Sometimes a dichotomy is a good way to understand where you stand on an issue.
Here’s one: Mental disorders are either tied up in the individual OR it is tied up in a relationship.
What’s your answer? And How would your answer to this questions affect treatment of a mental disorder? Whatever you answered, this is something we can explore at some later time when we are together.
All I can say is that for your answer to matter in our relationship there has to be an “us”. I believe that mental dis-order is tied up in the relationship. We do not exist by ourselves. Even when we physically do, we end up with an inner dialogue. So, the answer for me is always going to include an other; specifically an other and myself; an “us”. That is my premise for treatment of mental dis-order: Treat the “us”.
The “how to” in treating the “us’s” in our lives, surprisingly enough, occurs with many of the same skills we tried to figure out starting as early as 5 years old:
Chances are you can think of at least one place in this line of lessons that catches you in a bad way. The result of the painful stuck-ness we experience in any of these categories can be labeled clinical depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. Whatever people call it, it hurts.
Pain is opportunity. Pain is growth. Pain is telling us to do, think, or be differently. However, the natural response to pain is typically banishment, avoidance, and numbing. It is less typically taken as an opportunity to learn and become something more. This is what I hope my therapy trains you to do. To express your pain. All of it. Then learn something from each pain and become something greater for it. The truth that I traumatically have learned over and over again is that there is no option of life-without-pain. There is only one version of life, and it comes with pain. Because life has no “pain free” mode, it is an imperative that we learn to do something with it. Expect pain, use it as an opportunity to learn, and you will increase your trauma recoil.
In the work I have done with adolescents over the years I am reminded session after session of the choices we are presented with: “Which pain do you want?”, I continue, “Do you want the pain you currently have? Or a different one? Can your pain be any worse? If you know it can’t feel worse than wanting to die everyday, what risk do you have in telling [person] _____________________ [insert massive insecurity here].” No one that I have counseled with died from choosing the unknown or hypothesized future pain, but some, tragically, have died with their known, unexpressed, un-purposed, or uninterpreted pains.
We all die. In the meantime, love others and educate people on how to love you. If you cannot recognize and understand when you feel loved, you won’t be able to seek that out. And if you are unable to seek that out, you may come to only know hurt. This will lead to death — either an ending of physical life or the kind of decay where you continue to live without purpose/love.
The conversation in therapy usually starts with how someone in our lives needs to stop doing or saying something that hurts us. That’s fine, we will talk about that one. But it needs to end with how we teach someone to start doing or saying things that heal us, how to set boundaries so we include the people that can heal us, and then how you can do the same to and for others and yourself; do it for “us”.