‘Break Up With Your Therapist’ Memo
“Thank you for scheduling an appointment with me. I am looking forward to meeting you and working with you. You mentioned that you are grieving. Can you say a little more about that?”
Yes, I was grieving. The grief has gotten lighter as I don’t carry it anymore, I learn how to walk with it, by putting one foot in front of another.
I got the above message on December 23, 2021 after contacting my therapist. It was one of the best decisions I made as an adult: seek professional help to process my emotions, understand my traumas, embark on my healing journey and elevate my life.
It’s extremely uncomfortable. It’s also much needed.
I reached out to my therapist when I was in a state of crisis and depression.
I was the master of self-loathing. The one master that I never wanted to be.
I had no clue what I was doing with my life. And I was disappointed with myself because I had no clue what I was doing with my life.
I was nowhere near success. Everything became meaningless as I didn’t know what my purpose was.
I was heartbroken after years of romantic endeavours. They all went nowhere.
After almost six months, there is still much work to do. Yet I got out of the emotional rut and planted myself at a much better place.
Last week, I decided to take a temporary break with the ongoing therapy. Not because I don’t need it anymore. It’s because I achieved the goals I initially set, for now. The past few months have served it purpose. Before moving to the next stage, I need time to reflect, reset in order to restart.
I noted down all the things helpful for me to navigate through turbulent times.
I call it the ‘Break up with your therapist’ memo.
Set a goal and have a plan
Tell your therapist your issue in the simple terms (why do you need help?) and share with her/him what you want to achieve (what are the goals?)
Why do you need help?
If you’re reading this, I know nothing seems fine for you right now. Life is difficult. I get it. Any unkind words from a stranger might have the power to send you even deeper under the bottom you’re already at.
But what exactly isn’t fine?
Take a step back and reassess your life. I find it easy to break down my life into different areas and take a closer look: career, purpose, health, family and friends, love life.
On a scale of 1–10, how content and happy are you in each of these compartments? If the score is below 5, what’s that thing bugging you? What’s that gap between where you want to be and where you’re currently at?
What are the goals?
The goals vary between individuals. Since I was in a state of crisis and depression, I wanted to bring myself to an equilibrium state, increase my self-awareness and understand my past full of traumas.
It is difficult to measure the process when it comes to therapy since your healing journey is not linear. One day you feel great as if you’ve gained back the power. One month later you might find yourself at that dark corner, surrounded by nothing by your terrible, terrible thoughts!
The goals I’ve set for myself:
- Identify my unhealthy beliefs and understand how they were formed
- Unload my traumas and reparent the inner child within
- Learn to better communicate my feelings and boundaries
What’s the plan?
In my first session, I had no clue how it worked. This whole thing was new to me. So I asked my therapist the beginner question “How does it work?”
And she shared the plan with me, which was aligned with my goals.
I was exposed to the concept of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps people learn how to identify and change destructive or disturbing thought patterns that have a negative influence on behavior and emotions.
Knowing where you want to go and how you get there offers you the clarity to achieve what you set in your mind to achieve!
Be honest. Be Vulnerable
Knowing you’re feeling something is a human instinct, being able to fully feel them and acutely share what you truly feel is a skill that can be acquired.
I knew that there was something unsettling going on when I reached out to my therapist. Yet I couldn’t articulate what I was feeling in a simple sentence. Or sometimes, I even lied to myself. I downplayed what was going on to make it look like nothing was bad and everything was fine. Well, everything wasn’t fine!
“Tell me what happened?”
“Can you tell me how are you feeling right now?”
“When you say you’re grieving, can you share a little more about that?”
These are the questions that my therapist prompted me to dig deeper into the underlying thoughts and associated emotions that I had.
Therapists are trained to help you to navigate through the intertwined difficult emotions and share them in an utmost honest way.
One of the most difficult challenges that I had to overcome to make the most out of my session is to eliminate judgment. I learned to trust my therapist and allow myself to share without the fear of being judged.
Share with them the experience you are embarrassed about. Tell them why you’re embarrassed.
Share with them if you’re not happy with your life, in detail. Your job, your unaccomplished goals, and your dark thoughts.
Share with them why that person hurt you so bad. How much you like them and why you like them that much.
Don’t hold back. These are the information to help them diagnose your condition and figure out the best approach to work with you.
This is what therapists are for. Your friends and family can be your strongest supporters, yet they’re not trained professionally to hold a space for you so you can lay your feelings. Your honesty and vulnerability sometimes can be too much for them to process and handle.
Identify Unhealthy Beliefs
“I’m not enough”
“I’m not worthy”
“I’m not worthy of love and commitment”
Apparently these are two lines my subconscious mind keeps telling me for the past 10 years. They’re like the predator sitting and waiting for the most convenient moment to attack. And I’m the prey, unknowingly and unwillingly.
Let me tell you how your beliefs are so important in constructing your life.
You operate on your beliefs. If you think ‘I’m not worthy of love’, you act in alignment to confirm these beliefs. For example:
You beg for love when it’s not given to you
You have the tendency to associate yourself with individuals who tell you that you’re not worthy of their love.
You overcompensate. You try your best to please everyone, hoping they will accept and love you.
The Root Cause Analysis Technique — 5 Why Technique
To identify your unhealthy beliefs, you look for patterns in your actions that cause unhappiness. And asking ‘why’ you do what you do. The first ‘Why’ scratches the surface, continue with another 4 whys, you might have a chance to get to the root cause of your actions.
For me, most of my unhealthy beliefs are often caused by multiple incidents when I was a kid and a teenager, influenced by the competition from peers and authority figures. Or in other words, I have trauma.
“Trauma can be defined as a psychological, emotional response to an event or an experience that is deeply distressing or disturbing” (centerforanxietydisorders)
When I’m aware that certain traumas are the cause of my automatic negative behaviours and responses, I take the responsibility to heal from them.
Learn important techniques
Reframe the stories you tell yourself
There are multiple incidents happening in your life, it’s the stories you tell yourself that are important. Learn how to reframe it in a way that benefits you, not against you. Life is hard, don’t make it harder with your own narrative.
Ask your therapist for perspectives when telling her/him an event that affects you. A neutral point of view offers you a chance to look at it in a different way. When you think differently, you act and respond differently.
Dealing with negative thoughts
Be mindful of your thoughts. When you notice negative thoughts are bubbling up, visualise a big STOP sign. This helps you to avoid going spiralling.
Eat, Sleep, Move, Breathe!
Your physical health has a crucial role in determining your mood. While getting professional help to improve your mental health, you can aid this journey by forming healthy habits in eating, sleeping, moving and breathing!
I love to know what food does to your body. Last year I got myself a book called xx. It tells you all the scientific facts about how certain food can nurture your body and mind. To make it more interesting, the author also mentions the spiritual and energetic benefits. When you feel sad, have a xx because xx.
8 hours of sleep is my top priority. I used to be a night owl, up until 1am in the morning just to finish a drama I watched on Netflix or spiralling deep in thoughts. This absolutely didn’t help my depression. I slowly changed this bad habit by moving my bedtime earlier one hour at a time, lowering my room temperature, and dimming the light when the sun goes down. Now I go to bed no later than 10pm. There’s a few exceptions when I go out and socialise ( yes I do) yet 10pm is by sweet bedtime.
Take a walk. Stretch yourself on a yoga mat. Lift. Dance. Or any activities that you enjoy. Moving helps you to get out of your head and into your body.
There’s different breathing techniques to help you release stress but the most effortless and effective one I find is taking a 5 deep breath at different times throughout your day. Allocate the checking-in slots with yourself, close your eyes and breathe. Because breath is bliss, breath is joy.
It is definitely not easy to embark on this journey. The first step is to start. One of the questions that help me to seek therapy is that “Don’t you get excited to know what the life you can have if you do the work?”. So I do the work. I hope the experience that I share can help you, or at least now you know you are not alone!