I Don’t Want To Talk About It.Posted: August 6, 2013
Often times people will come to therapy knowing exactly what the issues are but not really wanting to talk about them. They will hint at those issues, tip toe around them to see if it’s even safe to bring those things up. If the therapist gets the hint and probes deeper, the person may shut down, back away, deny and often get frustrated with the therapist. If the therapist doesn’t get the hint, the person may shut down, back away, deny (in silence) and get angry and frustrated with the therapist.
So, why would then someone come to therapy in the first place?
Because therapists ARE supposed to hear what’s not being said, unfold the story that’s not being told.
Here are some of the “don’t want to talk about it” issues people are secretly dying to talk about:
1. Addictions (alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, overspending, sex)
2. Social anxiety & Introversion
3. Unrecognized grief (you don’t get a sympathy card for this one)
4. Money problems
5. Sexual problems
7. Depression (mostly in men)
8. Love (or lack there of)
If you can relate to any of this, you probably have learned that talking about these issues is not safe. Safety is one of the most important basic needs we have as humans. And I’m not just talking about physical safety. We need emotional safety to thrive. Many people in our lives are unsafe for us, often this includes loved ones, parents, partners, etc. This makes it hard to go to them for help when you really need it. Safety is established when you know you will be loved and accepted even after you disclose intimate things about yourself. Safety means you will not be rejected, shunned, criticized and punished for who you are. The need for safety is a powerful driving force. So pay attention to it. Get better at identifying unsafe people or unsafe topics to discuss with particular people.
Because the only thing worse than not talking about it, is talking about it with an unsafe person.
OK, but even if I find a safe person to talk to about my issues, does that mean I will feel better?
Good question. I believe that real change and transformation often can not even be conceived without the talking part. This is particularly true for addictions especially in the early stages of change which are characterized by ambivalence (conflict between the desire to continue behavior/drug and necessity/desire to stop). Talking is also very beneficial for processing certain emotions such as sadness and can significantly alleviate depression and feelings of loneliness. Talking can greatly help in the cases of trauma or childhood wounding. On the other hand, I think some things you just have to do and not talk too much about. Talking sometimes can be a form of rumination which is a symptom of depression and anxiety. I like to call that unproductive talking. Talking is not particularly helpful for emotions like anger, anxiety or fears. People who worry love to talk about what worries them. That does not mean they feel better afterwards. In fact, they may even feel worse. In these cases therapy needs to be more contained, oriented and structured. Also, in these cases the real “therapy” happens between sessions so homework is essential.
It’s always rewarding to see that my clients are making progress and feeling better. It’s wonderful to hear praise from them, to know that the work we’re doing has had a significant, long-lasting impact on their lives. I always joke around and say “I’m THAT good.” The truth is, I can’t possibly take all the credit. They are getting better because they are TALKING about something they did not want to talk about. They are getting better because they are DOING their homework.