Very few adults know a thing about how to have healthy relationships, and I’m sick and tired of it. Seriously, too many people are lonely, miserable, insecure, fearful, depressed, anxious and low on self esteem and confidence, they’re have difficulty functioning, and you know what they’re doing? Dating, getting married, and having babies!
Like a cat driving a car, people who don’t like themselves very much (or too much) and have dysfunctional coping and relational skills get behind the dating wheel and advertise themselves as licensed to date. They meet, marry, divorce, and broken families become commonplace. It’s truly sickening that we’ve allowed our lives to unfold this way.
For those of you think I’m talking about other people and not you, hear this: I don’t care if you dropped out of school in sixth grade, have more degrees than a thermometer or feel you are a graduate of the school of hard knocks, you probably know very little about how to have a healthy relationship with yourself or anyone else. This is a national problem, it’s epidemic, and I am calling for Americans to step up and do something about it – it all starts with each of us as individuals seeking answers for ourselves.
The reason we end up operating at a remedial or preschool level relationally (defined as our ability to have healthy relationships with others) is because we were never taught the concept of healthy mental health and healthy families in school or anywhere else. It is a terrible cultural omission that our education system does not thoroughly instruct us about brain, emotional and relational health. Who decides things like that? Apparently it is an organization called the Common Core, who brags on their web site about how they prepare us well for college and careers, but the question is, why don’t they consider that functioning healthily as a human individually and in relationships as an integral part of that?
So in high school, when we are ripe to learn about these things, we pith frogs, study English literature instead, and then enter the world of relationships completely winging it. Giving credit where credit is due, I’d say most people are aware that in relationships you probably ought to be kind and thoughtful, and as a person it’s probably good to be hard-working and able to provide a living. We know these things but when many get out into the world, doing these things is easier said than done. We discover life is hard and people are difficult.
Since we really don’t know how to handle these life obstacles, we go with what we know and follow what our role models were or were not doing – both in the negative and positive sense. We either try to do (or not do) what our parents and family did or told us, sprinkle in some stuff we learned in television shows like Oprah, Sex and the City, The Kardashians and Dr. Phil, a romance novel or two, and the next thing you know we think we’ve got this, but we don’t.
So we struggle trying to be adults in the world not knowing basic relationship skills or the symptoms of brain illness, which so many of us will have. Once inaccurately referred to as mental illness, with a “you are crazy” stigma attached to it, mental problems were not talked about for eons as the mental health profession is less than 120 years old and there was no serious treatment except to cart people away to asylums or back rooms.
Once treatment started being available it was extremely time-consuming and expensive, and those who were brave enough to seek treatment usually did it secretly. Today, the idea that a brain illness means you’re crazy or shows that you are weak and can’t handle life is, thankfully, starting to dwindle, and treatment is much more short term, accessible and affordable.
It has helped immensely that well-known people such as Tipper Gore, Patty Duke, Brooke Shields, ABC news anchor Dan Harris and many more who have openly discussed their struggles with it. The truth is that the majority of us have experienced some form of brain illness, most commonly as depression, anxiety, fearfulness, worry, obsessiveness, addiction or even difficulty adjusting to new situations such as a move, marriage, new job, loss of a relationship or loved one. Though many of us have or had it, including myself, the majority have not sought treatment. In addition to the shame of seeking counseling or therapy, many people are still are influenced by how expensive it is, and unless they are totally incapacitated with depression or panic, don’t think they need it. Insurance companies don’t help at all. They are very conservative about they allow to be treated and for how long, and when it comes to couples or family therapy, many don’t cover that at all. So availability is still a huge issue.
What’s funny is that few call a therapist to just talk about how to have better or healthier self esteem and/or relationships with others, and all of us need to. Many of us are accustomed to feeling uncomfortable in our lives, and we duck and dodge our co-workers and partners and find coping and defensive mechanisms from alcohol to griping to friends and emotional withdrawal to be able to get through the day. The average person is scared to death to have a direct conversation with someone about a concern or need they may have, and that is a huge problem. That alone can be the cause of depression and anxiety, so if you have that problem, ask yourself, “Why have I done nothing about it?”
I am one of many therapists who charges a large hourly fee to see clients, and I don’t accept insurance because it’s a pain in the backside to deal with the insurance companies. I hate that I have to do it this way, but I feel there is no other way. A person with my level of education has spent over $100,000 to be where they are just for their graduate school education, which means many of us have huge student loan payments. Also, we have to invest in continuing education yearly to keep our license and stay abreast of the latest interventions and techniques in our field. As for me, I spend over $5,000 a year investing in more training. As much as we charge, we still don’t make a whole lot of money.
If you are not able to get your needs and wants met, if you cannot have a two-way adult conversation with someone about concerns you may have, if you don’t feel excited about your life and have plenty of energy and vitality to get through the day, something is wrong. If you don’t sleep well, worry, have trouble making choices and decisions, are afraid to be alone, feel lethargic and unmotivated, something is wrong. If you think you are always wrong and other people are always right or vice versa, something is wrong. If you think you are defective and that something is wrong with you, something is very wrong. If you allow people who treat you badly into your life, allow people to take advantage of you, and feel like a beat down dog, something is wrong.
If all or some of these things (there many other dysfunctional behaviors not mentioned here, too) exist in your life, there are so many things you can do that would help you and change your life for the better. It is impossible to have a healthy relationship with yourself or anyone else if these things exist in your life. Since it wasn’t taught in school, start reading as many books as you can about being healthy in your mind, body and spirit. Listen to Podcasts, audio books, talk to friends that seem to be having well-rounded and positive lives. Get hungry to learn how to feel and live better. Go to a therapist and allow them to educate and mentor you through a growth process that leads you to be the best you can be, but whatever you do, don’t stay uncomfortable and unhappy in your life. There is so much this life experience has to offer, and you can have it if you’ll learn what it is and how to advocate for yourself.