Feelings of Inadequacy

Sometimes we look around us and we see that everybody else is better than we are. They succeed. They have better relationships. They have better bodies, better jobs, their children are better behaved and they are better parents..

Is this true?

What gives us this impression?

Is it that we see the world as it is around us or is something else happening?

There are times when things go wrong, relationships break down, jobs are lost, homes are lost. At these times seeing others as doing better than us is probably appropriate. We really are suffering.

Other times there may be something else going on. No matter how good things are, how good things get, how much others value us, sometimes we fail to notice as our own feelings of inadequacy are more powerful. No matter how many times somebody tells us that we are good enough for them, shows us that it’s true through their actions and behaviours, we may still feel that we are not.

This feeling is out of date, from the past. Something that we picked up at some point and find difficult to put back down. We hold on to it and it defines us and the world around us.

Sometimes we turn it outwards and we attack the world for demanding us to be more than we feel we are. And yet is the world demanding that? Or are we demanding of ourselves something that is unnecessary?

Maybe we are already enough.

Working with a therapist we can explore these questions and maybe even come to an understanding of where and when we picked up these feelings. Working towards developing a new sense of self within which feelings of inadequacy can subside, be put down and return them to their place, so that a confidence that we are good enough can begin to grow.

 

What is it to be a man?

The answer may depend on where we look to find it.

Is the answer in our biology? The human species is divided into two sex categories, male and female. These sex categories broadly align with the reproductive role of the person. Is this where we find what it is to be a man? Does a man need to father children? Does a man need the potential to father children? Is a male human being not a man if he chooses not to become a father? What if he can’t father children?

If we look for answers in the society and cultures around us we find a more confusing picture. On top of the sex categories which are defined by our biology we find the gender categories of feminine and masculine which are defined by social and cultural expectations. “Boy’s don’t cry”; “Man up!”; “Grow a pair!”; these demands are aimed at our boys and men from a very young age. Boosted competitiveness; primacy of work; fear of intimacy; fear of the feminine; a lack of emotional expression, with the exception of anger; a need to always be in control; these are some of the responses of men to the pressures of masculinity set out in our society and cultures.

As men we learn to push our emotions deep down, to hide them away and to deny that they exist. Men tend to smile less than women and to cry even less. We may behave more or less as if we either experience no emotion or that we are invulnerable to emotions. We learn to deny our vulnerability even to ourselves.

Working with a therapist can give men the opportunity to lower the mask of masculinity, to drop the pretence of fitting comfortably into the cultural “man box”, at least for the duration of the session.

In so doing men can look inside for the answer to the question, “What does it mean to me to be a man?”

This can be a freeing experience for men, as we learn that we do not need to restrict our expression of self in the ways that we may feel society demands of us. When we begin to reconnect with ourselves, our feeling and emotional being, only then can we begin to truly connect with those around us.

Working with a professional counsellor we can not only improve our relationship with ourselves but also improve our relationships with others. The positive growth we experiences within therapy can be taken out of the therapy room, also improving the lives of those around us.

The Loss of a Dream

Often we dream and sometimes we dream of the future.

When we dream of the future we tend to have some kind of plan or timeline in mind. For example, maybe we want to be married by a certain age, have children by another, and envision enjoying our grandchildren later on. Perhaps we want to spend our well deserved retirement travelling the world or tending the garden, whatever fantasy of retirement we may have.

Of course we try to achieve this, and yet “progress” can be blocked at any stage. Infertility; the death of a child or loved one; illness; divorce: all of these and more can stop the fantasy from becoming reality.

All of the above are present in my experience as a therapist, and yet the loss of the fantasy of retirement can be one of the most unexpected loses.

For some of us it is the ultimate goal: the reason we have worked so hard throughout our lives. To some extent we may have put aside our day to day enjoyment to focus on preparing a future idyll. Retirement is the pay off; it is for what we have strived for so long to achieve.

And yet at this time of life very little is certain. Our own health may be deteriorating, and so may the health of our loved ones. Suddenly the dream may seem to fall apart.

Perhaps there is a diagnosis: early onset dementia; cancer; diabetes; organ failure; loss of sight or hearing, and with that it may feel as if out retirement dream has been stolen. 

Working with a professional counsellor we can explore the sense of grief which comes from the loss of that dream. Often the feeling can be confusing, hidden as it may be within our feelings about the diagnosis itself. Perhaps we feel irritation and anger at our diagnosis. Maybe it’s our partners diagnosis and we feel anger at them, followed by a sense of guilt; they didn’t intend to become ill after all.

In therapy we can own these feelings, exploring them without fear of judgment or criticism. It may be true that the reality of our situation cannot be changed, and yet maybe our emotions and our reactions to that reality can be understood in a more helpful way.

Holding on to The Pain

Sometimes when we are in pain we keep it to ourselves. We hold on to the pain. Our situation could be causing us distress, and yet we choose not to act, not to overcome.

This could be for many reasons. Maybe we deny to ourselves that we are indeed in pain. We try to make the situation okay. We act as if it is. Maybe we do this without conscious thought, an unconscious attempt to keep everything and everybody okay; or maybe we consciously hide our pain from those around us, choosing to carry on as if everything is okay in order not to spread our pain onto others. Maybe the thought of changing our situation is too overwhelming, too full of anxiety about change and fear of the unknown, and with repercussions for others with which, we fear, they cannot cope.

When we do this we often find that the pain leaks out; it manifests in other ways. This could be as feelings of anxiety, depression, stress or anger. Sometimes the pain manifests as physical symptoms: aches and pains, IBS and other digestive problems, headaches and migraines, tinnitus, exhaustion, insomnia or interrupted sleep.

At the same time, the very people we seek to protect from our pain are affected by our attempts to hold on to it. By choosing to remain in a painful, distressing or unhappy situation, the ways in which our pain manifests often bring distress to those around us. We may appear ‘moody’, ‘irrational’, maybe we express anger at minor transgressions. Maybe we appear distant as we isolate ourselves from those around us in an attempt to maintain the current situation without needing to engage in it. Any physical symptoms we are experiencing may result in worry and concern as attempts are made to find out what is wrong, while no obvious cause is found.

Maybe our pain is telling us something. Maybe something is not quite right with our current situation.

Working with a counsellor we can attempt to uncover what is wrong with our situation. We can examine our emotions, our physical symptoms, our needs and our wants.

Once we get a better understanding of what we need, and the extent to which our needs are, or are not, being met within our current situation, we can begin to examine what our choices are and what changes need to be made. Often the change that we need is difficult and the choice to make the change feels painful, both for others and for ourselves. Attempting to avoid causing pain to others is what has caused us to hold on to our pain, and what has led to our continued suffering, as well as the suffering of those around us.

In the alliance of a therapeutic relationship we can find our own power to make the changes we need. We can feel supported as we make the difficult choices which we need to make, and valued as we put those decisions into action.

 

 

Looking for a therapist

Few people look for a therapist when they are in a good place emotionally or psychologically. This compounds the already daunting task. What should we be looking for anyway? How do we know a therapist is worth the money?

The most important thing about therapy is the relationship between the client and the therapist. It is the nature of this relationship that will define the possibilities within therapy. It is undeniably difficult to predict the possible nature of this relationship by reading the blurb on an online directory of counsellors or on a counsellor’s business website. Maybe there is something about the counsellor’s profile picture that makes you feel more positive or negative about the prospect of working with them. Maybe there is the location and the cost, practical matters, that influence your choice.

Overall the only real way to discover what it’s like to work with any particular therapuetic counsellor is to give it a go. If it doesn’t feel right you will be able to discuss this with your counsellor and come to a decision whether to continue or end therapy with them. They may be able to refer you to another counsellor, or you may be able to find a different therapist online or through any other means.

The important thing to remember is that it is you who will decide who you want to work with. Few if any counsellors would want to work with a client who didn’t feel safe in their sessions with them, or who didn’t feel able to make a connection with them.