Someone lamented: "Why can't my family and friends just love me without trying to change me?"
Good question. My answer: "Because they can't."
Oh sure, acceptance is important for love. And it's a form of acceptance to leave loved ones "as-is". Surely, none of us enjoys being "the project". But that said, when your loved one is suffering it is natural to want to make it better. Why? Because their suffering causes us suffering. That's the beauty (and the ugliness) of being in a loving relationship with someone: We want them to get better so we can ALL be better, because their pain gives us pain.
In other words (I'm sorry to say) loved ones have an agenda when it comes to your emotional pain.
This is where the "magic" of therapy enters. A therapist is someone who cares for you and your pain... who is trained to help you find solutions and health. At the same time, a therapist doesn't share your personal life. They don't suffer at the hands of your pain. If you lie awake at night full of anxiety- a therapist cares, but will not be losing sleep next to you. If you refuse to leave the house because you are awash in depression- a therapist cares, but will not be house-bound with you. If you find yourself getting angered too easily with loved ones- a therapist cares, but will not be the one getting yelled at day after day. If your sex life is suffering because of your poor body image- a therapist cares, but... you get the idea.
A trained professional who cares, but who is not personally harmed by your suffering is a valuable tool in the process of growth. They are able to see with clearer vision.
It's not that the "agenda" of your loved ones is bad. It's just that it's unhelpful. Let me give you an example:
Grief is a process that is non-linear. It doesn't follow a prescriptive pattern. It is messy, it is longer than anyone wants it to be. Rarely do you hear a grieving person say "Wow, that was fast! I feel all better now!" Not only is grief long-lasting, but it is pervasive. It affects all aspects of your life. It makes you withdrawn, prone to anger, prone to depression, unfocused... the list goes on. A loved one who is affected by your grief will want you to *snap out of it*... and quickly. They want "you" back- the person they love. The sooner, the better. And that says nothing of their own grief (since loved ones frequently share losses).
But in this case, rushing grief is not only unhelpful- it is harmful. Rushing the grieving process is akin to prematurely shutting it down. Unfinished grief doesn't disappear- it causes harm to the person harboring it (depression, anger, anxiety, insomnia etc...) In this case, an "uninvolved" party who cares- is the exact person you need. Someone involved enough to listen, to care, to point out areas that need attention... while not "needing" your wellness.
Many clients experience my office as something of a "relief". It's as if they exhale for the first time when they walk in my door. A whole session hour- just for them. No one needing anything for themselves. No agenda on my part. Just a space and time where they can work through their stuff at their own pace.
What a gift!
So if you are one of those people suffering, and thinking: "I don't need therapy, I have family and friends" please keep this in mind. If you find that loved ones are not helpful any longer... or you're feeling "stuck" longer than you want to be- it just might be a case of "loved ones' agendas". The good news is: their agenda is based on love. The bad news: it can get in the way of your needs. This is the magic, and the gift of therapy. Why not give it a try? There is nothing to lose.
Wishing you a space and time of your very own,