Posts Tagged ‘shame’

Why do clients come to therapy?

Written by Sharon Coulter, MA, PPS, MA LMFT on . Posted in Blog

A client asked me this past week why people come to me for therapy. It was a great question. In the culture I grew up in, you only went to a therapist if you were “crazy,” so of course hardly anyone sought out help unless they were experiencing a severe mental health crisis. You were also served platitudes, such as, “You need to suck it up,” or “Get it together.” Sound familiar?

What a price has been paid by so many people who have grappled alone with functioning in the world – because of their own misunderstood struggles, or the dysfunction of partners or family units.

Today, I’m happy we’ve come so far and therapy has become another important resource for people to draw from on this journey we call life. In my experience, here are my “Top Reasons for Therapy” and why I’m so honored to work with the courageous souls who seek me out.

  • To make a change
  • To address an emotional issue like anger, anxiety, sadness, depression, loneliness, shame
  • To address a physical issue that has emotional impact (what one doesn’t)
  • To resolve trauma (seemingly “small” – or “significant”; note, all trauma affects us)
  • To address an addiction or disorder that is getting in the way of relationships and life goals
  • To work though limiting beliefs and unhelpful ways of thinking
  • To learn to express emotions
  • To learn to communicate in ways that maintain connection with others, especially during conflict
  • To work through a mental block
  • To address phobias or release fear of something
  • Spiritual incongruence
  • Lack of meaning in life
  • Lack of a sense of belonging
  • Support for a quest of some kind that has been ignited
  • To understand a sense of incompleteness
  • To address a desire to live life more fully and understand what that means
  • To learn self acceptance
  • To learn self forgiveness
  • To identify co-dependent patterns and understand healthy boundaries
  • To process loss
  • Help with a life transition (geographic moves, careers, relationships, life stages)
  • Help to support the process of aging
  • A safe space to support the dying process (self and others)
  • A sense of being “lost”

Of course, many of the above issues are multi-dimensional and overlap. Perhaps some of them resonate for you. Whatever you’re struggling with or want to further develop within yourself, I hope you’ll consider finding a therapist who can support you to create the change you deserve.

Progress not Perfection

Written by Sharon Coulter, MA, PPS, MA LMFT on . Posted in Blog

Empty-bird-cage

PERFECTIONISM : a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable (Merriam-Webster)

Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, notions of perfect or imperfect are simply constructs of the mind created by our thoughts. Even so, striving to be perfect is a dangerous dance that can render our lives constricted and lonely, and rob us of all kinds of opportunities.

As I work with clients, I’m repeatedly struck by how harshly we can treat ourselves, and how expectations of perfectionism impose tremendous limitations on our ability to live healthy and happy lives. This is because shame is almost always the sister of perfection. Anxiety, fear of loss of control, procrastination, and depression are close cousins waiting in the wings.  Often the self-imposed demand to “be the best I can be” is a way to compensate for traumatic early life experiences that damaged our self esteem and left us with a sense of being unacceptable for who we are. Thus, pursuit of perfection is most often rooted in feelings of inadequacy that may be coupled with denial of anger, sadness, fear and a desperate need to avoid rejection at all costs. Striving to be perfect can threaten our mental and physical health and even take our life if we become consumed with having the perfect body, being the perfect student, the perfect wife/husband, son/daughter …

Our culture fuels a paradigm of achievement, productivity, and goal attainment and the upshot is that we can easily lose perspective on what it means to live well. We become more absorbed with our children’s grades than by their enthusiasm for learning and immerse ourselves in measuring our looks, our waists, our pocketbooks, our paychecks, our academic and professional accomplishments. Ironically, in the excessive amount of time spent judging ourselves for our perceived shortcomings, we miss the splendor and magic of the moment. We disconnect from living—humans doing as opposed to humans being. And when we’re not present centered, we can’t authentically connect with others.

My mother used to tell me, “If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.” While I know she intended well  and was urging me to adopt high standards, I had the good sense to replace that phrase a long time ago and adopt a kinder mantra. “Progress not Perfection” is a saying I learned from working in the recovery community. There’s freedom and encouragement in this approach to living that spurs me on to try new things, set realistic goals, strive with balance, and focus on the experience, not the outcome.

Life is messy and relationships are messy, and that’s okay. The truth is we’re on a fantastic journey that is about exploring, unfolding, and expanding our minds. Our spiritual and psychological growth depends on making mistakes. Frustration and failure are really our friends, not our enemies. They stimulate perseverance, patience, compassion for others, and creativity. To be the best we can be, paradoxically, requires that we choose to relinquish the limitations of self- imposed demands, surrender to the process of life, and fly free.

“What I am is good enough, if I would only be it openly.” ~ Carl Rogers

Recommended reading on perfectionism: When Perfect isn’t Good Enough: Strategies for Coping with Perfectionism. Martin Antony, PhD