There are lots of myths about clinical psychology. I’m going to use the next couple of blogs to address these.
One of the key myths I come across is that people think that what they are suffering is different or unusual and they are strange or defective in some way for feeling or behaving in the way that they do. People struggle with thinking it’s wrong to be feeling the way they feel.
One of the privileges of being a Clinical Psychologist is that people (children, young people and parents) tell you about what’s going on in their lives and in their heads. This is helpful if you’re thinking about how you can help and is a foundation of our work. However, it’s also incredibly useful because the more stories you hear the more you can say with confidence that what people are experiencing is normal. Your feelings are your feelings. They aren’t wrong. They are what they are.
What happens so often when we are having a hard time is that we experience something difficult and we feel rubbish about it, and then very often we criticize ourselves for having those feelings. “I shouldn’t be sad right now” “if they can cope with this I should be able to” “I have no right to be angry at her” etc etc.
This links with another related myth about Clinical Psychology, that Psychologists or therapists have got everything sorted and have perfect lives. I’ve just been at a conference where they talked about the number of Clinical Psychologists suffering from a Mental Health difficulty and they put it at around 41% (and that’s just the people who were brave enough to admit to the difficulties). And even those who haven’t had a mental health difficulty will have struggled. They will have had very difficult days. They will have sobbed their hearts out. They will have been anxious and angry and frightened and annoyed and sad and confused and and and and…(you get the point).
Of course, everyone is unique. We all have different lives, different pain, different challenges and opportunities. No one person can say that they know what another person is going through. Two people facing the same kind of event may feel and respond very differently. I’m not saying that what you’re going through isn’t unique to you, just that these kinds of feelings and reactions and thoughts you’re having are not strange or wrong. They’re the kinds of thoughts and feelings and reactions others get too.
Even without knowing who is reading this, I can say to you, there are others out there who will have experienced what you have experienced. There will be people out there who have struggled like you are struggling. There will be people out there who have been frightened or worried by the feelings they are feeling.
It’s not wrong, bad or a failure to feel bad or to struggle and it makes you 100% normal and like everyone else (including all the Psychologists out there, including me). You are not deficit or strange. If we bust some of the myths then perhaps we can focus on the task of dealing with the stuff we have to deal with and find a way to live with the stuff we’re wrestling and find some chinks of light in the darkness. Your feelings are ok. You may at times feel broken but you are not alone in this.