Everyone is different, and has unique problems. But there are certain common threads of human psychology that stand out as almost universal. Psychotherapy patients tend to present with variations of the following issues, and it can, therefore, be useful to look at them from a broader perspective.
Feeling “different” from friends and family.
Many people don’t think that their partners, friends, parents, siblings, kids, etc., understand them. They believe they are fundamentally different from the people that they’ve surrounded themselves with. Remember: You are not alone. Many people feel that way. It’s normal to be different. And it is worth exploring.
Feeling alone in our thoughts and reporting a sense of isolation and loneliness.
Maybe there’s a theme here. Our thoughts can do this to us. If we keep them to ourselves and treat them as facts, our thoughts might seem “crazy” or isolating or overwhelming. But if you can take a step back and acknowledge that a thought is just a thought, and not a fact, you might be able to remove yourself from this isolation. This is the beginning of cognitive restructuring, a central tenet of cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Wanting to think positively, but being unaware of the obstacles that keep us grounded in negative thinking. Unfortunately, telling yourself to “be positive” or “choose to be happy” isn’t going to be enough to effect change. It might be a start for some people, but there also may be greater obstacles to tackle.
Are you avoiding activities or people that cause you to feel these negative thoughts? Or avoiding time with those that cause you to compare yourself to them? Avoidance only increases the extent to which you view these thoughts as true and powerful.
Another example: Are you in a relationship with someone who emphasizes these thoughts, or someone who emphasizes the flaws that cause you to get into that mindset? There may be external and internal factors to consider.
We all think, feel, and behave in the same way. The only thing that’s different is how we put together those pieces of who we are. Everyone has doubts about themselves. Everyone has the thought, “Wow, maybe I’m not as good at this as I thought I was,” or “Maybe I did a bad job there.”
And guess what? We all make mistakes. Sometimes you do a bad job. The difference is how we treat these thoughts, and what we do behaviorally to increase positive thoughts and positive mood states at the same time. Do you isolate yourself after something bad happens? Or do you seek out someone to talk to or engage in an activity you know will boost your mood?
Avoiding negative feelings, rather than spending time getting curious about them and what they may be telling us.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could go through life and never feel sad? Unfortunately, our brains aren’t wired that way, and if you think about it, how would you know what it was like to be happy if you never felt sad?
Feelings are important for a number of reasons, one of which is that they are information for us. Feelings guide us. If you feel sad after getting rejected from a job, it tells you that you wanted the job or that you care about your career. If you feel worried about your partner after they spend three straight days at work, it tells you that this behavior is abnormal and that something else might be happening.
Ignoring feelings like these won’t get you anywhere, but addressing them, and asking yourself what they mean might help.
*Lukin Center Psychotherapy is now in 4 convenient locations : Ridgewood, Hoboken, NYC and newly opened Jersey City.
Konstantin Lukin, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in Ridgewood, Hoboken, NYC and and newly opened Jersey City. He has extensive clinical and research experience spanning individuals of all ages, in both inpatient and outpatient settings. He specializes in men’s issues, couple’s counseling, and relationship problems. His therapeutic approach focuses on providing support and practical feedback to help patients effectively address personal challenges. He integrates complementary modalities and techniques to offer a personalized approach tailored to each patient. He has been trained in cognitive-behavioral, dialectical behavior, schema-focused, and emotionally focused therapy, and has also been involved with research projects throughout his career, including two National Institute of Mental Health-funded studies. He is a member of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, New Jersey Psychological Association, Northeast Counties Association of Psychologists, New York State Psychological Association, The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy, The New York Center for Emotionally Focused Therapy, the International OCD Foundation, the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACSB) and a regular contributor to Psychology Today.