Reluctance towards therapy

– by Yashaswi

When I first considered going to therapy, one of the biggest apprehensions I had was that it would somehow change me as a person. What if I became someone I wouldn’t like? Little did I know that therapists have no such tools to magically change you without your own will. And after the first session, my immediate reaction was – how could I have missed this my entire life?! I regretted not going earlier because of the misconceptions I had. 

Over the past few months, after recommending therapy to a few friends and seeing their reluctance to go, I came up with this analogy to explain to them what therapy could do – 

Imagine you’re stuck in a cave and you have a torchlight. The torchlight’s primary responsibility/motive is to cast light on the walls of the cave, show you what is in the cave. It doesn’t tell you anything else. It doesn’t care who you are or why you were in the cave. It doesn’t care if you were there to bury someone you’ve killed, or if you’ve filled the cave with bodies buried in the past. The torchlight won’t advise you where to go, it can only cast light on what is in front of you and help you decide for yourself. The decision comes from you, not the torch. Heck, even the decision to turn on or turn off the torch comes from you. The cave is your mind, and the torch is a therapist/psychologist. 

A therapist’s job is not to advise you or convince you to do something. They cannot make you want something which you don’t truly want. 

You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself .

Galileo Galilei

A lot of people especially Indian parents have this notion that therapy and mental health are a millennial fad and that they don’t need therapy because they’ve grown up not needing it or that their parents have never needed it. To which I say- if dismissing the necessity of things that weren’t available hundred years ago were the norm, you could add vaccines, anesthesia, and most of the modern-day medicine to that list. 

Another justification that often comes up is that “mentally weak” people go to therapy and that “mentally strong” people need not because they can “think” or talk themselves out of their problems. This one cracks me up every single time because it’s akin to saying “physically weak people go to gyms and physically strong people don’t”. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?. 

Just because your parents, grandparents, or friends settle for a quality of life which entails not making use of the advancements of science, doesn’t mean you have to conform to the same. 

Psychotherapy is a science, and its methods are validated by clinical trials. 

People often put psychology and therapy under the umbrella of motivational self-help hacks or the life coaching hocus pocus, which is far from the truth. I’d go as far as to say it is as serious as neurosurgery or heart transplant. It is only a matter of time before it becomes mainstream and 3-5 decades from today, we’d look back and pity our lack of awareness. Speaking of hindsight, I’d like you to read this article about how usage of umbrellas was seen as a sign of a weakness of character, particularly among men in England back in the 18th century. This goes to show how ignorant we as a society have always been.

Let me end with an ad from a few decades ago, when smoking wasn’t scientifically proven to be harmful.

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