Only a little while ago someone told me “good therapy has got to hurt”. She had been through therapy herself. Her statement seemed to imply that the level of pain might be a measurement for the quality and success of the therapy. And while I kind of get where she came from . . .
I don’t agree. In fact, I could not disagree more. I find that put that way the statement is actually dangerous.
It is true that good therapy can involve painful moments. In most certainly will, in one way or another, if struggling with painful things is the reason why you see a therapist in the first place. But that is not the same as saying it “has got” to hurt.
To my ears that statement promotes an attitude that encourages people to disregard the fact that they are hurting, in order to endure it for the sake of “good therapy”. That’s dangerous. Especially for people who are traumatized.
To my mind easy does it. Learning to be sensitive towards my emotional pain and to take it seriously. Learning how to gradually expand what I can take, sure, and facing difficult things, too, but not to the point that I go on, maybe even looking to hurt, feeling like it has to hurt in order to be effective. Or even feeling like it is okay for other people to deliberately induce pain in order to “help”.
I believe that pain, inner resistance and feeling defensive, that all those have a reason. That it is important to look for them in therapy and in recovery. That it is important to listen to what they have to say. And that it is important to find a balance between the challenges of therapy, the facing of things and the working through issues on one side, but also periods of rest and periods of recovering one’s strength. And that it is important to listen to what I feel ready to face.
But most of all, I believe that the whole ‘good therapy has got to hurt’ nonsense makes way for mistaken (or worse: sadistic) therapists or other do-gooders to push people more than is healthy for them. The “you have to face this / endure this / experience this, in order to get better” reasoning.
Sure, it might be true that facing, enduring or experiencing things will help me get better. But I find it more than a bit unhealthy when other people want to control the pace, when they push, when they try to be in charge of when or how that happens. I have met a lot of therapists or other well-meaning folks who tried to do that in the past. Who tried to manipulate me during therapy. Who tried to convince me of things I allegedly “had” to do or face, never minding my inner resistance to go there. But this attitude that ‘good therapy has got to hurt’ makes, in my opinion, way for a whole abusive mindset. The whole ‘don’t talk back, do what I say because it’s good for you’ reasoning. I am allergic to that. Seriously allergic.
Easy does it. I wish people would realize that in order to recover and heal, my wanting it and my feeling safe and strong enough and ready to face is key. I don’t want anything if I feel pushed or manipulated. Seriously, who would? Would you buy from a salesman who you feel is manipulating your thoughts and feelings, who is pressuring or pushing you and who is imposing his idea of what you should buy on you? Or would you rather buy from one who helped you understand the characteristics of what you are about to buy, gave you their opinion about the advantages and disadvantages, but then left the decision to you?
Easy does it. Especially in therapy. It doesn’t “have” to hurt. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes it’s in between, but it should never be the point itself of therapy to cause pain. The level of pain is not what determines if the therapy is good. It’s just something that can come with it, but at the same time something that should never surpass a certain level and certainly is no value in itself. Whether therapy is good or not depends on how well it is tailored to the needs of the person who receives it. And on how respectful it is. And how well the therapist manages to take me, my feelings, and my thoughts seriously as an equal partner in my journey towards betterment, and who needs to CONSENT, before therapy goes anywhere. Period.
I really dislike quasi-abusive mindsets and stupid, pseudo-educated attitudes masked in ‘wanting to do someone good’. Shove the pain up your ass if it’s so wonderful, but don’t tell anyone they need to do the same! (Or, more sensibly, be my guest to review the necessity of shoving anything anywhere. Whichever pleases you more.)
Just wanted to get that off my chest.
*Steps off soapbox.* 😉