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Difficulties Understanding Treatment

P12
Community Member

Counsellors and psychologists to whom I have spoken have told me to identify my long term goals and strive for their achievement. But my attempts have been unsuccessful because I lack the practical skills for achievement and that has caused me greater dissatisfaction than before I attempted to achieve the goals. What is the reason for this strategy and why are counsellors and psychologists unwilling or unable to give me practical advice?

I identified the technical topic most interesting to me, looked for collaborators, and asked for support to pursue my interest. I found only two people in Australia with similar interests and believe they are unwilling to collaborate with me because by discrediting me their circumstances will improve. The feedback I received about my requests for support is that the topic is not relevant to society. Instead I am expected to perform a job for which I am imperfect and therefore I am excluded because my processes and ideas are different to the industry. Is it true that society's objective is for greater normality and what is the reason for such a strange aspiration? Why does society reject people who are different? Why does society not allow me to pursue my individual interests and talents? What is the purpose of living if society has no use for my talents and the role that society would have me fulfil causes me trauma?

I was told that independence will not cause me long term satisfaction. Yet, as I have tried unsuccessfully for more than ten years to form a friendship, I question this assertion. The prevailing strategy suggested to me for gaining friends is to participate in activities I enjoy as there I am most likely to meet others with similar interests and beliefs. What is the purpose of living if society directs me to one outcome but it cannot provide the means to achieve that outcome? Surely independence is a far more effective solution.

I'm pretty sure I am lonely. I would like to have a friendship or at least feel welcome in society. But my efforts never seem to work. People make suggestions but I must be special because they don't work for me. The harder I try, the more independent I become, because my methods appear stranger to others, and the less liked I become. I really don't understand the society in which I live. I wish I wasn't so sad.

I often cry uncontrollably and am unable to sleep when I realise I will not achieve my desires and there is nothing I can do about it. My life is apparently meaningless.

200 Replies 200

Summer Rose
Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi P12

That’s awesome news! Congratulations on being both resilient and resourceful.

Have you had any sessions yet? If so, how did it go?

Kind thoughts to you

P12
Community Member

Hi Summer Rose,

I have had two sessions. I feel the sessions will help me learn and practise specific skills and gain a little confidence from speaking to someone about my difficulties. It is only a short term treatment and will not address what is apparently my mental illness that is the cause of my specific problems, but perhaps it will stimulate some change in that area. I guess I will need psychological treatment for many years or decades.

P12
Community Member
I have now reached the end of my sessions with the clinician I mentioned above. I feel I tried hard to make progress, but at the last meeting I sensed the clinician was at a bit of a loss to explain what I should do, which made me feel I hadn't actually progressed. I guess I will just continue searching and meeting new practitioners for the next few years or decades.

P12
Community Member
I understand one of the main goals of mental illness therapy is to reduce dysfunctional feelings and thoughts, but cognitive talk therapies apparently try to achieve this using more cognitive activity; suppression, thought challenging, attention shifting. Are these not contradictory?

Summer Rose
Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi P12

Thanks for keeping us up to date with your journey.

Please don’t be hard on yourself regarding how the sessions concluded at Head to Health. For some people a short term approach is helpful, but for others it’s just not enough. Did you pick up anything of value?

Interesting question you pose. From my experience, I don’t think the two are contradictory as in the end cognitive talk therapy can and does (for many people) reduce dysfunction thought and feelings. Kind of like choosing to fly or drive from Melbourne to Sydney. In the end, you still get there.

The caveat of course is that the people need to find the right therapy to help them and everyone is different.

Kind thoughts to you

P12
Community Member

Here is my summary of my recent discussions with a mental health practitioner. I asked for help finding a friend or at least finding worth for my place in the world.

- After I described everything I have tried in my life to achieve my desires, the practitioner agreed I had tried much harder than almost everyone else, but as it wasn't working, the only option was to continue trying and hope that eventually I might succeed.

- The practitioner suggested I continue analysing my interactions with others hoping that I might identify why they weren't interested in communicating with me and techniques to establish empathy. They told me I had three options: choose someone at random to try to create a friendship with, choose someone I know and would like to create a friendship with, choose someone I have tried in the past to create a friendship with but failed.

- Areas to search for a friend include: work, industry groups, recreational clubs, Meetup, mental health groups, online forums, volunteering, religious groups, organising my own and attending others' activities.

- The practitioner informed me that statistically most people would not meet my criteria for a friend, not have the have same values and interests as me, or would only share one small interest with me. I was told that most are able to overcome this by forming multiple friendships, one to address each interest and value. The practitioner suggested I try to disconnect my values and interests from myself and try to think about myself and others as objects. Then I would be void of feelings and not want a friend.

- The practitioner discussed options to continue treatment. A clinical psychologist appears to be best option despite the difficulties I've encountered finding one suitable. I could try to receive NDIS funding to cover costs although I understand my condition isn't covered.

Summer Rose
Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi P12

Please accept my sincere apology for the tardy response. I read your post but wanted time to think about my response.

In my opinion, you got some good advice. I like the clear explanations that you received and agree with almost all of it.

What really stands out as important to me is the need for you to develop empathy techniques. This will provide an important foundation for your future success making friends.

I’m wondering if there is a book you could purchase or borrow from the library to assist? Perhaps also looking at the actions and beliefs of empathetic public figures could assist?

I am told I am empathetic, and I would be happy to assist you with your learning. Please feel free to ask me anything.

Did you know that beyondblue has volunteering opportunities? Check it out on the website. There may be an activity of interest to you and you would have a common interest with everyone you meet. Could be the start of something great and an awesome opportunity for you to give back to the community!

Kind thoughts to you

P12
Community Member
I have read the following books, which I believe try to explain and teach empathy in different ways.

* Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg
* People Skills by Robert Bolton
* The Definitive Book of Body Language by Allan and Barbara Pease
* Emotion: A Very Short Introduction by Dylan Evans
* The Social Animal by Elliot Aronson
* The Penguin History of Economics by Roger Backhouse
* Nichomachean Ethics by Aristotle
* Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
* How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

I would like to ask these questions:
* The books I've read could be largely grouped into those that try to explain what humans think and feel and those that try to teach compassion skills. In the second type, successful compassion appears to rely on a continual exchange of communication between two people. How does one establish empathy if the other person simply stops communicating?
* Even if it is possible to understand what another person is thinking and feeling, what reason does the first person have to force themself to think and feel similarly?
* In practising empathy with another, one may presumably either be true to themself or act falsely. If they are true to themself and express their thoughts and feelings, but they are too unusual such that the other person isn't interested, how may one then establish empathy?
* If they choose the second option, and spend time and effort trying to falsely practise empathy with another, presumably they must spend less time involved in activities in their interest area. Does this not cause greater long term distress because the individual is unable to achieve their true goals?
* How are empathy techniques proven or verified? As I have tried unsuccessfully, empathy seems little more than pure chance and trial and error.

I wasn't aware that Beyond Blue accepted volunteers, so thank you for the suggestion. I will keep this in mind. I am involved in multiple volunteer roles.

Summer Rose
Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi P12

I really liked your reading list; I’ve read some of those books myself and found them helpful.

I’d like to suggest another book that you might find useful: A Fearless Heart by Thupten Jinpa. I’m also a fan of Stephanie Dowrick and you could peruse her titles to see if anything interests you.

I’m not a MH professional or any kind of expert, so I’m just going to approach this as your fellow human being.

For some people empathy is hard-wired, for others, as you well know, it’s something that needs to be learned. Empathy is really important because of it’s link to compassion.

I read somewhere (sorry I can’t remember exactly where) a simple explanation that has stuck with me. The Dalai Lama explained it like this: If we see a person who is being crushed by a rock, the goal is not to get under the rock and feel what they are feeling; it is to help remove the rock.”

Compassion connects empathy with acts of kindness (Jinpa explains this fully in his book if you choose to read it). This is the reason why it is worthwhile to learn empathy.

We humans are social beings—and as the pandemic has shown us our very survival can depend on the rest of our community. So, if you want to have a happy connected life and set yourself up to reach your true goals, you need to develop a concern for others.

Empathy leads to compassion and they take you to social connection which leads you to a better life.

I hope this makes sense to you.

Kind thoughts to you

P12
Community Member
Thank you for your suggestion, Summer Rose. The book you recommend is not owned by my local libraries, but I will search for a way to read it. As you allude, I don't understand empathy well. I hope I may be able to improve and obtain a friend.