I go to therapy to learn about myself, not to fix myself, but I didn’t realize that when I began. So maybe I should start at the beginning.
I started therapy in the way that most people start therapy: apprehensively. I was going through a hard time, sure, but plenty of people go through hard times without the aid of a therapist. Did it make me weak, relying on someone else? Was I giving up on my own ability to persevere? Was it just going to be a waste of my time?
Looking back, it’s hard to believe how wrong I was.
Therapy isn’t a crutch for your mental health anymore than a band-aid is for your physical health or an excel doc is for organizing your thoughts (yeah, I’m a nerd). Instead, therapy provided a framework to help me understand the root of the emotions I was feeling, the emotions that I had a hard time even naming. And, in turn, that self-awareness gave me the space to separate how I was feeling from what I was thinking.
And that’s when things got exciting.
You see, even though I’m no longer having a “hard time,” therapy is still one of the best parts of my week. It’s my check-in with my mental personal trainer, where we explore the feelings that serious interactions and not-so-serious interactions have generated, and explore the root of those feelings. We talk about similar experiences in my childhood, and look for patterns across my adult life that I previously did not see. And when we find them, we sit with them, delve into them, and I walk out of each session knowing a little more about myself.
Early on, I asked my therapist what we were trying to do. What was I supposed to be taking away? Why did it matter? How would it help? I’m a results-oriented person, and if I didn’t know where I was going, I would struggle to find value. What I’ve learned, and what I hope you learn too, is that with heightened self-awareness comes heightened control. Proactive control over your actions, your reactions, and the way in which you experience the world.
Don’t get me wrong - I continue to be filled with unbridled joy as I sprint with my dog or see the opening credits to the newest Marvel movie. But when life throws a curveball, or when I find myself feeling hostile towards a situation that I know mentally doesn’t warrant it, everything slows down for me in a way it didn’t before. I take stock of how I’m feeling, what internal factors might be at play, and I separate those from the situation at hand. This skill has given me success in my personal life, professional life, and most importantly, in my own wellbeing. I hope it does the same for you.
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Michael Landsberger is the Head of Product at Pumpkin Petcare, a pet insurance company. When he isn't building better tools for pet health, Michael enjoys outdoor activities, human health and wellness, and frolicking with his canine soulmate, Zelda.