The 5 Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned in Therapy (So Far)
posted on March 7, 2018 | by Amanda Holstein
I think one of the reasons many people are afraid to go to therapy or turned off by the idea altogether is because they don’t truly know what to expect. Yes, therapy is a great place to voice your thoughts to an objective listener. But that’s just one small part of it, in my opinion. In therapy (I’m referring to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), you learn how to change the way you think in order to improve your quality of life. You become aware of certain thoughts, assumptions, and behaviors you’ve had your whole life and get the opportunity to not only understand why you are this way but how to change these patterns as well.
So, in order to give you a better idea of what really goes on in therapy, I thought I’d share a few key takeaways I’ve learned in my sessions over the years. Of course, these may not apply to you, but I think they’re really interesting!
1. That negative voice inside you is just a reflection of your fears.
One of the first things I learned to recognize in therapy was that negative voice we all have inside of us. You can call it your ego or the part that’s trying to protect you or the part that’s super judgemental. Either way, recognizing it can be SUPER helpful. I always just assumed that this voice was necessary—that I needed it to be my best. Well, guess what, I don’t! That voice is simply a reflection of my inner fears. It may think it’s helping me, but in the end, it just creates doubt & insecurities. I’m not saying I’ve completely erased that negative voice from my thoughts, but now that I recognize it, I have more control over it. I get to decide whether I want to listen to it.
2. It’s that other voice that reflects the true you.
This realization also helped validate that other voice inside of me, the one that disagrees with the negative voice. This is what I like to call my intuition, my instincts, or my gut. This is the voice that knows the truth, that’s you to the core. When you’re trying to make a decision, it’s this voice that knows the answer. When you’re thinking of what opinion to communicate, this is the voice that speaks the truth. Without judgments or fears, this is the voice that guides you. The more you learn to strengthen this inner voice, the more you’ll be able to connect with your authentic self—and the happier you’ll be!
3. Whatever you are feeling is valid.
Often times when we’re experiencing negative emotions, we tend to ask, “What’s wrong with me”?. Guess what? Nothing is wrong with you. These feelings are totally valid. You’re allowed to still feel sad about a breakup six months later. You’re allowed to be annoyed by something someone you love did. Give yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling. You can’t control your feelings, you can control your thoughts & your behaviors. So let your feelings be what they are and don’t fight them.
4. You don’t have to be perfect.
One personal realization I’m still working through in therapy is the idea that I don’t have to be perfect. Now, I’m not a perfectionist when it comes to everything. I don’t need everything to be organized, I don’t need to look perfect, and I’m not super meticulous. But I do have very high standards for myself. When it comes to being intelligent, successful in my career, and a good person, sometimes it feels like those standards are impossible to reach.
With these standards comes the belief that I’m not good enough unless I reach these standards. Being told by my therapist that these high standards or this idea of perfection are impossible to reach and that nobody and nothing is perfect is a great reminder that I am enough.
5. Being nice to yourself makes everything easier.
Whether I’m experiencing anxiety, feeling some everyday frustrations, or going through something traumatic, I’ve learned how powerful self-compassion can be in these moments. We’re all incredibly hard on ourselves. It’s one thing to try and not be so hard on yourself, it’s another to actually be nice to yourself. Try showing yourself some genuine compassion, like you would to a friend when you’re going through something difficult. Tell yourself, “I know how hard this must be.” or “I’m so sorry you have to go through this.” You’ll be surprised how much this can actually make yourself feel better.
Want to hear more realizations I’ve had in therapy?
Happy to do another post! Let me know in your comments :).