Four Lessons Counseling Taught Me That Changed My Outlook on Life

One of the most famous movies involving counseling, Good Will Hunting

Hooray! My counselor let me out of my straight jacket to write this post!

I’ll start with what should be obvious but isn’t-

Too many people, myself included until rather recently, think that counseling is for crazy people. People that have something wrong with them.

Isn’t it funny how you would never think twice about a friend going to the doctor after having digestive issues or a pain in their knee, but for some reason you might think differently of that same friend for going and seeing a counselor if they feel emotionally unwell or have issues mentally?

Counseling isn’t for the damaged or the amiss.

Not at all.

Counseling is for people like you and me who want to talk about the issues they face in their day to day life with someone whose profession it is to help others cope and deal with stresses, as well as emotions, both good and bad.

It’s for self-admitted overthinkers like me who are in their own heads too much and just need someone to vent to that isn’t biased and doesn’t have any skin in the game that is my life.

It’s for every person who has ever experienced anxieties, worries, or regrets about their actions or what the future holds, which includes, well, everyone!

I believe at some point we all look at ourselves and ask just what the hell we’re doing with this crazy thing called life.

Before I went and saw a counselor it was something I’d thought about for over a year.

I knew it would benefit me but I always thought- how would I go about it?

I’d have to tell my parents about it and inquire about how it would be handled by our insurance.

I’d have to research the right place to go, make the call, mark the appointment on my calendar!

Step by step I’d be living out the admittance that I was, in fact, crazy! That something was truly wrong with me! That’s the only reason people seek counseling, right?

This brings me to the first lesson I learned in counseling-

  1. The stories that loop in your head are usually based on your own individual thoughts and feelings and not on reality.

It’s so easy to get caught up in our emotions and the stories we tell ourselves that we can forget what they may look or sound like from an outsider’s point of view or just a point of view that’s solely based on facts and reality.

A great tool I learned to combat overthinking and anxiety is to simply address a situation by asking “What are the facts?” It’s a great way to ground yourself and look at a problem in a different light.

Your thoughts and feelings are not reality, only your actions and the things you do whilst living out your life are truly reality.

Give yourself a break. It’s completely natural to frame situations in a certain way. Just make sure to give yourself an outlet to see things for what they truly are.

2. We’re not stuck. We have options.

At the end of the day, we are human. We need food, water, and shelter to survive. Luckily for most of us, we have family and friends that we are close enough with that even if all else fails we will not be without these three necessities for life.

This may seem like an extreme example but it’s just to illustrate that though sometimes the thoughts we experience make it seem like we are in a life or death situation, most of us will thankfully never experience that in our lifetimes until our time to pass comes, after a long, fulfilling life.

I think that too often people feel stuck. It can happen in a relationship, a job, a living situation, anything really.

Remember that you always have options, and like I discussed in the last point, no situation is ever as dire as it may seem.

We can recover from lost relationships and so can the others involved, we can leave our jobs and find new ones, we can move to new places and start new beginnings.

Life is much more malleable than we give it credit for.

3. You are not the only one with these feelings. You are not the only one who struggles with your thoughts.

Even though it may seem like you’re the only one who could think X crazy thought, or has X crazy worry, I promise you, you’re not.

When I first went to counseling I held back because I figured some of the things I was thinking and feeling were just too weird/awkward, but the more I opened up the more fluid and fulfilling the visits got and I eventually realized that any problem or stress I had, my counselor had already seen or heard in some form.

Even though we like to act like we’re all very unique and different, which we are in many ways, we are similar in just as many ways and especially in the way we experience distress and angst in life.

I remember once my counselor said to me that he had had patients admit that they’d considered suicide and that after talking through it, some were shocked to realize that there wasn’t some red panic button my counselor had to hit when the word came up that sent a psych ward in to take them away.

While again this is another extreme example, it just goes to show that whatever emotion or feeling you need to get off your chest is perfectly acceptable in counseling and it more than likely won’t be new territory for your counselor.

4. Trust your instincts, they’re there for a reason.

It’s my personal belief that we all have a voice inside us that’s telling us what direction to take, even if sometimes you want to say back to that voice “Really? This!?”

My counselor and I talk a lot about values. I believe that certain values are innate to each one of us based partly on our upbringing and partly on solely biological dispositions.

For example, I recently became more in tune with the fact that for me, a fulfilling and meaningful life doesn’t mean recognition, success, or monetary rewards. It means doing meaningful work that impacts others and following the things I am truly passionate about becauce I just can’t fake enthusiasm about things I’m not passionate about. It was a great thing to discover about myself and helped explain a lot of the stresses I had experienced up to this point.

I believe we all have some level of cognitive dissonance at times in our lives which is essentially having your thoughts and beliefs contradict your actions.

This can be a very hard thing to deal with and really will only go away from dealing with it in a forward and honest manner.

If you’ve ever thought about going to counseling, maybe you’ve been thinking about it for a while now like I had but put imaginary blocks up as to why you couldn’t go, my best advice is to just try it out. You almost assuredly won’t regret it.

And please, reach out to me with any questions you have, I’d be more than happy to answer!

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