I was in therapy for many years, and at first I could not understand why it wasn't really working. I found most therapists to be cold and disapproving, although this wasn't really the case. Anticipating rejection and betrayal, such as that which I had experienced before, and having such resistance merely added to my list of impairments, I felt devalued by my therapists.
Primarily focused upon labeling people, and generalizing our lived experiences, therapy can reinforce negative stereotypes and oppression, unless we consider our behaviors in context. All of our behaviors make sense once we unpack the context within which they occur, and this can release us from the bonds of shame. The process is referred to in the research as disembodying internalized blame and oppression. Once I engaged in this process, I was set upon the path of the Hero's Journey (Joseph Campbell), leading to the success, self- compassion, and healthy relationships that I enjoy today.
In reality, even dysfunctional behaviors meet our needs. They often emerge from situations where they were necessary for survival. Once we understand the utility of our behaviors, we can therefore find more functional and productive ways to meet our needs, no longer dependent upon unhealthy behaviors. The trick is to realize that, when we engage in dysfunctional behaviors, we are not irreparably harmed or flawed in character. We get to choose who we are, and we get to choose how we behave. By engaging in this process of self-realization, identifying our core values, virtues, and aspirations, we can achieve the confidence, self-control, and discernment that it takes to be successful, content, and whole.