Most of the people I know have mixed feelings about seeing a counselor (aka therapist, psychotherapist). They talk about counseling like it’s a good thing, something that might actually be beneficial, but when it comes to actually picking up the phone and calling one, they just … don’t. Just the other day, a friend of mine said that she and her husband probably needed to see a counselor. Yet in the same breath she said, “But we’ll never admit we need help.”
People will go to the doctor when they have a body part that isn’t working right, or pain that is stopping them from doing what they want to do. And they will join a gym or hire a personal trainer to improve their physical performance and appearance. But when their emotions, thoughts, behaviors, or relationships stop working for them, or cause them pain, they don’t seek help.
I’m certainly not the first person to observe this, but I think we are held back by the Platonic idea that the mind is somehow separate from the body. In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, I think we believe, deep down, that we ought to be able to control everything that goes on in our minds. Somehow we suspect that if something is wrong in our minds, it is a reflection on our character, or our identity. Somehow we believe that improving our mental functioning should be as simple as making a decision.
The reality is that most of what occurs between our ears is outside of the realm of our awareness, let alone our direct control. And regardless of our personal beliefs about the relationship between spirit, mind, and body, it is a biological fact that our memories, emotions, thoughts, and even personality, are very much tied to the electrical and chemical processes going on in our physical brains. Seeing a counselor (or other mental health practitioner) should not be a source of shame, but a normal part of taking care of ourselves. It doesn’t mean that a person is crazy, or can’t “get it together,” any more than going to see a doctor for back pain, or going to a personal trainer to get in shape.