The folly of therapeutic language

A woman with the handle @kaschuta posted this thoughtful tweet: “Language inflation will make it impossible to help actual victims. If everything is racism, abuse and trauma, soon enough, nothing is.”

It perfectly encapsulates my own thoughts on this subject, albeit, I take a different track.

I do think we are living in an era that is too reliant on therapeutic language.

These days more than ever, I hear people throw around phrases and words like “PTSD” and “trauma” as though they’re candy.

Unfortunately, they’re beginning to lose meaning. Which is a shame because they’re meaningful.

I’ve spoken at length on all my social media about my upbringing, so I will spare you the details. But here’s what I did when the burden of living through that time caught up with me as a middle-aged man.

A couple of years ago I began seeing a Childhood Trauma Specialist at the intersection of Queen St. and Bay St. in downtown Toronto. I was having visions (I hate using that word, but that’s what they were) of events from my childhood that would literally disrupt my day, even week.

Quietely, I sought help. It took a little bit to find the right person to speak to, I saw more than one specialist. However, in retrospect, I’m not sure they helped me, 100%.

To be frank, I was wary, early on, with how easily I was being diagnosed.

One of the diagnoses I received was PTSD, which I believe is a real thing, and probably what I had/have. My problem was the therapist didn’t offer any real solutions. Nothing I felt applied to my life in a tangible way.

I was also uncomfortable with how easily I was labeled without any thorough diagnostic criteria. It wasn’t as though I went through a battery of tests, which is what I thought would happen.

In all fairness, I understand that for most people a label, a name, for what is plaguing them, is helpful. I get why that’s important, personally.

However, for me, I also felt like it was an excuse to not truly deal with my emotional issues. How can I explain. If your label can excuse your behaviour, if your diagnosis can absolve you from all responsibility, well, then, it’s not truly helpful, is it?

A couple months into therapy, I stopped going, and I felt better. They gave me enough of a foundation that I was able to help myself.

I think sometimes we just go through shit, and we have to figure it out on our own. Some people have the tools to do this, other don’t. So they need help to acquire them.

I’m a big believer that talking through your experiences is a great way to recover, so I don’t dismiss therapy. It just, wasn’t for me.

I did eventually “get better” and “felt better” by working on myself.

I opened up those wounds and dived into them and really looked at myself and figured out what I had to do to improve.

That’s where the real work lies, and I think too many people find this really hard to do.

They are afraid of what they may find, or what they may learn about themselves.

But you have to do it. It’s the only way to heal, and to move on.

Labels aren’t going to help you do that.

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