Posted by fxckfeelings on April 20, 2015Share This Post
People often assume that psychological problems require treatment, but they don’t stop to think about what treatment requires from the psychological problems/person with them, namely, a willingness to weigh choices, make decisions, and take action. Otherwise, people can get pushed into talking about problems they’re indifferent to or being overwhelmed by problems they’re actually familiar with. So ask yourself how treatable a problem/person is before urging them to get help. Remember, you can lead a person to therapy, but you can’t make them think.
I wish my husband could be happier, but therapy doesn’t seem to be helping him. He hates his job, but he can’t bring himself to look for a new one or find ways to do more with his free time. I was hoping therapy would get him to decide what he wanted to do, so he could be more active and happy, and even though his therapist has given him some good advice, my husband is just as miserable. He says he enjoys speaking to the therapist, and I’ve told him and his therapist what I think the problem is, but there’s no change. My goal is to see my husband be happy and not be a victim of his work, and maybe decide whether he needs a different or better kind of therapy.
Unlike most other treatments out there for what ails you, therapy is a two-way street; you can get dragged to the dentist or hassled into seeing the hemorrhoid doctor and, even if you didn’t want to go, you can still walk away feeling better. If you only go to a therapist to please others, however, you’ll usually just be wasting your time.
That’s why, despite your good intentions to ease your husband’s unhappiness, don’t assume that therapy has much to offer unless he’s the one offering to go without being coaxed. That means he seems willing to weigh his alternatives and consider the impact of his choices, not let someone else choose for him.
Yes, he might feel better by just having someone to talk to, but talking to you hasn’t made a difference, and, unless he seems like a person who harbors deep secrets, then don’t assume a shrink would somehow make a better audience.
Of course, he may be depressed, so there is good reason for you and his therapist to ask him whether he’s experiencing characteristic symptoms. If he is, however, he must then make tough choices about whether or not to take, continue or change medication, lest he get disappointed by side effects or the lack of a quick or reliably positive response and let that treatment slide, as well.
So, while therapy is a common treatment for unhappiness, that doesn’t mean your husband’s unhappiness can benefit from therapy; unless there’s something he wishes to change that he actually controls, and he can make changes even when they don’t feel good, therapy won’t have much to offer.
So consider whether therapy isn’t working because he’s in a bad way, or because he’s going for bad reasons. If he’s doing it to make you happy, or even make himself happy, but shows no signs of weighing alternatives or taking action, then it’s no wonder he’s not making progress. And, given that your husband seems to suffer from being a man of inaction, his passivity seems par for the course.
Rely on your own experience to tell you whether treatment is likely to help your husband be happier and deal more actively with his life or not. If he’s making no more progress talking to a therapist than he did with you, then at least you know there was nothing wrong with what you had to offer.
Indeed, even if he can’t change his life or unhappiness, he’s lucky to have your support. Just don’t expect him to have much luck with treatment, because if he’s only going to go with the flow, then he’s not going to get much out of it.
“It bothers me to hear my husband complain about his work, but I’m ready to accept the possibility that he can’t do better with it. If that’s the case, I’ll stop listening and praise him for tolerating work he hates so he can bring home the bacon.”
I’m very worried about my son. He’s very bright, but the teachers think he’s got a learning disability because he gets disorganized and loses track of what the teacher has asked him to do. I see myself in him, because, while I enjoy my job and had to bust my ass to get the graduate degrees it requires, I’ve always had to work harder to get through school, my grades were never the best, and I still have to put in extra hours to catch up on paperwork. I don’t know what kind of help he needs or whether he should be going to a special school, but I hate that I’ve passed this curse on to him, and I’ll do anything to make his education easier than mine has been. My goal is to figure out what needs to be done to help him with his problem.
You may feel particularly helpless to confront the same learning problem with your son that made you feel stupid and frustrated when you were his age, but don’t panic, self-flagellate, or generally self-destruct. You have access to someone who knows some good ways to deal with it, and has a proven track record of success– yourself.
Yes, there is probably some new expertise than can be of help; neuropsychological testing may tell you something more specific about your son’s strengths and weaknesses, and teachers may have good suggestions about ways for helping him learn. You, however, already know the secret, which is that hard work can get you where you want to go, even if you have to work harder than other people to get there. If your son has inherited your scattered brains, there’s a good chance he also has your strong drive.
Along the way, you probably learned some methods for staying organized and prioritizing information that other people don’t need to use, but they get you where you want to go. Experts may know other methods, but you can always start by teaching him the techniques you’ve taught yourself.
Don’t let your memories of childhood helplessness shape your response. If you and he are afraid of his weaknesses, they’ll seem larger and more powerful and therefore more likely to stop him. Instead, remember that you’re ideally equipped to understand his problem and coach him on ways to deal with it.
You’ll get help from other experts, certainly, but you’ll also teach him that you value effort more than normality, and that good effort in the face of a real weakness—or just weak genes—is what makes you proud.
“I hate to see my son struggle academically, but I was able to use my frustration to make myself work harder, and I see no reason why I can’t teach him to do the same.”
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