If you're like me, you grew up in a religious, rule-saturated culture. Attendance was nearly perfect for almost all church services, Bible studies, and church-related activities. The correct answer to "how often should you pray and read the Bible?" was: all the time.
If someone asked how you or your family were doing, what they really wanted to know was, "What are your weaknesses?" And you knew the right answer: You worked too hard. You're too devoted to family, schoolwork, church obligations. You didn't answer that you struggled with staying organized or managing your guilt. You didn't reveal that some days were hard.
Of course, this isn't everyone's experience with Christianity. I'm not mocking devotion, passion, or commitment. Rather, I'm trying to reveal unrealistic tasks, expectations, and rules. They're inauthentic and repressive. This is my experience and I have frequently seen it in individuals in my therapy practice.
Losing your genuine voice.
Trying to fit into a box of what's "right".
Denying difficult feelings.
... Do any of these sound familiar?
God doesn't want us to live this way. He wants us to have freedom.
The stigma, guilt, and toxic shame do need to be addressed, and therapy can be a place of healing and integration. Below are a few common misconceptions associated with Christianity and mental health.
Commonly Seen Misconceptions:
1. Having a mental illness means being a failure as a Christian.
Being a Christian does not guarantee a carefree life. Both Christians and non-Christians are vulnerable to natural disasters, financial hardships, familial struggles, trauma, and mental illness. Being Christian does not mean being immune to being human.
2. Going to a psychotherapist means relying on someone other than God. It's betrayal and misplaced trust, finances, and time.
A psychotherapist has clinical training that includes providing research-based tools to help a client alleviate symptoms. The work in therapy can also help with navigating through confusing and stressful feelings. A therapist is more of a partner, facilitator, or ally, not someone you put your trust and hope in.
3. There is no such thing as "good enough" in Christianity. There is "perfection" and "not good enough".
Well, there is also humility to seek help. What we call imperfection or I'm-a-piece-of-crap, is one thing. Seeking assistance for restoration and growth is another. Take the risk to start your healing process.
Are these misconceptions relevant in your life today, keeping you in a box of "perfection"? Where can you truly be authentically you, even if it includes sharing the less-than-ideal aspects of yourself? Maybe it's with a trusted friend or a close family member. It starts with trust and a willingness to be vulnerable.
When we tear about the misconceptions, we can see that counseling can be an option. One benefit of counseling is that it's a safe space to say what's on your heart without the fear of judgment or criticism. The role of a psychotherapist is to support you towards your goals.
I offer a free 15-minute phone consultation to see if we would be a good fit working together. Feel free to contact me here to learn more. It's time to stop the stress and finally find your calm.