I think it’s about time that I shift from writing about counselling and psychotherapy — which I’ve been yammering about for weeks now — and start talking about the stuff that bugs people enough to want to try it. One common denominator for problems which drive people into therapy involves lies and deceptions.
Many problems involve getting tricked; fooled by false facts. The culprits are our own thoughts and feelings. Betrayed from within! This is true for everybody, at least occasionally. People call me up when it happens a lot.
I once heard a clever person say, “Depression lies to us.” For example, a common symptom of depression is “harsh self-criticism.” In other words, thinking stuff like, “I’m stupid,” or “I’m worthless.”
These are lies… or at least not completely true. Nobody is worthless. “I’m stupid” means 100% of the time, but everyone has moments of intelligent thinking.
However, try arguing that with someone who is heavily depressed! Go ahead, I dare you. Just about any therapist can tell you, it doesn’t work. “But you’re not stupid!” you might insist. “Look at your ______ (good grades; clever wit; sharp insights; international fame and fortune; etc.)” You could fill in the blank with a Nobel Prize (assuming the person actually had one) and it would be received with a sad smile. The smart-but-depressed person would shake her head and think, “You’re just trying to be nice. You don’t really understand. The Nobel Prize was a fluke. Those judges were really off that day; maybe food poisoning. It doesn’t count!”
That person has been deceived. Swindled by lies.
Anxiety is similar. Someone in the midst of a panic attack may think, “I’m dying!” My brother told me panic is the fourth leading presentation in hospital emergency departments. He’s a smart guy. I’m sure it’s true. The point is, a panic attack is intense and horrible. It really feels like you’re going to die.
Except you’re not. “I’m dying” just ain’t true. Panic attacks are not life threatening… but try telling that to someone while they are in the middle of one!
OK… so I’ll admit, “lies and deceptions” is really — ummm — colourful language to spice up the subject matter. Makes it a bit more accessible, you know? It’s not like there’s some sort of wicked little critter living inside our brains, gleefully rubbing its hands together and thinking, “How can I trick this sucker into looking like a fool today?”
There are various theories trying to explain where these not-entirely-accurate thoughts and feelings come from. Unfortunately, this is just a blog post, and I’m supposed to limit it to 500 words for some reason. Gimme a break! I’m already well over 500 words. There is absolutely no way I can get into causality at this point.
For now, I’m going to have to awkwardly end it. (Tsk. Who made this 500 word limit?)
Real quick: there’s good news. Therapy has developed a bunch of nifty ways to help people get flimflammed (the thesaurus kicked out that one, and I had to use it) less. To improve their ability to outwit their own lyin’ and cheatin’ thoughts and feelings.