One of the primary reasons people go to therapy is because of struggles with other people. I often see couples for couples counseling, adults who are working through concerns with their friends/parents/kids/spouse, etc. or people recovering from break ups. The common denominator in all of these scenarios is relationships. Being in relationships with others whether it is a significant other, a colleague, friend, family member, or acquaintance is very difficult.
The question I get asked often is: “So if everyone else is nuts, then why am I the one in therapy?”
Much of my work revolves around helping others learn to navigate difficult situations and people. Whether it’s ways to handle a micromanaging boss, or ways to bring up conversations with your closed off spouse, or simply ways to work through the challenges of interacting with people on a daily basis; it all takes work! Often people say “Well my boss is the one who is the jerk, so why am I in therapy?” Or they might say “My girlfriend/boyfriend has issues from their previous relationship that they take out on me, so why am I the one in therapy and not them?”
Well, if I had it my way, everyone would be in therapy! That being said, the answer to this question is simple: it’s not about them. Therapy is very personal thing about self awareness and growth. Even people going through couples therapy grow as a couple, but there is also work being done on an individual basis to help each person in the couple grow and evolve as an individual.
Therapy is not about complaining about the mean thing your significant other said to you. It’s about learning healthy ways to respond to those things and subsequently, learning about ourselves: why does this one thing bother me so much, why is this such a trigger for me, how can I respond to this without saying something I will regret, or how can I effectively communicate to this person that what they said hurt my feelings?
There’s an old phrase that goes something like “When you point one finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you.” Although this saying can be incredibly irritating (believe me, sometimes this has been said to me at what’s felt like the worst of times) it is so true! The bottom line is that we can’t change other people, they are not the ones in the therapy room, they are not the ones inside our heads. If we are happy and comfortable with ourselves, then I bet we won’t have to worry as much about what other people are doing and all of our relationships will improve.
I wish that I could take credit for this but to end I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes unfortunately; I do not know who originally said this: