A few years ago, I finally went to therapy.
Back then, I had many issues that held me back from having the relationship that I wanted and living a life I loved. I even wrote them down: Weak ego, low willpower, dopamine dependency, anxious attachment style, low self-esteem, relationship anxiety, and perfectionism. That’s a long list.
Some of these issues could be improved on my own, but there are others that I knew I needed some help with.
As someone with a Psychology degree, I was familiar with the concept of therapy but I didn’t realize how helpful it was for me specifically to share my thoughts out loud and have someone help me find a way out of my own circles of thoughts.
I know the process of therapy might not be working for everyone and it’s not that easy to get into therapy in the UK; it’s quite expensive. But I did get a lot out of therapy.
Well, I’m happily engaged now and I do feel healthy emotionally. I believe these skills will be useful for you too. If you’re curious, here are six things I’ve learned in therapy.
1. Sit with your feelings
What does it mean to sit with your feelings?
For me, for example, anxiety often came after triggering thoughts entered my mind and they could be out of nowhere. These thoughts could bring up things from the past that are unpleasant, negative, or they could make me worry about something in the future.
But in therapy, I learned to separate my thoughts from reality. These thoughts are the product of my brain; they are not necessarily my reality. Actually, anxiety could be useful in a way that it could warn you of potential dangers, but most of the time there is no real danger, especially if you purposefully keep your life stable and wholesome.
So, when an anxious thought comes to you, you don’t do anything about it. You acknowledge it. You could say it out to yourself, name how you feel out loud, or you could journal about it. Basically, you observe it and then you let it pass and it will pass.
After a few times of this, you’ll remember that this is not real and next time it will become more natural for you to let it come and let it go. And it will come less and less.
2. Make your own judgments
This one is very important and really relevant in dating.
People always ask “Is it normal?” “Is it okay?” The thing is it is your relationship, it is your life; you get to decide what is normal, what is okay.
I remember one time I went to my therapist and I said, “Oh, I was acting so crazy” and my therapist looked at me and said, “What is crazy? Who says it’s crazy?” they validated my experience and said I was under a lot of distress and that was how I responded in that moment of distress; it was very natural and normal of me. That was how I learned to validate my experience and center myself.
3. Make space for yourself
This is not something I actively learned in therapy but something I realized after doing therapy: Just by sharing and talking, I was making space for all my thoughts, feelings, emotions, and I set them free.
Outside of therapy, I’ve already done quite a lot of that in the form of writing but the thing with writing is that I had to process my writing as I go. But with talking, I can just blurb out. I can just share. I can just let them out and it’s gone, and I already feel lighter. And by letting it out, I acknowledge myself, my experience, and my existence.
4. Be the parent you didn’t have growing up
This one can be quite technical. I did a few sessions of schema therapy. I didn’t actually go too much into it but I was introduced to the concept.
What is schema therapy?
As a child, you have your core needs and for some reason, these core needs are not met. So you find maladaptive ways to meet them that cause you distress and they follow you into adulthood. Schema therapy will help you fix that but let’s not go too deep into that.
I have knowledge of it but I’m not a therapist, I’m not giving you therapy right now.
What I’ve learned is to identify your emotional needs and be there for yourself. Meet those needs yourself. Be the parent that you wish you would have, growing up. When you feel vulnerable like a child again, acknowledge that, and ask yourself what would a healthy adult version of you do and do that for yourself. Meet your needs in a way that is safe and doesn’t cause you any more distress.
5. Journal dreams
It’s the tip that I learned from my therapist to record the details and feelings of my dreams.
My daily life is very happy and stable but somehow, in my dreams, I still have a lot of nightmares and distress. And to work through that, my therapist gave me homework to journal my dream for a week.
It was quite interesting to me that she said the details of the dreams are not important but more so the feeling that comes from it. And it was quite clear to me what was it that I was experiencing. It helped me find what caused it and separate those feelings from my presence and not let it affect my presence.
6. Anchor yourself
Therapy was so life-changing for me because for the first time I had somewhere to go to every week, something predictable, something that I could build trust with.
Before therapy, all my relationships were very unstable, full of ups and downs with people who had issues and hurt me in the process. And I was also living abroad on my own without my family. I was not having that anchor anywhere, so therapy at that time acted as an anchor for me.
After a while, I built a relationship with my therapist. I feel like I had someone to trust and then I could walk on my own and care for myself because I have also built that trust within me. It’s very important.
During that time, outside of therapy, I tried to establish routines so my life becomes more predictable. I showed myself that I could meet my own needs consistently and I showed up for myself.
It’s also how I could implement my dating approach and find the partner I want. It’s because I know I can make my own judgment, I can meet my own needs, I’m there for myself and I’m okay on my own.