“I don’t want to need help”
“I shouldn’t have to do this”
“What will people think?”
“I can’t tell anyone”
“What if they think I’m a loser?”
“What if they think I’m a freak?”
“I am weak”
If any of the above sounds familiar, you may be experiencing shame about receiving counselling.
Shame is a powerful emotion
It can paralyse us and cause us to endure even more suffering. It causes suffering as it doesn’t just stop us from getting help when we need it, it also creates a whole new army of negative thoughts.
What we feel ashamed of often depends on what we learnt when we were young
So, if you grew up in a household where winning was very important, or you mostly gained praise when you achieved something, you may be more likely to feel ashamed when scoring a “B” on an exam than someone else.
The same is true with counselling, the less open and positive people were towards you sharing your vulnerable side growing up, the more likely you are to feel shame about seeing a counsellor. The shame exists in your mind because of the messages you have received (or perhaps continue to receive), but it does not exist universally. This means that although your mind may tell you counselling is shameful, there will be plenty of people out there who do not think that way at all.
Unfortunately, being vulnerable has not traditionally been seen as a very “British” thing and some other cultures discourage talking to strangers about emotions too. But it is not your fault if you were born into one of these cultures, there are plenty out there with a different outlook on mental health.
Shame around counselling and mental health can be common in the UK. So, you may find it reassuring to know that other people in a similar position to you also felt worried about opening up. A lot of these people have been able to overcome their doubts and find the help they needed, and you can too.
By understanding why some people are more likely to experience shame than others, we can begin to question if it is fair to ourselves to hold on to negative messages. Or if, perhaps, it is time to let go of them and try to see counselling in a different way.
Your counsellor will never judge you for wanting to use their services
Your counsellor will have no more judgement of you for seeking counselling than a barista at an independent coffee shop has of you wanting to buy a cup of their coffee. It is their job, they are proud of the service they provide, and they are grateful you have chosen them.
Although it may sound scary, you could consider exploring the shame you feel about counselling with your counsellor during your assessment session. Talking about how attending your first session makes you feel can help normalise shameful negative thoughts and take away their power.
Whenever you are ready to start up the conversation, I would love to hear from you. You can get in touch with me to arrange an initial assessment session by calling or texting me on: 07588 117305 . Alternatively, you can send me a short email at: firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be in touch.