Imagine that you’ve been crying a lot, finding yourself in a dark hole on Sundays, and are no longer feeling like that cheerful person you were five years ago.
So, you decide to speak to a therapist.
You’re in your early 20s and have never been to therapy before, but you’re desperate for someone to help you feel better.
You don’t know what all the different types of therapies are that professionals have listed on Psychology Today, but anxiety, depression, and maybe trauma sound like things you’ve been dealing with.
So you pick the therapist with a nice smile. You choose a female because you think that may help calm your anxiety, and you make your first appointment. You walk in, tell her what has been going on, and trust her to make the appropriate decisions.
Soon, you’re taking Zoloft to improve your mood and decrease your anxiety and Trazadone so you no longer experience your intense insomnia.
She spends a year and a half with you and says hmm, nah, you need to try Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) because you can’t seem to regulate your emotions. So you trust the lady again and leave, thinking hey, she says I need DBT, so I guess I’ll do DBT.
You fill out a ton of worksheets in DBT therapy and don’t feel better, but worse. You no longer have a relational-type therapy, but one geared at fixing your reactions.
You decide maybe this isn’t for you and join a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) group instead. You don’t know what CBT really is, but it sounds helpful.
When you begin, you’re surprised again to find more worksheets attempting to fix you and you begin to want back that first therapist who was at least relational and at least somewhat “positive” thinking by considering the use of mindfulness and essential oils.
As time goes on, you realize something is missing from these therapies and you’re getting worse. You then join a PhD program in Positive Developmental Psychology because you think it’s the missing link to the puzzle, and you’re right.
You begin to learn that while it’s okay to address maladaptive behaviors and consider pathology, what clinical psychology is frequently missing is the other half—what goes right in people’s lives.
Since beginning this program, I have seen a shift in me. I no longer work to fix anything and do not consider myself on some road to recovery. Rather, I do the following:
- Engage in activities that bring about a state of flow (i.e. writing and dancing)
- Focus on giving back to others through work and volunteering
- Consider in my life what brings a sense of eudaemonia rather than hedonia
- Look at each negative thought as just a thought and nothing more
- Work on developing positive peer relationships and mentorships
- Slow down and be mindful about the here and now
- Continue to learn
- Consider what I value and what brings me meaning
- Stop always attempting to climb the social ladder
I am no longer working to fix myself. Rather, I’m working to further develop my love for life by basking in the activities that bring me joy (i.e. Portuguese class, writing, and nature) and setting down any book that says CBT or DBT.
If you’re looking to read books pertaining to mindfulness, resilience, and other topics in positive psychology, here are a few I recommend:
- A Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
- Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- Educated by Tara Westover
- The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
- The End of Your World by Adyashanti