Why you never have to be alone in your pain?


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No problem is unique.

In times of misery, problems and depression, people have the tendency to feel alone and unique in their troubles.

“No one can really relate to me. No one’s gone through the same.” It is this idea of ‘no one understands me’ that draws people to isolation and even depression, which only exacerbates the problem.

Maybe it’s true that people around you cannot relate to your problem. Maybe they’ve never faced a similar difficulty. Maybe they really don’t get you. Does that mean that you’re alone? No. Never!

If you think you have unique issues, thoughts, obsessions, fears or fantasies, think again.

“There is no human deed or thought that lies fully outside the experience of other people,” says renounced psychiatrist Irvin Yalom. In fact, his research and years of experience in work with clients are a manifest of this statement.

If you suffer emotional pain, you need support and understanding. We are all social beings that cannot live entirely solitary lives. However, if you’ve tried to reach out to others and they couldn’t provide the understanding you dearly need, you might withdraw, losing any hope of finding understanding. In times like these, you risk casting yourself on an deserted island of pain and loneliness, where it’s even harder to confide in others, be comforted and accepted. Unfortunately, the very people who can understand you are often on their very own island.

Who can offer you support?

One way to find a strong support group (if your immediate social circle cannot be one) is through group therapy. This is a very effective form of psychotherapy that has proven to have many benefits.1 It usually involves up to 10 people who meet on a regular basis. Each meeting is held by a therapist who is the formal leader of the group.

There are many types of groups out there: Life skills groups, Recovery Inc., Alcoholics Anonymous, Survivors of Incest, Mended Heart, Men Overcoming Violence, Compassionate friends (for bereaved parents), behavior-shaping groups, communicational skills groups, transitional groups, among others.

These often involve quite different strategies and focus of treatment, but one of their common therapeutic traits is universality.

Why is it important to find people who share your misery?

Dr. Irvin Yalom’s experience shows that “the disconfirmation of a client’s feelings of uniqueness is a powerful source of relief.” He further explains, “After hearing other members disclose concerns similar to their own, clients report feeling more in touch with the world and describe the process as a ‘welcome to the human race’ experience.”2

No matter how different we are in our background, personality and relationships, most problems, fears and emotions are simply common for the human condition. They are universal. So, never think you have to face emotional suffering alone. Help is available. Just surround yourself with the right people.

Sources: 1. G. Burlingame, K. MacKenzie, and B. Strauss, “Small-Group Treatment: Evidence for Effectiveness and Mechanism of Change,” in Bergin and Garfield’s Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Chanage, 5th ed., New York: Wiley and Sons, 2004. 2. I. Yalom and M. Leszcz, “The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books, 2005 .
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