There is no dearth of suffering that we undergo. We are also aware that much of it is not physical pain, but plain mental anguish. We also know that many other people are able to deal with things we are not able to. Like many other people do not fall sick due to some things as we do. We also know and keep reading there is no shame in asking for psychological help..from a psychologist, a coach, a counselor. We keep reading encouraging quotes around it.
And yet it is excruciatingly difficult to ask for psychological help. It feels embarrassing…even shameful!
Why does this happen?
3 major reasons are Identification, lack of awareness and lack of familiarity
Imagine someone tells you: “A 1-month baby was killed” How would you feel? Sad for a moment?
Imagine someone tells you: “Five 1-month old girls were killed” How would you feel? Pained? Your mood would probably go down for a while.
Imagine someone tells you: “A million babies were killed last year”
You might wonder “What the F@#@#? Where? Why? Can I do something about it? Really? I am ready to help in any way!”
Take a pause. Try to imagine the pain. Feel it. Feel its quality, depth, its urgency.
Now imagine you read this headline somewhere: “India is a country where more than a million baby girls are killed every year”
Assuming your are an Indian, how would you feel now? Take a pause. Try to observe your feeling. It is still negative, but its quality is very different from what you felt earlier. A little DEFENSIVE maybe? There is anger, irritation, frustration perhaps.
Maybe you are angry about why the writer framed the sentence that way. As if all Indians are like that! Why distort? Or maybe you are disappointed at how pathetic India is..and how some other people try to keep painting a false, rosy picture of India. But do you see what just happened?
Everybody is talking now about “How good or bad India really is” – and how our opinion is more right.
Nobody is talking about the babies any more!
Earlier it was not about you. It was just about the babies’ pain. But the moment they used the word “India” – it became about your IDENTITY. “How does it make India(and hence me) LOOK?” became more important than “Is this true about India?”
How does this make me look, becomes more important than the pain.
This will happen whenever there is a threat to something we identify with. Our country, our family, our community, our gender….and the the thing we identify the most with: Our thoughts!
When we feel that our thinking needs help, it threatens our identity at the deepest level. It feels like we are defective. Broken. Seeking help would mean confirming that fear! So we come up with a million ways to avoid it.
The same might also happen with physical sickness. Imagine you have a heart problem, lung problem…or a sexual problem. Maybe the sexual problem would feel more challenging to share. Because we identify with our sex. Having a lesser sperm count is not just a physical issue. It makes me a “lesser man”.
Similarly, admitting to a heart problem might be easy for you – but imagine if you were a famous Yoga guru who preached about staying healthy without any medical help. Now admitting the same problem becomes difficult. Because heart issues are now tied to your identity.
When we are not able to cope mentally with any given situation, we can remind ourselves that our thoughts are not us. We have thoughts. We are not our thoughts. And they are a function of our childhood, circumstances, culture and a hundred other things. So when they become too much, too ugly, anxious, overwhelming, depressing – it is not about us. You cannot blame yourself more than you blame yourself when a foul smelling wind passes through your room. Sure, it feels unpleasant – and it is passing through your room. But that does not make it your fault! Overwhelming thoughts pass through your head – but that does not make it your fault!
Lack of awareness
Sometimes, we think it is for ‘crazy’ people. Like we don’t wait to visit the doctor till we get a 106 degree fever, we can visit a professional even when our thoughts prove too difficult for us. We don’t have to wait until we are crazy 🙂
Sometimes, we are simply not conversant with the results that psychological help might offer. “Nothing can be done” we believe. But just think about it. There are many situations which other people are able to handle that we are not. And vice versa. It is simply a matter of seeing newer possibilities. A professional simply helps us do that. Helps us break the loop of our thoughts – and helps us see new possibilities.
Lack of familiarity
Even if you are ready to seek help and are convinced how it is helpful – you might still feel awkward. This is simply the discomfort of trying something new. Remember which leg to you put in first while waring your pants. Imagine if you have to insert the other leg first. Feels odd? Even if there is nothing to lose! Can you see how this works?
So don’t overthink. Just do it!