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I just want to make a little plug here for counseling, therapy, etc. I might expand more on this in the future. I am not a licensed mental health professional. I myself see a therapist a few times a month. I’ve recently been going for a few months, now, and I’ve done therapy for three to ten month at a time, a few times in the past.
Depending on the healthcare situation in your country and/or your current life situation, it can be really expensive to see a therapist. And therapists vary widely in, frankly, intelligence, theoretical background, skill level, consistency, etc.
But, if you can find a good therapist, and it may take some expensive experimenting, it can be one of the most important investments you ever make in your entire life. I’ve written before about how meditation is not a panacea. My position is heavily inspired by Ken Wilber’s writings, and a gentle, still brilliant, new-agey introduction on his perspective can be found in No Boundary. (A very dated but more technical perspective I believe can be found in Transformations of Consciousness. He may or may not be working on an update to this book right now.)
It’s extremely difficult to take a comprehensive, outside perspective on yourself. That’s one reason to work with a therapist, to get at least one outside view. Another reason is that two heads can be better than one. If you’re like me, dialoguing with someone about your stuff helps. And sometimes there’s stuff you need to talk about where friends won’t work, or you don’t have any friends who are much older than you who have the heavily biased but combined wisdom of having talked to hundreds of people about their problems.
So, therapists are people. They are not magic. And you make yourself vulnerable. I am frankly on guard for moralizing, subtle emotional violence and so forth when first starting to work with a therapist.
Regarding modalities, and this is freaking just me, I usually find CBT-esque approaches to be trite, insulting, and not particularly helpful. And I’ve found “talk therapy” to often be unfocused and not particularly helpful. But “talk therapy” has been useful at time. And so have EMDR and Focusing in the course of a therapeutic relationship.
I will say that I was very skeptical of psychodynamic approaches. But if you find someone who’s over fifty, who seems to have a strong theoretical background, and who clearly still loves what they do, I would give it a shot. For all modalities, I think there is huge variance in effectiveness depending on the therapist and your current life situation.
I guess my real point here is that we can carry vast, sweeping, tangled blind spots throughout our entire lives and shape our entire lives around them. If you have any interest in the vast, open expanses of what your life could be, who you could be, your alternative futures, possibilities, capabilities, the vastly different ways the world could look to you, no matter how clearly you think you see…
Therapy is a crapshoot. It is. But it’s also a game of skill. You can get better at choosing therapists and engaging in effective therapeutic relationships. And the potential payoff is a life or lives that you literally could not have imagined beforehand.