The only way to conquer the fear is to know one
Has it ever happened that you were hesitating for a long time before decided to book for Psychotherapy, but eventually, you did it anyway? You were satisfied with yourself because you were able to make the first step on the road of change. In your notebook, you finally had the date of the first visit, but when this day finally came, something confining happened. You felt the squeezing of your chest, an intolerable fear, however instead of recognising and looking into it more closely, you started rationalising:
“Well, if I think carefully, I don’t even need Psychotherapy. My problems are not so serious. I have to be happy with what I have as many have much bigger problems. Moreover, this is a great expense, and I am not sure if I can afford it.”
Instead of going, you’ve sent a message that you will not commit to the therapy. However, you were feeling guilty because of that. Or, you might be signed up to partner therapy, and your partner was the one who last minute changed his mind. Even, if you wanted to go, in a way, it suited you, because you didn’t have to challenge your fears, moreover now you can blame your partner:
“Well, I told you that we should go to therapy.”
Let’s look more closely at the fear of Physiotherapy.
Heart-to-heart, the arrival at the very first hour of Psychotherapy is a step that requires quite a bit of courage. As a therapist, I have repeatedly been in the role of a client myself, so I know how it is when you go and knock at the doors of the therapeutic office for the first time.
Fear of the unknown
Of course, there is a fear of the unknown; you do not know what to expect. How will I feel with my therapist? Will we get on with each other? Will he/she fulfil my expectations? Will, he/she, asking things I’m going to feel discomfort, maybe I’ll be ashamed?
What happens at the introduction meeting?
At the first meeting, this fear quickly disappears. The first meeting is primarily cognitive and informative. It is intended to get to know the therapist, how his/her is working and to tell him/her what the reason for your arrival is. He/she will probably ask why did you come now, how do you imagine the therapeutic process, what do you expect from him/her, what would you like to achieve with therapy?
Given that the therapist sees you for the first time, questions will probably be more general. And even if the therapist asks something you do not want to talk about yet, you can tell him/her this. In the therapeutic process, the client is the one who has control over what, how much, and when will he/she speak. You have the right to ask a therapist everything you are interested in (how long he/she’s working, if he/she has a family, etc.).
After an introductory meeting, you will probably be able to answer the following questions: Is this the therapist I can trust? Is he/she professional enough? Do I feel safe, respected, understandable, accepted…etc? Would I be able to build a safe relationship with this therapist? Would I over time (if not right now) feel relaxed next to him/her? If you answered the above questions in the affirmative, then it makes sense to enter the therapeutic process.
Fear of the stigma
Unfortunately, mental health problems are still associated with stigma. The situation is slowly improving, thanks to the increasing awareness of people and known individuals who publicly speak about their problems. Due to problems in mental health, stigma divides into social and personal:
· Social stigma is when people who gather courage and reveal that they have either schizophrenia, depression, anxiety disorder, eating disorder, can get excluded or discriminated in social circles or at the workplace.
· Personal stigma or Self Stigma is a shame that may prevent an individual from seeking professional help. “If I go to Physiotherapy, it will be confirmed that something is wrong with me, that I am mentally ill, that I am unable solving my problems and if people hear about this, what will they think of me? “
Severe mental stress
These are typical distortions that one can have due to insufficient information. More serious mental states (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder) are mostly in the domain of psychiatry and pharmacology, but they also involve psychotherapy. In my practice, I confront people who:
· found themselves in a difficult time of their lives
· have difficulty in coping with day-to-day stress (positive events can also be stressful)
· have problems in interpersonal relations
· hardly express or control their emotions
· are lured by incomprehensible fears
· struggle with anxiety and depression
· have experienced abuse, trauma
· want to understand themselves better and want to get rid of harmful patterns
· want to improve their self-esteem
· have problems in partnership, in raising children
· were unfaithful or have experienced unfaithfulness of their partners
· feel an inner void
· found themselves facing a difficult decision
Since Physiotherapy takes place in a confidential environment, and therapists are obligated to protect your personal information, the fear that someone will find you are visiting therapy is insignificant.
If you are visiting therapy, you are not a weak person; contrary, you are mature and awaken for taking life seriously and ready to invest in yourself and a better life.
Fear of therapeutic judgment
We live in a judgmental society, where people strongly (especially on forums) express their opinions about the things that are concerning them and even more about things that are not necessary concerning them. Our closed ones, partners, relative, and friends are also judging us and often get some “benevolent” advice, even if we didn’t want one. Sometimes we want to be heard and understood; therefore, we are afraid that the therapist will act in the same manner. The challenge is even greater if we were as children receiving criticism from parents or other important people.
The therapist is the last person who will judge you because that would be unprofessional and anti-therapeutic. It is precisely his/her unconditional acceptance, with a non-bias perspective, which heals. If you feel that some of your thoughts, emotions, and actions are unacceptable or embarrassing, think that for a therapist with many years of practice there is hardly anything he or she hasn’t heard yet. What you may think is outrageous, the therapist has experienced many times.
“I’m a human being, and no human being is alien to me,”
-Terence said more than 2000 years ago.
We live in a judgmental society, where people strongly express their opinions about the things that are concerning them and even more about things that are not necessary concerning them.
Sometimes it seems very risky to talk about your deepest thoughts and feelings or to reveal the most vulnerable parts of your life. To be open in a therapeutic relationship, it is, therefore, necessary to build a trusted therapeutic relationship first, which is a process that requires time, however, if your problems exceed his/her capabilities and competences, the therapist will direct you elsewhere.
Fear of facing problems
If you ignore the problem, it will not disappear, the opposite, it will become more and more difficult to handle. It is difficult to accept the fact that, for example; we have problems in our relationship or marriage. Maybe you and your partner have drifted apart over time, maybe you are arguing about the same issues over and over again, maybe you suspect your partner has an affair. According to research, couples start looking for therapeutic help on average after six years from when challenges have arisen.
In my experience, the individuals also torture themselves for quite a long time before they decide to find help. We all know that the longer the fire burns, the harder it is to extinguish it.
Affairs don’t leave negative consequences only on your mind, the body also feels your troubles, and if you don’t start addressing them when the burden is too heavy, the body will get sick as well. The phrase “What You Don’t Know, It Does Not Hurt” does not apply here. With greater awareness, you will gain more control over your life, and there will be less chance of walking in an unwanted direction.
Fear of pain
People are evolutionarily programmed to avoid pain and tend to follow the comfort. Going to Psychotherapy is often associated with the assumption that we will have to bathe in our painful past and face our old and buried feelings. Why should we torment ourselves if there is no need? It is precisely this fact which prevents us from moving forward. We can’t evolve before we deal with our past, including the painful and harmful one.
Emotions are energy that must be relaxed. Otherwise, it accumulates in our body and causes physical and mental problems. Painful emotions also bear important information about our unsatisfied relationship needs, current, and past. Digging up old traumas and other painful experiences is never pointless. We have to deal exclusively with topics that are causing us problems.
Fear of change
People are attached to their old patterns, even if they don’t benefit us. We’ve learned to think, feel, and behave in a certain way throughout our lives. In the same way, we have learned how to establish and maintain relationships with significant others. These patterns represent our way to be, even if it is not functional and is hurting us. If, for example, in childhood; because of dysfunctional parents; we learned to rely only on ourselves and usually we were spending most of our time in our fictional world. Unfortunately, what back then was a way of survival; now, it is an obstacle as we don’t know how to build a healthy, intimate relationship.
Even the mere idea of letting somebody walk into your intimate world seems terrifying. Our remoteness seems to be safe, domestic, and known, although we are extremely lonely and craving for the emotional closeness. Physiotherapy offers a safe playground where we can practice safe attachment and emotional closeness. In the same way, we have first learned to park a car with an instructor. It is safe for us first to achieve a change in a therapeutic relationship, which then can be transferred it to other relationships, or in other words, we are ready to drive on the road.
Benefits of dysfunctional behaviour
However, there is some benefit in dysfunctional behaviour which is professionally called secondary benefits. By changing this behaviour, we also give up the benefit, and the principle is; let us take, the role of a victim in the relationship. For our misfortune, we blame others, and we feel for ourselves:
“I’m dissatisfied with my job. If I didn’t stop schooling for children, I could finish college and have a better job, but now I have no chance of a better life. ” Jane and unsatisfied wife said.
What benefit does Jane have from remaining a victim?
As her children are already grown up, Jane could finish college after work. Her husband Alex, could have taken over most of the household chores. Given that he didn’t need to give up his career for children, it would be fair. However, if she continues studying, she will have to give up her role as a victim of a mother who draws a sense of personal value. She will have to face her doubts about whether she is intelligent enough and able to finish schooling and, what is even more difficult, to compete in the labour market. She will have to get out of her comfort zone, which is by no means easy and takes a lot of courage.
Your partner does not want to join you at the therapy?
Then come alone. Likely, your partner will eventually become interested in your treatment. He/she may be afraid that he/she is not ready yet, or refuses to admit that he/she has problems or does not feel them like you do.
You can’t force anyone to take Physiotherapy if they do not want to. If you bring such person to therapy, it will only be worse, as this person will probably try to sabotage the process. Do not let your partner come only for you, but themselves and the better of both of you. If you feel the desire and the need to work on yourself, then unwillingness of your partner can’t be an excuse not to do it.
By not taking a chance and booking the first hour, you will never know how it could be. The assumption that Physiotherapy is not for you may not be the truth, for you can truly speak only about your experiences; moreover, you can stop therapy at any time. Perhaps next time instead of cancelling say:
“I’m only afraid, and this is something normal.”
When we are dealing with fear, let us remember we are not dealing with logic. We are dealing with emotions.
If you find this article interesting, you can also read the article: Alex opts for Psychotherapy