor, or airing annoyances about your partner cause energy ‘leakage.’ Your emotional condition largely determines your physical condition, and your emotions are a result of your thoughts. Remember what Al Franken said, “whining is anger through a small opening.”
- Remain open. Openness is associated with curiosity and receptivity. If you can remain open to yourself — noticing your foibles, making mistakes, and smiling your way back into place, you’ll put yourself on the path of self-mastery.
- Embrace mindfulness. Many people are cynics. They tell me, “nothing can be that good!” Before you blindly surrender to pain, suffering, and misery, ignore the concept, and look inward. I learned through experience that mindfulness is not something you do. It’s something that we are. If you are compelled by the desire to change, you don’t need a clever name, research, or proof. Try it. Create your version of what works for you and call it improvement or a better version of you. Your own practice will show you the truth.
- Begin. Don’t let religious constructs or other connotations keep you from developing a dynamic inner life that will provide a foundation for a rewarding external life.
You can do this
You don’t have to go into seclusion, shave your head, wear a sari, or sit on a cushion. Becoming mindful is a very practical thing to do. You become less attached to distracting false narratives and more focused on what is happening in front of you in real-time.
From the outside, mindfulness looks like emotional regulation, self-control, and self-possession. From the inside, it looks or feels like composure, contentment, and peace. The world needs more people who bring inner peace to the forefront, don’t you think?
Taking yourself on as your first client, you become lighter and stronger. You recognize that you now have the capacity to influence a better world. Instead of adding to the pain and suffering, you bring your better side to every encounter. You’ve become a “wounded healer.”
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