Myths, Facts, and Fables about seeking help

ln South America, there is a belief that if you are worried, anxious or stressed, you should tell your worries to a worry doll, place the doll beneath your pillow before you go to bed, and then in the morning all of your worries will be gone. From a psychological standpoint, it is easy to understand why maintaining a worry doll makes good sense. lt signifies your firm intention to solve a problem, it embodies an optimistic attitude that problems can be solved, and it suggests that you have faith that help is available to you. Unfortunately, here in North America, we have a lot of our own unique beliefs that keep us from actually seeking help.

Most people would agree that there seem to be as many different problems out there as there are different human beings. We struggle with multiple types of issues that can include addictions, anxieties, depression, fear, loneliness, anger, and relationship problems, to name a few. These problems can consume our lives and they can greatly interfere with our personal desires to not live a life imprisoned by our problems.

Despite this desire, why do so many people carry the weight of their problems with them daily and allow them to take up full time residence in their lives rather than facing them? What prevents many of us from seeking the help we need and developing the abilities necessary to overcome the problems in our lives?

Myths and Beliefs that Discourage Us from Seeking Help

For years, popular media has painted the image of a troubled individual lying on a couch in a “shrink’s office” while the good doctor digs into the patient’s murky unconsciousness and determines the nature of their problem. This process was said to take years and cost a king’s ransom.

We now understand that solving problems does not always involve rehashing the problem’s history. Exploring solutions to particular problems can be more beneficial, for some, than solely discussing the problem itself. Sometimes the idea that problems require in-depth analysis in order for an individual to feel relief prevents the individual from seeking the help they need or from recognizing that they can make changes quickly.

We can also be kept from seeking help by our own embarrassment at having a problem. We live in a culture that encourages a rugged self-reliance and a stiff upper lip. This attitude remains a bigger obstacle for men than women, yet it factors into everyone’s reluctance to talk about their problems with a professional. lt is an unfortunate belief of many that admitting to having a problem is a sign of weakness. However, if we have a tooth ache or a chest cold, we immediately seek the help of a dentist, doctor or a pharmacist. We need to embrace the fact that seeking help for personal problems is as wise as seeking help for our physical ailments.

Another fear that prevents many people from seeking help is the belief that those who experience problems are somehow abnormal. There is a saying that states, “The problem, not the person, is the problem”. This saying conveys the impression that “problems are problems” and “people are people”. However, people can be taken by problems. lt is a normal circumstance of living our lives. When we are swept up by the emotional stream of a problem, it can be very difficult not to become overwhelmed and feel like we are drowning in problems. At these times, it makes sense to seek an outside perspective and find a coach, counsellor or therapist who can help us find perspective.

Finally, a major obstacle to many people choosing not to seek help is the belief that talking to someone will not really make a difference in how we are feeling. At times, our problems can seem so insurmountable or numerous that we are unable to see the forest for the trees. Finding help and talking about problems can be a major step in identifying solutions that will defy a problem’s hold on you. You will discover that speaking with a counsellor can be a huge relief, as it will allow you to be open about your thoughts and feelings in a safe setting. This can restore balance in your life and enable you to restore or gain your own sense of control.

Important ideas to Keep in Mind When You Need Help

Keep these tips in mind when you feel ready to take your life back and conquer a significant problem.

  1. There is always more than one way to look at a situation, and a counsellor can help you find different ways to view the same situation.
  2. You are not your problems. Your problems don’t own or define you. You have the strength, resources and ability to resolve the challenges that you are facing in life. ln fact, there is nothing so wrong with you, that what is right with you can’t fix. A counsellor can help you see strengths within yourself that a problem would like you to forget.
  3. You likely experience unique moments during your day when the problem’s hold on you feels less profound. Ask yourself, “How is this possible?”
  4. Remember that the one thing we can always depend on is that life is full of change and as a result it is always possible for you to make more changes happen.
  5. You don’t need to understand what caused a problem to resolve that problem. Try doing the opposite of what the problem seems to make you do.
  6. Emphasizing solutions, and not just problems, can lead to positive changes and problem resolution.

Some ideas for Finding Help

When you need help, do not hesitate to explore your EAP benefits plan. Also, talk to your friends about whether they have ever seen a counsellor. You will likely be surprised at how many people you know have sought help from a professional and benefited from it.

A friend might also be able to steer you in the direction of someone who they feel would be the most helpful for you. lt is important to be aware that not every counsellor will be the right fit for every person. Be assured, however, that there is a counsellor out here who is a good match for you.

Telling your worries to a worry doll and placing it beneath your pillow at night, in the hope that all of your problems will be gone in the morning, is certainly one method of finding the help that you need. However, here in Canada, there are many more ways of finding help that make it a less solitary activity. Perhaps taking that first step in asking for help will be the beginning of a behaviour change on your part that will help you take your life back from the hold a problem may have on you.George MacDonald M.A., C.C.C. Employee Assistance Program Provider

1 “Mental Disorders and Substance Use in the Workplace.” heretohelp. Canadian Mental Health Association BC Division,2010. Web. 18 Oct.2012.