I think every adult could benefit from a look under the emotional hood at some point in their lives. Learning better communication skills, how to be emotionally resilient, how to be honest and fearless in following your dreams, how to deal with grief, loss, failure – not everyone learns that stuff as a kid.  And often people assume that because you’re intelligent, you already know how to interact with other people and take care of your own emotions, and if that goes on for too long you don’t know how to ask the right questions because you’re so invested in being the smart person who already knows stuff that you’re afraid to look stupid or be vulnerable.

– Here’s what therapy doesn’t do: Fix you and make you a better person.
– Here’s what therapy can do: Help you readjust your coping strategies so that your past doesn’t swallow your present and your future.

You survived what sounds like an awful childhood. During that time, you developed certain behaviors, attitudes, habits of feelings, mental patterns, internal messages that meant that you could survive, get the fuck out of there, and go somewhere you could be okay and start over. Those strategies that served you then are not serving you now. But they are what you know, and in times of crisis, even when you know better, they manifest.

For example, you describe some self-destructive behaviors and feelings in your letters, and you’re able to link those behaviors and feelings to things that happened in your childhood, which is a good first step. But as an adult, you can only go so long saying “The reason I was mean to you all stems back to this thing that happened in my childhood, I can explain!” At a certain point, other people don’t really need to know or care why you are the way you are, they look at your actions and not your history.

Enter therapy. Therapists are trained differently and work differently, but a good one is going to:

– Help you unpack and deal with the emotions, neglect, and abuse you suffered as a child and give you credit where credit is due for surviving it.
– Help you separate that stuff out and deal with it in a safe, structured way. Maybe this is the placebo effect, but sometimes when things were really shitty it helped me to just know ‘On Thursday I have permission to be Not Okay about this, but right now I just need to focus on sending out one resume.”
– Begin to diagnose any illness that is present and refer you for additional treatment.
– Help you find some new coping strategies to deal with your current life in the present moment.
– Help you not be so hard on yourself, in general, but really honest with yourself when necessary and know when you’re confusing one with the other.
– Help you sort out reality from your perceptions.
– Help you craft your life into a story you can live with.

Captain Awkward is the fucking best. This is just everything I’ve always wanted to tell people about therapy.

listening while reading: James Bay – Let It Go