How Talking Helps - Anonymous / by Richard Bentley

Like a lot of things where health is concerned, pieces of advice like that above start to mean less and less through over-use.  That’s because we find it harder to hear any truth and wisdom inside the phrase since its repetition has drowned them out.  Yeah, sure, I buy that ‘talking helps’. It’s mentioned so often by professionals and those who have found it to have a positive impact on their mental health – but what about the ‘how’?

Talking to improve mental health should probably be about communicating with a purpose, or some sort of end-point in mind.  When I first received counselling for depression I was skilled at being able to talk.  God, could I talk!  There were many ways in which I could pick up the ball and run with it: you want to look at my childhood? OK, how much grief do you want me to relay?  Childhood during the troubles in the north of Ireland? Try handling this!  So, sessions ended where I felt like I’d had a good mental workout and a vague sense of calm descended - usually lasting only until I got home.  Then one day a different counsellor pulled me up and asked what I was scared of.

When I look back on 'talking therapy',  my biggest obstacle to any meaningful development was fear. This also links to finding the courage to overcome that fear. Here is where we get to the 'how'.  I’m scared that if I open up and accept the (likely) tears then my manhood will evaporate and that what’s holding me together (even if it’s blighted) will disappear.  How am I to rebuild myself? What if I have changed too much?  Questions like these – no matter how male-brained and irrational – are acute and they impede progress. It feels as though no help is at hand with an explanation of the real ‘how’: how can I make a change so that I will be more contented,  less anxious, stronger or more confident ... ?  

The ‘how’ worked for me, in the end, like this: I brought to the table which I’d thought about deeply. I realised that I was going to ‘use’ the professional to help me move forward, not just stay put or look back. I wanted to get that feeling of progress somewhere down the line; I needed to commit an act of faith about myself to myself. I’m anxious and afraid but I don’t care about tears and any unmanning because I’ve heard how wrong that is in reality. So, I’m going for it and hacking my way through the undergrowth of my life with my counsellor behind me, not ahead.  And, in the end this active engagement did wonders for a growing sense of self-worth.

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