Becoming Psychologically Healthy by Jennifer Lehr, MFT
We sometimes believe that if we are “good” people, good things will happen to us. This is not entirely true. While some people are intrinsically better at certain skills such as making money, having relationships that work, or making art than others, it has nothing to do with their inherent worth. Instead, it has to do with innate ability, effort, intent and which talents we chose to develop.
Lets look at making money first. I know a wonderful social worker. He is a kind person and helps many children. He may never make more than his social worker salary, which although adequate, is not a lot of money. The money he makes is dictated by his career choice. Perhaps he will someday write a book or lecture and increase his ability to make money, but this is not predicated by his being a good person, but by the skills he chooses to develop that are moneymaking skills.
The same is true for psychological health. Most people I know who are now psychologically healthy, were at some point in their lives in a compromised emotional and psychological position. They chose to take responsibility for their self-limiting behaviors and beliefs or past damage (even if it was not their fault) and develop new ways of being. They chose to seek help and do the work of altering how they engaged with the world. They were “good” people before they did this, but they were not healthy. They had old wounds that had not fully healed. They may have been overly reactive, or let people mistreat them. They may have mistreated their loved ones, or have been anxious or depressed.
Although we have to play the hand we were dealt and come to grips with our talents and our deficiencies, we can chose to develop skills and awareness that will enable us to create the life we want. If we want to be joyful, and free of depression and anxiety, if we want functioning relationships with others and ourselves, we may need to look at how we create ourselves historically and currently. As we become more self-aware, we can start to change who we are, how we see ourselves and show up in the world.
To give a quick example: a common issue I notice in working with people is how hard they are on themselves. How a person talks to him or herself is often very negative. When something difficult happens to them, their inner dialogue goes something like this. “You are so stupid” or “Why’d you do that?” These inner voices may come from trauma or the past, or from how somebody else treated us.
It is impossible to live a life of joy and ease if your inner dialogue is negative rather than self-supportive. These voices can be changed and this change is a choice. Instead say to yourself “It will be okay”, “That was really hard”, or “I need to be gentle with myself”. Positive self-talk is a step to becoming healthier and happier. It is your choice to develop skills and tools to improve your life, rather than hold onto the illusion that things will be okay because you are a good person. We are valuable whether or not we have good psychological skills, but these skills enable us to change our lives.
Jennifer Lehr is a Marriage and Family Therapist with a practice in Del Mar and Los Angeles, California. Learn more about her individual therapy and couples counseling services at www.jenniferlehrmft.com .
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Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of The Toolbox at LisaKiftTherapy.com with tools for marriage, relationship and emotional health. She is the author of The Marriage Refresher Course Workbook for Couples, a cost effective, do-it-yourself, therapist-led alternative to marriage counseling.
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