*Note: the below is tongue in cheek. Remember, Elephant is not your doctor or hospital. Our lawyers would say “this website is not designed to, and should not be construed to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, or treatment to you or any other individual, and is not intended as a substitute for medical or professional care and treatment.” But we can’t afford lawyers, and you knew all that. ~ Ed
I am a therapist. I believe in therapy. And yet…
Long before I had even considered therapy as a profession, at about the tender age of 15, I was told two things: 1. therapy is where troubled people go, and 2. I should go to therapy.
I hated my first therapist. The shadows of time will no longer reveal her name to me, but I can see her face as clear as day. I thought she was ancient, though she was likely only around 32. She wore bright red lipstick and wide-shouldered jackets in bold shades of teal, cobalt, and lemon yellow. It was, after all, the mid-80s, when fashion had gone completely off the rails, the nuclear crisis was upon us, and Duran Duran was in love with some girl named Rio.
I lied to this poor woman about everything. I’m sure she saw right through me, but even if she didn’t I was so recalcitrant I made it impossible for her to help me. Having been on the receiving end of that kind of teenage defensive strategy myself, I can say with certainty she dreaded our sessions. Nothing feels worse to a helper than being forbidden from helping.
Which leads me to reason number one you should definitely not go to therapy.
You do not wish to torture an innocent human being with your pain.
Yes, yes, therapists know it’s part of their job. They expect and accept your pain and can sometimes even make it better, but who said you deserve that kind of compassionate care? You may even feel it’s better to suffer in silence and let therapists deal with nicer, less objectionable, less (let’s be honest) f*cked-up people than yourself.
As an adult, people were still telling me I needed therapy. Even after I had been in lots and lots of therapy. It was annoying. One time, during a consultation with a colleague about a difficult case, I went off on a tangent about a relative I dreaded seeing. I explained how I’d had a panic attack just thinking about texting this person, how I broke out in a cold sweat whenever I was in their physical presence, and how all I could hear at those times was what sounded like screaming or roaring in my head. I stopped ranting when I realized my (esteemed) colleague was staring coldly at me. “You need to see someone,” she said.
Ugh! Again? “What if I don’t want to know what this is all about?” I whined. My colleague continued to give me the stink eye. My head filled up with roaring.
Which brings me to reason number two you should definitely not see a therapist.
You might discover what this is all about.
I mean, who really wants to know? Can’t we just go on not-knowing and acting out and having tantrums and meltdowns and ruining our lives in peace? Wouldn’t it be simpler, for example, for me to just avoid this relative and never examine what had happened between us to make me behave so dramatically? I was probably just “overreacting” anyway, and so what if there’s a deep dark wound in my heart that is still bleeding out? Everyone has their cross to bear, am I right?
Another time I didn’t want to go to therapy was in my late 20s at the tail end of what I didn’t realize was an abusive relationship. Despite my intense objections, even I could see it was my only option.
Everything in my life was terrible and it wasn’t getting any better. So I went, and I learned about things like depression (which I had), PTSD (which I also had), co-dependence (check), and recreating patterns from childhood relationships in adult relationships as an attempt to heal my broken heart (check). That was all great and everything, but then I had to start doing things like set boundaries, take medication, and end my long-term relationship.
Which leads us to reason number three you should 100 percent not go to therapy.
You might feel compelled to change.
The things is, people are accustomed to the way you are. They don’t want you to change, because if you change, they have to change. Also, they might resent your attempt to get healthy because it highlights how unhealthy they are, and it’s not like you have so many extra friends in the world you can afford to lose the few you’ve got. (When I say “you,” I mean me.)
Sure, if you lose your toxic friends and relationships and get healthy, you might have a chance to have happy relationships with people who don’t thrive on hurting you, but that’s not guaranteed. Maybe you’ll just end up being healthy and alone and completely miserable anyway.
What I’m trying to say is, therapy is hard and time-consuming and expensive and it could turn your life completely upside down. It might make you cry, tell all your secrets, and strip you down to the scary essence of your child soul. But just because those things can have a massive payoff is no reason to put yourself through the grinder! Best to stay tucked in bed with a stockpile of vodka, Oreos, and another season of “Breaking Bad.”
If you do decide to peek out from under the covers, know this: there are a million reasons not to go to therapy and some of them are valid. There’s no law that says you have to go, and no one’s making any promises about the result. If the vodka runs out though, and the Oreos start tasting like sawdust remember, you have options.
Or you can just forget we had this whole conversation, Instacart a handle of Tito’s, switch to season one of “Friends” and no one will be the wiser.
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