Therapy and Vulnerability: Why We Avoid Both and Why We Shouldn’t
Read Time – ~4 minutes
We spend time, energy, and money on our physical health, appearance, eating well, and our fitness, but when it comes to our mental well-being, why are we more reluctant? It is an interesting question, isn’t it? And one that is afforded less consideration than it should. First, what is therapy after all? There are many different words to describe it: counselling, psychotherapy, therapy, etc. but essentially they all capture the same essence. Therapy is the process of meeting with a therapist to resolve problematic behaviors, beliefs, feelings, relationship issues, and/or somatic responses (goodtherapy.org).
‘Why should I engage in therapy?’
According to Scott Miller’s article Findings from several recent studies are sobering, ‘depression is now the leading cause of ill-health and disability worldwide’–more than cancer, heart disease, respiratory problems, and accidents. In another article published based on American statistics, […] researchers reported that serious psychological distress is at an all-time high, significantly affecting not only quality but actual life expectancy.’
If that isn’t compelling evidence, then what is? With the ‘what’ and ‘why’ now answered, what stops so many from seeking therapy? For many, regardless of gender, there is a certain vulnerability that comes with reaching out for help from another. It can be overwhelming and keep us stuck in the painful or unsettled space we are currently enduring. This characteristic hesitation to seek therapy parallels the saying ‘the devil you know’ in that it often feels more comfortable to remain in the painful place with which we have become familiar rather than take the risk to open up and face the unknown. The unknown includes hard truths and buried issues that will require work on the path to creating a more fulfilling life for ourselves.
Is vulnerability the same as weakness?
“In our culture,” teaches Dr. Brené Brown, “we associate vulnerability with emotions we want to avoid such as fear, shame, and uncertainty. Yet we too often lose sight of the fact that vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity, and love.” In her book ‘The Power of Vulnerability’, Dr. Brown offers an invitation and a promise—that when we dare to drop the armor that protects us from feeling vulnerable, we open ourselves to the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives. Here she dispels the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and reveals that it is, in truth, our most accurate measure of courage.
My grandfather was one of the strongest people I ever knew. He was tough, he was rugged, and had a wonderfully big heart full of compassion for others though he rarely showed his vulnerable side. I grew up spending countless hours with him, learning from him and growing to be similar in many ways. One day something changed for both of us. I was in my early 20’s and he was recovering from having his knee replaced; becoming bedridden through the process. I visited him almost daily and we would talk for hours. One day, he began to talk about his childhood, a topic I rarely ever heard about. He began to discuss living during the depression and the means by which he and his family survived. His family would send him to beg for food because he ‘was the cute child.’ As he spoke, he began to cry and being a ‘typical 20-something male, I had no idea what to do with this emotional display from my grandfather. I jumped in very quickly in an effort to comfort him (and probably to relieve my own discomfort) to say ‘it’s OK Grampa, you don’t have to talk about it’, but he continued. As he spoke, I found myself begin to just listen and be present with him. I heard and felt the emotion alongside him and was able to empathize with what he had experienced, but also was able to experience the lesson I was learning in that moment. It was a powerful and directional moment in my life and changed how I looked at what ‘being a man’ meant to me. It taught me how much courage – not weakness – it took to be vulnerable and open up in order to release and heal. I don’t know if his lesson was intentional, but I will cherish it the rest of my life and will continue to grow from what he taught me in such a simple way.
If you or someone you know could benefit from speaking to an experienced professional, there are many great options to choose from. Mention this posting and receive a 20-minute complimentary consult and learn how deliberate and collaborative therapy can support you in creating a fulfilling and healthy life that you have the ability to build. Contact Alexander today! firstname.lastname@example.org or 647-550-0866. You have the ability to create the life you want, Alexander can help.
Alexander has his Master’s in Social Work from the University of Calgary and has been working with males since 2012. He was a part of a provincial advisory committee focused on engaging men and boys in violence prevention and creating training on healthy masculinity for Alberta, a treatment advisory for male survivors of child sexual abuse for the Canadian Centre for Male Survivors, and has presented internationally on the topic of male victims of domestic violence.