In Need of an Emotional Remodel?
What do you think of when I write "HGTV"?
"Fixer Upper" with Chip and Joanna Gains?
Or a relatively new one “Good Bones”?
The last show is about a mother/daughter duo who take “run down” homes and remodel them to bring transformation and vitality to an existing property.
Have you ever thought of your emotional health and heard the words in your head describing you as “run down” or “not good enough” or “not worthy”?
Maybe you, just like these homes on these "HGTV" shows, are in need of a remodel. An emotional remodel.
Just like these homes being remodeled, you’re not starting from scratch but building on the existing foundation and structure (your personality and life experiences). Sometimes there are relatively minor alterations that need to made (learning how to better communicate with your spouse, for example). Other times you must “take it down to the studs” (therapy designed to treat PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder – which involves re-thinking a lot, if not most, of how you look at your life experiences.) Regardless, everyone is different in terms of what they are seeking and what will be required to achieve their goals.
Some of us can do it ourselves (DIY) through self-help books or seminars, some of us need to hire professional contractors and laborers, and sometimes it’s a combination of both to really get the project done right. The same is true with pursuing mental health improvement. You might be able to find a meditation app that helps you relax more easily and thus settle that pesky anger. Or you might need to obtain a professional therapist to help you overcome the blocks to controlling your temper. And likely, when you are doing work with a professional, they will ask you to do "homework" to keep the process moving as you heal.
What are some ways mental health or behavioral health treatment is like a home remodel?
#1 There are a variety of ways you end up in a counselor's office just as there are a variety of ways you decide to start a remodeling project. Below is basic chart listing some comparisons
What's another way that engaging in counseling is like a home remodel?
#2 When the work starts in even one small area of the house, there is likely to be a disruption in the WHOLE house or in how you live in the house.
We just recently remodeled a bathroom on the backside of our home. When the demolition work was being done, no matter how much plastic sheeting was put up or how many doors were closed, we found dust coating almost EVERY surface of our home afterward.
The work being done on the bathroom also got in the way of us moving in and around that area of the house. We were definitely inconvenienced. But we had a vision of the end result, so we continued on with the project. The point is that remodeling is often messy and causes problems during the process.
In a similar way, when you start counseling and begin doing actual therapy that is designed to delve deep into your memories, ways of thinking, your emotions, and your behaviors, you are likely to notice that the work starts to show up (and often interfere with) in other areas of your life. For example, if you were abused as a child and have managed to cope fairly well into adulthood but have been noticing lately that certain experiences currently trigger painful memories of your past, when you start doing therapy on those memories, OTHER memories are likely to surface. Or you might notice that you start to think differently about people in your life (wow, I thought mom loved me but what it looks like now is that she was really selfish too). Or you might experience more dreams or even nightmares.
The result of the opening up of these memories, thoughts, and emotions is often pain or discomfort. I often tell my clients that when we start engaging in the hard therapy process, things will often feel worse before they get better. Just like in a home improvement project. The key is to keep your goals in mind (which is why I ask my clients to state their goals early on) and know that you are steadily working towards improvement, even if things around you seem in disarray.
What’s a final (certainly not exhaustive) way that pursuing emotional healing is like a home remodel?
#3 Not everyone will appreciate the work that you are doing
Have you ever made a major change to your home and had visitors (usually relatives but it could be friends or neighbors) actually see your home and ask you WHY you made the changes? They might say something like "I thought it was great the way it was" or "Wow, that must have cost a lot of money, was it really necessary?" or even "I can't believe you put everyone through this just to get this done."
I once knew a couple who made a rather drastic change to their home by removing their kitchen and adding more entertaining space. They had good reasons in their minds: their children were grown and out of the house, they did not like to cook but ate out every night or picked up something to bring home, and they entertained a lot but wanted more space for their guests that was not tied up in a kitchen. They were practically “dragged over the coals” for their remodeling decision, mostly by people who casually knew them. Realtors said they would never be able to sell their home, others said they were foolish to remove a basic item such as a kitchen, and some of their relatives determined they were being “selfish” for not having a kitchen.
The same thing can happen when we work on ourselves and our emotional health. Ask any recovering substance user/abuser, and they'll tell you that when they decided to become clean and sober, NOT everyone was on board with their plan. Their relatives, friends, and neighbors who used to "use" with them (and continue to use) will often NOT want to see them stop using because it disrupts the way they are used to interacting with them.
To be fair (and not pick on substance abusers), the same thing can happen if you decide to lose weight, go on a Keto diet, and attend a party where ice cream or chocolate or other restricted items are being served and the hostess pesters you about trying something "just this once...one time won't hurt you" or your friends all are eating the apple pie with Bluebell homemade ice cream and insist that you must have some or you're being a "bore." As a type 2 diabetic, I have personally experienced people who seemingly desperately wanted me to eat their freshly baked "parkerhouse" rolls or eat their coconut cake or try the latest craft beer when they have been told I cannot consume those foods or drinks because of the seriously negative effect they have on my blood sugar (and overall health). They don't appear to like that I am making changes to my eating habits and it affects them.
We often experience "pushback" from others regarding our therapy when it results in us putting boundaries in place with those who have hurt us in the past (like the over controlling parent who does not like you now learning to be independent). When those people do not acknowledge the fact they've hurt you (and maybe continue to hurt you) and do not seek to make any changes in themselves, they will often resent YOU changing because it highlights their issues and that's often very uncomfortable. Rather than accept their own responsibility, they will often blame YOU for how THEY now feel. Unfortunately, that's part of the healing process and one that will make you a much stronger person in the end so keep that in mind at all times.
To bring it all back together, remember that good results in counseling often come about in the same way that good results for a remodeling project happen.
Regardless of how you end up in the middle of a home project or counseling program, you must have goals (a plan) and they need to be SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-based) to have the greatest chance of being successful.
As you start the work, it's going to get messy all around you so keep referring to your goals and give feedback to your counselor if you're concerned about the process.
Not everyone will appreciate the work you're doing, especially if they contributed to the reason why you're doing the work, so, again, keep referring to your goals and know that what you are doing, you are first doing for YOUR health. If you've ever flown on a commercial airline, during the safety briefing they will tell you that if cabin pressure is lost, oxygen masks will deploy, and you should put YOURS on first before you help anyone else. Why? So you don't pass out from lack of oxygen and then are unable to help anyone.
As you heal emotionally for YOU, others will either come along with you or they will not, but you'll be in a much better frame of mind to handle either choice that they make if you take care of YOU.
Here's to walking together down the road less traveled toward hope and healing