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We're not made of glass. So for the love of all things human let’s stop calling each other broken.



Thank goodness that today is World Mental Health day. How fantastic that we have collectively got together to raise awareness of the importance of looking after our own mental health. It’s no less important than going to the gym or any of the hundreds of ways we look after our physical health - and in some ways could be considered more important. And so, it really gets my goat when there are those who consider therapy to be for those who are ‘broken’ or ‘dysfunctional’ or ‘mentally ill’, and this is the perfect day to tell you why.


In my own professional life I have lost count of the times in books, articles or trainings, the coaching world describes those that seek therapy to have ‘significant mental issues’, or to be somehow defective, deficient, or lack agency. This simply comes from a place of wanting to create a clear distinction between therapy and coaching - but it is nonetheless an outdated and misleading definition, and a shame that it persists. As both a Coach and a Psychotherapist, I can tell you that the truth is there are many differences between the two professions (which I will write about so watch this space!), but the agency and often the mental health of those that seek it is one and the same. It is derogatory to those who seek therapy and devalues their commitment and bravery. As a matter of fact, there are scores of people in my practice who are incredibly high functioning and who hold extremely important positions of leadership in the fabric of our corporate or medical worlds, for example. So on no level are these people ‘dysfunctional’ as certain narratives would encourage you to believe. They are simply committed to their own self development - on a very deep level.


It really gets my goat when there are those who consider therapy to be for those who are ‘broken’ or ‘dysfunctional’ or ‘mentally ill’...

Often too, we shy away from getting help or embarking upon a therapeutic process because of fear - of what will happen, what would people say, how will it reflect on self. Fear of our own vulnerability and getting conscious about those things that drive us and our behaviours on a deeper or more unconscious level. Which we ignore at our peril, as anyone who’s ever experienced what we commonly describe as a ‘mid life crisis’ can attest to. Our vulnerabilities, and inner most belief structures and drivers are just another part of us - and we hide them and forget about them until we get to a point where the life we find we are living is far away from one that we are proud of, and happy and motivated to run.


So let me share with you, as someone who has spent many many hours on both sides of the therapy room, both as client and practitioner, during the course of my own training… As someone who has learned the theory and applied it to practice, over a period of many many years… Just why psychotherapy is perhaps the greatest gift you will ever be able to give yourself.


The reality of the therapy room is often far from glamorous, it's true. But what it does offer is so ingenious in its simplicity that it’s hard to put into words until you’ve experienced it. In very simple terms, it’s a space where there is freedom to be uninhibited, to be who you are, to explore things that have troubled you for years, to say out loud the things you feel no-one else in your current circle would understand. This process can be hard and painful. It’s a space to learn to value your past experiences, to hold a compassionate space for yourself or those who have (often unintentionally) caused you harm, and to seek the good in your lived experiences and reframe them if that’s appropriate. To see yourself in all your glorious authentic state, and to acknowledge the wonder of who you really are. To realise that you are actually stronger than you believed, kinder/smarter [insert any adjective that applies to you here] than you’ve been told, and if you would only let yourself realise, are infinitely more capable of achieving the things you had previously not even dared to dream about… the reality of the therapy room might not be glamorous, but it is never as scary as people think, and it has the capacity to be life changing and transformational.


Not to mention, incredibly healing. For, there is no-one on the planet that hasn’t developed behavioural traits or neuroses based on how they were treated, or the things they were exposed to in the past. Our behaviour is inevitably a direct result of the experiences we’ve had to date. It’s literally what makes us human. Like putting lemon into water… or putting banana into cake. Sounds random I know but bear with me… The greater whole takes on the properties of the things that contribute to its creation. That’s not ‘woo woo’, it’s just chemistry and the core tenet of neuro-biology - with more of it’s roots in science than those who are naturally more comfortable with their left brains would believe at first glance.


Some of those things we are happy with - our qualities for example, warmth or generosity, or patience, or capacity to listen to others. And yes - let’s create more opportunities where we feel safe enough to show these parts of our character more often. However, some of the way we show up is not so palatable or acceptable - to those around us or indeed our own selves. We may have developed traits or defences such as cynicism, or value our egoic selves over anything deeper and more meaningful that could bring us happiness and joy, or move to anger quickly and not be able to regulate quickly, or hold a grudge over a long period of time. The list is endless. And we want to change those things. All therapy does is give you time and space to get to know those parts, and understand them, in order that you can do something with them, change / dilute or even leave behind the defences you developed to survive. For once you’ve paused for long enough to consciously consider them, you may realise they are no longer needed in your life today, and like a snake shedding its skin, or a coat that’s too warm for the season, can be taken off and left on the way behind.


People aren’t broken. People are people. We can be difficult to be around, sometimes we can be sad, sometimes we can doubt our own abilities, sometimes we can be angry and we can definitely be frightened of our own vulnerability, and try to hide it from the world. I see it every day. But We. Are. Never. Broken.


Let’s look at a more extreme end of the scale to illustrate the point. As part of my training, I had the privilege of spending 100 hours in a psychiatric hospital in West London, working with young people diagnosed with various personality disorders. And in my time there, I was struck by their warmth, their intelligence, their empathy, their compassion, sense of humour, their desire to help one another. In addition to having developed particular character traits to try and cope with some often very difficult early life experiences, they also had a huge toolkit of well balanced and extremely likeable qualities. There is not one part of my experience there that would lead me to conclude that these young women were broken. Vulnerable in some cases, yes, deeply unhappy and misguided perhaps, frightened for sure. But never broken.


Now, I appreciate that was an example on the more extreme end of the scale. But I share it, to show that the chances of you, likely running a busy, multi-dimensional life, likely considered a high functioning member of society, ever to be considered as ‘broken’ for desiring or wanting to embark on a therapeutic journey, is frankly laughable. So on World Mental Health day, let’s please consider how damaging the word is, and pledge to erase it from our vocabularies when it comes to applying it actual, living, breathing people. You may want to keep your therapeutic experience private, that’s perfectly ok and entirely your decision. If you’re a leader, there might be great value in letting your team know that you understand and value the process of therapy. That you get it. It’s very powerful to learn that the people you look up to most, in a position of authority, are also aware of their own vulnerability. But whatever you do, do not ‘other’ the process or act of therapy. In fact, there is an invitation here to learn to see those that are in therapy, or your own self if this applies to you, for the wonderfully curious and immensely brave person that you are.

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