No one is broken. No one needs to be fixed.
We are human--highly sophisticated, complex "feeling machines that think," as neuroscientist Antonio Damasio observed.
From the day we're born, we begin to develop beliefs and strategies that serve us first as infants and toddlers to have our needs met, then as children in school to survive in the classroom and on the playground. By the time we're out of high school, these beliefs and strategies, many of which were imposed upon us by family and peers (aka, introjected beliefs) we believe that everything we think is true and that our beliefs are also true.
The rub is that when we get out into the "real world," these beliefs and strategies often no longer work. Now we're experiencing conflict, or inner doubt, or not reaching our goals, or a myriad of other life-altering events, and we don't have the coping skills to step into these challenges and grow.
Up to this point, we've been taught to work hard and keep a stiff upper lip. There was no training in complex communication, relationships, or difficult emotions. To make matters worse, when we do "stuff" our emotions, they don't sit quietly in the corner we've shoved them into; they come knocking again, and we may feel worse (aka, augmentation). They want attention! But everyone around us appears to be doing fine, so we suffer in silence. Or we speak to a friend, who can't really help, and we spiral downward.
The truth is, these experiences are completely normal and completely human. They were designed to help us, but we haven't been taught how to understand and use them in the modern world.
Enter mental health clinicians and coaches--trained professionals to help us understand and navigate the treacherous landscape called our minds. Many of us shy away from reaching out for professional help because it must mean that we're broken, not normal or deficient in some way.
Not true! It's your mind not knowing how to interpret the messages it's receiving in emotional code from the body. We know how to treat a cut on our finger, but we don't know how to treat the emotional information we are receiving---and that is what emotions are, simply information. Important information. Useful information. But the emotions themselves don't define us, which for many of us, is where the confusion comes in.
Meeting a clinician who challenged my beliefs was a turning point in my life. When I first met him, I believed that all of my thoughts were true. Quite simply, my rationale was that if I'm thinking it, it must be true, so having a mental trove of limiting and mistaken beliefs about myself was not useful! With his guidance, I learned to question my thoughts, notice when I was having unuseful thoughts, and to challenge them with equally plausible constructive thoughts. I learned to notice my limiting beliefs (e.g., "this is hard") and to find a new way to approach the issue. I learned that my mind is my tool--I'm in charge, not my thoughts--and I decide what thoughts and beliefs serve me and which do not. I learned to pay attention to repetitive, negative thoughts and shift those as well. Per a well-known NIH study, we have tens of thousands of negative thoughts/day, most of which are repetitive; it's amazing that we get anything done. ;) No wonder we need guidance in an information-driven world!
A friend of mine half-jokingly says, "The mind is a dangerous place to roam; never go there alone!" Accessing professional help to make sense of our thoughts and our feelings, so that we can healthfully and productively navigate life, is mandatory. Give yourself the gift of guidance. Your mind and heart will thank you!