Does therapy make you a better person or just soothe your pains?
August 4, 2016 8:46 AM   Subscribe

I'm confused about what my goal is in being there.

I'm in therapy (well I was until my therapist broke her hip) but I find it leads to a lot of self indulgent bitching. Instead of bringing me closer to others, it's making me feel like an unfortunate victim, alienated from others because of my sad, pathetic problems and SO SPECIAL in how I have been oppressed by my childhood experiences. Oh, and yeah, it's all because of my mother.

1. Is this just the first stage of therapy, to be followed by the dawning of the understanding that all humans have unique experiences of suffering and an increasing compassion for others?

2. Is my perception of therapy at this point just magnifying a view of the world that I already carry with me, bringing it to my consciousness so that I can transcend it?

3. Or, is therapy always about complaining and feeling sorry for yourself and venting? (Is that because Freud invented it and he was a pessimist misanthrope who thought of humans as selfish overgrown children with no true altruistic or transcendent impulses?) And if so, how can I actively take steps to reach #1 and #2, if not in therapy? *I don't like positive thinking or reading about God and Jesus and stuff like that.
posted by winterportage to Human Relations (25 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Have you talked about your goal and this tension/uncertainty with your therapist? I have found that to be helpful for me.
posted by sockermom at 8:50 AM on August 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

My therapy is strategic. I go in ad bitch for a little bit sometimes but then me and my therapist sort of look at whatever is going on and say "OK, how could that have gone better?" or "What is it that you want to work on about this situation?" and then we look at ways to laterally approach the same stuff more effectively. This might mean that I need to do something a little differently, or maybe respond differently. It might mean that I avoid those people or approach engaging with them in a different way. In any of those cases, I'll try out a different thing and then, later, check back in "How did that go? Do you feel better about the thing?" and we go from there. Some of this is just me-working-on-me and some of it is me-working-on-how-I-interact-with-the-world but there is very little bitching because I want to be in therapy to achieve slightly different things in the world.

So, think about what you want. You sound upset. It's possible that a diffrent therapist could help you out (if that's something you might consider) or a lot of people have found good results through a combination of...

- possible medication (if anxiety or depression is exacerbating your ability to feel ok, it may not be)
- meditation or other mindfulness work getting into a better relationship with the world around you and increasing your ability to self-soothe
- CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) that is literally about doing things differently and getting into better patterns
- The Feeling Good Handbook (highly recommended) for getting into better thought patterns somewhat like the above
- stress lowerers like exercise, reducing caffeine, eating better and being more social/interactive with your world

Some of my shit was about my mother. Some was about me. Some was about some situational things that just had to work themselves out. A therapist helped me sort those things into categories and determine how to work on them. There is some more psychoanalytical therapy that can be Freudian and tell-me-about-your-childhood but it's only one way to do it, there are a lot of different types of therapy and it's possible you weren't in the right one for you.
posted by jessamyn at 8:55 AM on August 4, 2016 [6 favorites]

I've felt a lot like you describe when I've done therapy in the past - especially when I would go to one therapist for a few months and then let it trail off. I've now been with the same therapist for over a year, and the real breakthrough came when she helped me make connections between the trauma of my childhood and my thoughts and behaviors today.

It's been so helpful to me to recognize how the events of my childhood led me to develop certain behaviors that helped me as "survival tactics" in a period of incredible stress and instability, but that no longer serve me well. Being able to see the connections has given me the ability to question and change things - on a much deeper and longer-lasting level than if I simply tried to "force" myself to stop doing something.

So yes, therapy has and continues to make me a better person, but I really had to start viscerally understanding how my past continues to leave its mark today before I could make those changes. Happy to talk about it more if you'd like - feel free to ask/PM.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:00 AM on August 4, 2016 [9 favorites]

If you haven't already explicitly had the "what is our goal for my therapy?" discussion, or haven't had it in a while, it sounds like it's time to have it again. Therapy can be different things for different people, with different therapists, or with different approaches.

The beginning of therapy does tend to be "here is my backstory and all my baggage" unless you go in with a "yo, I know some backstory is inevitable but I really want to focus my energy on the here-and-now" attitude up front. But from there, if you are explicitly looking for ways to focus less on venting and more on increasing your connection to or compassion with others, *tell your therapist that* and ask them to help you move your therapeutic interactions in that direction. If you're not sure *what* you want but you know it's not what you're doing, hey, 'figuring out the real goal' is a goal in and of itself.

But your therapist can't read your mind. Probably. Having the conversation, or at least the conversation about how hard it is for you to have the conversation, is the only way to get there unless you happen to have lucked into a therapist whose default strategy is exactly what you want.
posted by Stacey at 9:07 AM on August 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

I don't know how long you've been with this therapist but I do think initially a good therapist validates your painful feelings and works to get you to a place where you're healed enough to do the difficult work of really changing yourself. Depending on your own personal situation and personality, that might take a couple months or a year. Honestly, if you're not feeling very confident in your therapy relationship, you might try a different therapist. Sometimes you have to try a few different ones until you find one you click with.

Agree with combining talk therapy with meds and working on CBT yourself outside of your therapy appointments.
posted by hollygoheavy at 9:11 AM on August 4, 2016

Not to be all therapy-speak about it and not to say that this necessarily applies to you, but for many people, part of working through their problems is accepting that they have real problems, have been oppressed, have been victimized, etc. Accepting that can be really painful and generate a lot of resistance, at least in my experience - because who wants to see themselves that way?

We all think that it's easy, self-indulgent and fun to accept that we are victims, it's not our fault, etc, but I think many people find that really feeling that as opposed to saying it is hard and painful. Saying "yeah, it's not my fault, my mom was terrible" isn't the same as really understanding yourself anew as someone whose mother injured them and who is wounded and damaged as a result.

And again, this may not apply to you, but a lot of us who have had shitty things happen have learned to be repulsed by the emotions associated with being hurt. Sadness is for the weak, anger is for the self-indulgent who can't grow up, etc etc. Just feeling the feelings can make us feel like we're wasting our time and being useless.

Also, how long have you been in therapy? When I was in therapy, I really wanted to be an awesome patient and get everything right away and move on to being better, and that was not an effective strategy. Sometimes you just need to sit with those upsetting, uncomfortable, embarrassing realizations for a while - the time is what's needed.
posted by Frowner at 9:15 AM on August 4, 2016 [32 favorites]

How long have you been in therapy for? I find at least the initial stages are a LOT of just getting stuff out there and having your feelings validated, which can be important for a lot of people. I know for me it was very helpful to have a judgement-free space to just vent, which in turn led to issues/connections popping up.

I think it might help you to go over goals with your therapist. Failing that, it's perfectly okay to find a new one; not everyone is a good match. My mother's therapist, who's done wonders for her, makes me want to strangle him with his overly loud ties.
posted by Tamanna at 9:20 AM on August 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

There are lots of kinds of therapy, it could be that the type of therapy you were doing wasn't right for you. Or it could be that particular therapist's approach wasn't right for you. I have two experiences with therapy.

One was group therapy and that mostly seemed to be about trying to break things down so we could understand how we ended up in our situations and cut through the lies we would tell ourselves so in that sense I found it helpful it did seem pretty slow though. I think it may have been indirectly responsible for a breakthrough I had at one point outside of a session, but that might have happened anyway. I'm not sure what that therapist's school was in, but it seems in the same region as what your therapist might be going for.

The other type was cognitive behavioral therapy for social anxiety. Say what else you will about CBT, it's very goal oriented in the hopes of retraining your brain out of bad thought patterns. CBT is kind of like having a personal trainer for your brain. They give you exercises to work on and they try to keep you on task and push you instead of staying in the same rut. I think the utility of CBT depends on what the issue you're actually going through. Just like a personal trainer it isn't necessarily the best option for all physical ailments, but if it sounds right to you maybe give it a look. My only concern is you say you don't like 'positive thinking' and I could see how CBT might come off that way, but that's really beside the point, as this article makes a point of.

Anyway, therapy is a big tent. There's many therapists and approaches, but at the end of the day remember what you want to accomplish and don't be afraid to remind your therapist what that is and ask how their approach is helping you accomplish it. It might be that finding someone new is the best choice for you, only you can know for sure though.
posted by Green With You at 9:26 AM on August 4, 2016

I find it leads to a lot of self indulgent bitching. Instead of bringing me closer to others, it's making me feel like an unfortunate victim, alienated from others because of my sad, pathetic problems and SO SPECIAL in how I have been oppressed by my childhood experiences. Oh, and yeah, it's all because of my mother.

Would you say this to someone else who was in therapy & doing what you're doing? Probably not. So why you're saying it to yourself might be an interesting question to pursue.
posted by listen, lady at 9:28 AM on August 4, 2016 [10 favorites]

I suspect many people's goals in therapy evolve; mine certainly did. I went from mainly wanting to fix things/relationships in the here and now, to realizing I needed to confront trauma in my past, to accepting I'd gone as far as I could in dealing with that for the moment, and I now needed to sort of break things down so I could deal with current issues without getting them confused with all my other issues. In the course of one of these transitions I discussed it explicitly with my therapist at the time, who said it was my choice how much I wanted to unpack some of the issues. I see it as like driving at night; the headlights only allow you to see so far.

But definitely, bringing up feelings of uncertainty and working on your goals with your therapist is something you should be able to so and hopefully will be productive.
posted by BibiRose at 9:32 AM on August 4, 2016

It's hard to tell from your post whether it is a successful therapeutic relationship or not, so #1 is a bit of a question that I think you may need to answer yourself. I would say that you feeling it is somehow ineffectual (qua "self-indulgent") maybe is a sign to me that the modality you are within is more psychoanalytic or talk therapy - at least that's what it sounds like on this end.

In any case, I gather that you feel you are not responding to it nor making changes as well as you would like; and I think you might need to directly address this with your therapist, initiating at least some change of pace. Sight unseen, I would suggest looking for more experience-oriented, future-focused, paradigm-challenging work - some form of cognitive behavior therapy - that is, if you tangibly feel you need a different system to enact catharsis, change, contentment, or a deeper positive-self regard.

RE: your point #2: To my mind, instead of becoming hyper-aware, to the stated end of achieving some excelsis of transcendence, gaining victory over that which needs to be transcended, my most appreciated nuance that I have learned from reading cognitive-focused therapy handbooks is small. It has to do with irrationally-tenured beliefs motivating the way that we operate. Say, if we are able to look at a point of anxiety in our lives, discern that it is indeed some sort of "I must have it feel this way, or something is wrong" statement, and then ask ourselves to challenge that 'must' thought to see whether it could much better be felt as "should, but it's not the end of the world" or "I would like, but it's okay if not," then we are able to shake the fearful columns to make sure the roof can continue to stand without them (and they usually - indeed - can do just fine without them.)

That being said, by asking these very questions, by challenging the notion of your own presence within therapy, I wonder whether you might just be pressing up against something important for yourself, and shirking back at the thought of addressing it soundly: all else equal, I have found a surprising amount of correlation between having a shaky faith in something and my inner state needing to address something in its midst: it is oftentimes the latter whenever I cannot discern why "exactly" that is.

In case it's not clear from my post, my answer to #3 is to suggest that there are different therapeutic varieties for different people, and that some simply need to vent and get things off their chest and achieve a third party supporting milieu to resolve their own issues. The goal of therapy, and the therapeutic relationship to me, is resolution; and earnestly speaking, if you are not achieving that in practical forms, then you are not receiving the therapy you might need, or would more enjoy having.
posted by a good beginning at 9:52 AM on August 4, 2016

Or, is therapy always about complaining and feeling sorry for yourself and venting?

I think therapy is "about" what you want it to be about, and right now what you're working on is acknowledging that the things that happened to you really were traumatic to you and that your pain, anger, sadness, resentment and other emotions are valid ways to feel. Your therapist is giving you a safe, judgment-free place to experience and sit with those negative emotions.

So, when your therapist heals and you resume sessions, tell her you have a new goal for therapy, and that goal is building close connections with others. You could phrase that in terms of being willing to be vulnerable, accessing your ability to feel empathy, or however else suits you best. Absolutely do tell her that you "don't like positive thinking or reading about God and Jesus and stuff like that" and are looking for practical, concrete advice. Tell her that you feel "like an unfortunate victim, alienated from others" right now. Assuming your therapist is the right one for you, these things are part of what she's there for!

But like some of the other commenters said, I think you shouldn't necessarily drop your goal of working through your past stuff, because like them, I do hear some internally-held resentment toward yourself for being "self-indulgent" and "pathetic". Being willing to pass that non-judgment on to yourself is like, THE thing that modern therapy is about. And if your immediate response to that is "but I really AM $bad_thing", ask yourself who it benefits for you to feel that way about yourself.
posted by capricorn at 10:12 AM on August 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

For me, therapy (1) took away the raw wound feeling so that I could (2) do the thinking and reflecting and considering that was necessary to (3) take actions to change things about myself that needed changed. I had to forgive myself for things that I was beating myself up for having done in the first place. I had to release myself from my belief that I should hold myself to a higher standard than I held the rest of the population. I had to accept that, yes, I had undergone a significant amount of trauma in my life, and that all the privilege in the world didn't negate that. I had to learn that feelings were okay to have, and that it was actually not unreasonable for me to be upset when my needs and wants were ignored, and that certain behaviors were not only more likely to get me what I wanted in the first place, but far more importantly, to enable me to be able to handle rejection in the first place without turning into an aggro shithead (which I knew I was doing, and yet I couldn't move myself past it). And it took so, so long to really be able to put these things together, and it really wasn't until years after the fact that I was able to articulate this with any degree of coherence.

When I was growing up, my mother did a lot of things that hurt me, and by extension, our relationship. Therapy helped bring these things to the surface, so that I could look at them and finally move past. OH MY GOD I was getting so tired of relating all the little anecdotes (the time I was listening to Anthrax in the car because I loved it and I wanted to share it with her and she blew up at me because she "didn't want to listen to noise", and my response was to eject the tape and not say a word to her for the rest of the day, because to me it was an outright rejection of my trying to share a part of me with her), but they all play a role in who you are, and there's a reason you keep thinking about them, because you're doomed to repeat stuff until you understand it (or something like that).
posted by disconnect at 10:20 AM on August 4, 2016

About the time that I began feeling like therapy was just magnifying my problems by putting too much focus on the past and helping me keep alive my victim self image, my therapist happened to move away. (It is a military thing.) He asked if I wanted a referral. I said "Nope. I don't want to go through all that again with someone else. I'm good." I never went back to therapy.

Therapy can be useful, but it can also be a waste of time. It can be the wrong approach. It can be the wrong therapist for you. And, ultimately, for me, the most healing thing was getting on with my life and living a full life.

If this isn't working for you, you can try a different modality or a different therapist or you can stop altogether and put that time into something else. It is entirely up to you.
posted by Michele in California at 10:33 AM on August 4, 2016

I would say that yes, a lot of traditional therapy is often just about complaining and feeling sorry for yourself and venting. When I went to traditional therapy, a lot of people said, and still say, "oh, once you identify and talk about your feelings and problems, let them all out, you'll feel better!" And I said "no, I have talked about them a zillion times, but they are still there, so I do not feel better."

More modern therapy, such as CBT, can combine some talk therapy with medication and also a lot of just looking at things objectively, or something, which can include recognizing that some problems will never completely go away, but need to be managed instead. Best of luck to you.

(Also: reading Ask Metafilter and its Human Relations section is by far, far, far the best therapy I've ever had.)
posted by Melismata at 11:12 AM on August 4, 2016 [7 favorites]

Or, is therapy always about complaining and feeling sorry for yourself and venting?

As a data point of one. No. That's not what I do there. I mostly work on how I can react to situations better and be happier as a result.

I also use therapy as a place to say all the really upsetting/crazy things I think or think about that I don't want to bother people in my life with.
posted by French Fry at 11:45 AM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Here’s a concrete example of how the past-wound side of stuff can relate to the better human being side.

Soon after I went into the good therapy, I was dealing with (on top of all kind of PTSD stuff) a situation with my husband where we spent every weekend fighting over chores.

I knew that my behaviour (screaming, being furious, feeling like my dirty house was a judgement on our marriage, partnership, and me as a person) was off centre but I had no idea how to gauge that against what ‘normal’ was or could be, or how to communicate about it better (I had tried a lot of things) or how to gain trust in my husband or if I even should, since he was really, really sucking at chores.

Part of my goal for therapy was always to be a better person, including a better partner, so with that goal in mind we did start working on basics like don’t scream at your partner, don’t throw things around out of frustration and slam doors. This was work that needed to be done and it didn’t really matter what had caused it.

But we also got into how I was woken up at 5:30 am as a kid to get yelled at because I hadn’t cleaned the dishes right the night before, and how I was in charge of laundry at 9 years old and put a lipstick through my mother’s clothes and ruined them and got screamed at and punished for that, and how I ended up mixing ammonia and bleach and causing myself health issues and was that deliberate, and…a whole bunch of other things. I didn’t have to track down Every Shitty Cleaning Memory but I had to really get, deep inside me, that my Bad Feelings were deep and also TRUE, of COURSE if you punish a child for not being able to cope with chores and make her home a place where there are regular explosions at random hours of the night, she will grow up with issues.

And I had to work through that and realize that dirty dishes can be a health hazard, eventually, but they are almost never an emergency the next morning. And I also had to work through that it is okay to be a flawed human being about chores.

But I also couldn’t really say well, chores were tough growing up so I never have to do them. Nope. So I had to learn how to do chores when I was NOT in a freaked out haze of how awful I am. And may try a little Fly Lady for my own edification (UFYH wasn’t available yet.)

I also had to work through that although growing up I learned that no one would really help me, but if I didn’t help them I would get smacked around, I still deserve help from my partner and doing it all until I am exhausted and screaming isn’t the answer either.

And then I had to close the circle and be a flawed human being who was ready to do some chores without drama and do the 27 thing fling, and ALSO recognize when the dirty dishes were actually making me feel like an abused kid because duh, that happened, and NOT tell my husband that he was abusive for not washing them but ALSO ask him please I know I am crazy but can you just wash one dish to show me & my abused inner children we are in this together. Or go for a walk with me. Or whatever.

So that’s how the handshake works. Sometimes you work it on one side and get stuck, so you switch to the other side for a while.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:54 AM on August 4, 2016 [15 favorites]

Yeah, I think you do have to reframe your life story somehow*, if the one you're telling yourself is harmful and stopping you from living the kind of life you'd like to live. (Being able to love and work, it's been said, are decent metrics; I agree. Would add other things - connecting with community, e.g., but basically, you want to live a little more fully and constructively with a little less pain. And the stories we tell ourselves are often in the way.) There are lots of ways to change your story, therapy is one. It's good, when it works, because you have someone with you to sift through your specifics and act as a reality check and prompt, someone who's trained to do that. Because as Frowner said, sometimes, even if you're a reflective sort of person and have settled on a reasonable and fair understanding of things, you understand them intellectually, but not so much emotionally.

Sometimes, it's not so much the story that's off, sometimes habits are what need changing, there are skills you could do with. 2nd those saying it's good to be clear on what you want out of therapy. Sometimes it takes a while to figure it out.

I personally think straight-up venting, or free associating, isn't *always* the best use of time; sometimes that finds more useful expression in a convo with friends over a beer, or in a journal. I know I sometimes had days where I just wandered around and the therapist followed me. Or I felt compelled to produce an emotion at odds with my mood or immediate concern that day. There isn't always gold in there, imo, and not everyone has the cash or patience to work through it over years; in that case, focusing on particular issues gives you the best ROI, imo. But if you have no one to vent with and are feeling too out of sorts to be clear about it in your writing, therapy's as good a place for it as any.

Sometimes, a therapist isn't a good fit. Sometimes, a therapist just sucks. Sometimes, having negative responses to a therapist is a sign of things hitting home. (Like if you're resenting exposure therapy for an anxiety, for e.g., and are feeling resistance about that, and it's bleeding over into your feels about the person making you do something you really don't want to do.) That's hard, because you're not always in a position to tell what's what. In that case, double check (with friends, or here, I guess.) Some group practices have a mechanism for this, i.e. another therapist or coordinator you can talk to if things are bumpy - that is ideal, imo.

*Reading can help a lot, though, too. Not just pop psych, although I think that can sometimes be useful - fiction, sociology... the thing about getting the most out of that is really engaging with it and reflecting on how your life might map onto the story or new information you're taking in. Like, your mom probably was a party to some of your pain (as well as a victim of her own). But broader dynamics affected things, too. There was a whole generation of parents who were told by experts, in the most confident terms, that divorce would ruin their kids, for example; turns out that's not so - oops. But lots of particular moms and dads believed it, and that had effects on particular kids. I don't know that that sort of wider perspective always comes up in therapy, because they're usually focusing on proximal dynamics, things that touched you most immediately, but yeah, I think a better understanding of context is always helpful; maybe look out for it to complement your therapy.

But in re your mom... as Frowner said, it is ok to see and feel how her behaviours, reactions to her world, choices, etc., affected you, if it hasn't been thought about before. You can come back around and listen to your mom's story, too. Usually, people do their best - what they're able to do, and know. But that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt when they fuck up, and it's ok to feel and think through that.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:53 PM on August 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Bitching and moaning and feeling sorry for self.
Yeah I felt like that when I first started doing therapy years ago. It seemed like I was rehashing old shit (family history) over and over and I felt worse. Never better, no progress as I would think of progress as being a better quality of life. Because I didn't know any better (I suffered extreme neglect as a child, leading to a hospital stay), I stayed with those therapists that would just sit there and go "uh huh", "keep going." They were doing what they do and I was doing what I thought I should do.

After living in Japan for a couple years and befriending a retired trauma therapist from Australia, I learned exactly what to look for when I came back to the States. I knew how to articulate what I wanted and needed from therapy. I felt better about shopping around. I took her advice and I looked until I found the person I clicked with.
My new therapist was trained/had life experience with childhood trauma and used a mindfulness approach. We did DBT and EMDR with a little bit of solid mothering.
I had this huge hole in the center of my chest, like an emotional black hole. Bitching fed it. And she taught me how to not feed it. But to feed my own soul instead with radical self-acceptance and radical self-care. With real-life skills, role playing, and some serious grief work. I am not kidding when I say this woman saved my life.

If you feel you need or want to continue therapy and are not making what you consider progress (What do you want? How does feeling better look to you, feel to you in your life right now? Why do you feel like this is self-indulgent?) find another therapist. Because the outcome should NOT be feeling further away from others. I want you to have my outcome: Better relationships, more hope, more love. Good luck.
posted by It'sANewDawn at 2:52 PM on August 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think you're onto it with #1, with the addendum that you gotta have self-compassion before you start extending more compassion to others. If you don't it's not going to be sustainable.
posted by momus_window at 3:32 PM on August 4, 2016

I go through phases, in fact I am in one now, where I know I won't get anything out of therapy. When I am in these phases, anything I take to therapy is dishonest. I tell the therapist what I think they want to hear, and I keep whatever feelings I have about anything to myself.

We all want people to like us, so sometimes we don't tell the dentist that we don't floss, and we tell the doctor that we exercise when clearly we don't.

Sometimes the meds help me enough that I don't need a therapist.

I say this without judgement and with a great deal of compassion, but maybe you just aren't in a place where therapy can help you right now. That's OK! Really!

You may need to give the idea of therapy some time, or you may be one of those people for whom therapy doesn't work.

I want to say something quickly, though, if I may. You sound like you are ashamed of going to a therapist, like you don't deserve to be getting help. if it helps, think of psychological therapy like physical therapy; you aren't weak or bad or wrong for having a bad knee that needs to be worked on, so it is with your brain.
posted by Ecgtheow at 4:00 PM on August 4, 2016

My therapist is all mindfulness and that step down/sideways from DBT (Acceptance and Committment Therapy I think) so there isn't a goal as such, but we talk about stuff in as much to resolve it.

So we've talked about how as someone who values quietness, who has auditory processing issues, and who as a teen suffered trauma and developed PTSD, my experiences throughout my life have been affected by that. My parents actively devaluing quietness and being deliberately loud in order to 'teach' me is part of why it took me so long to even talk to anyone about the auditory processing stuff - I just thought it was because I was an asshole who didn't try hard enough. My partner and child being extroverts who constantly are in action/talking and can make my house unwelcoming to me is rooted in that, and my reactions to it stem from that as well. But the therapy is mostly about working out what I actually value, and what gaps I have in my life around those values.

My therapist needed time to work out the difference between 'complaining' and 'offloading' and strategies to assist me in those. It is very concrete though, in terms of 'what is bothering me' and working out the real why of it before we can actually tackle it.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:16 AM on August 5, 2016

Nthing the suggestions:
- possible medication (if anxiety or depression is exacerbating your ability to feel ok, it may not be)
- meditation or other mindfulness work getting into a better relationship with the world around you and increasing your ability to self-soothe
- CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) that is literally about doing things differently and getting into better patterns
- The Feeling Good Handbook (highly recommended) for getting into better thought patterns somewhat like the above
- stress lowerers like exercise, reducing caffeine, eating better and being more social/interactive with your world

I was in regular ol' pyscho analytic talk therapy for a year, may be 2? and I felt the exact same way. I would come in dump about my week, maybe feel better for a short while, maybe not, repeat ad nausem. I started skipping sessions and then just stopped going because I didn't want to keep up (and keep paying for) a meandering goalless relationship with my therapist.

Then I did CBT. I have Anxiety/Depression and really just wanted a goals and tools focused approach. I have found it really really helpful. I am functioning at higher level then I ever have in my adult life. I don't even really like my therapist - and I still get a lot out of it. And i don;t skip sessions anymore.
posted by gnar_gnar at 7:07 AM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Certain things changed in me through therapy. One is that I became more compassionate for other people. I think it was a by-product of learning to be more understanding of my own weaknesses.

I also learned to look at my problems as opportunities for change. It starts with complaining, and moves to, "What can I do about it?" Sometimes I can alter a situation, and other times I can change my attitude or just distract myself with something that I enjoy or feel is more important.

For me, therapy works best if it's based on principles like "Understand the role you're voluntarily taking," "Examine your assumptions," that sort of thing.
posted by wryly at 12:11 PM on August 5, 2016

For me, therapy was helped me realize that what I went through was traumatic and that it's ok to feel like I suffered through something, and it's ok to need time and help to recover from that. And that the thing colored my view of the world in a way that is not necessarily true.

Then it helped me work out what I want with my life (I don't want to be seen as the victim. I'm okay with being a realist, but I want to be able to trust people. Etc.) And also what is considered "normal" behavior, though I could choose to do that or not.

I only did talk therapy, but I found it enormously helpful. It was also really emotionally draining though.
posted by ethidda at 6:32 PM on August 5, 2016

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