In the pursuit of emotional well-being, therapy is a powerful tool. It offers a path towards healing, self-discovery, and personal growth. Yet, in spite of all its benefits, many people find themselves asking: why does my loved one choose to continue suffering instead of healing through therapy?
Today, I want to talk about the emotional roadblocks that hinder the people we love from seeking therapy. Importantly, I want to acknowledge that some people don’t seek therapy because it is inaccessible to them due to financial constraints, lack of credentialed therapists in their area, or lack of reliable transportation. This blog is not about those people. This blog is about the people who have the means and access to therapy but refuse to seek it anyway.
So, why do some people choose to suffer instead of heal?
#1. Lack of Self-Awareness:
Some people struggle with self-awareness and may not recognize the impact of their brokenness on themselves and others. This lack of awareness can lead to denial that therapy is necessary. These people will seem to gaslight their loved ones who urge them to go to therapy, insisting that their problems aren’t a big deal. And, although some people may be actually gaslighting, I do believe some people sincerely lack awareness of how deep their brokenness goes.
#2. Chronic Defensiveness:
Other folks tend to be highly defensive and resistant to criticism. They may view therapy as a platform for others to point out their flaws and weaknesses, which can be threatening to their self-esteem. These people often become insulted by the mere suggestion that they try therapy, seeing it as a put-down instead of an invitation to heal.
#3. Inflated Self-Image:
If the person exhibits narcissistic traits, they may refuse therapy because they feel it is beneath them. Narcissistic individuals typically have an inflated self-image and believe they are superior to others. They may feel that therapists cannot offer anything of value to someone as exceptional as themselves.
#4. Fear of Vulnerability:
Therapy often requires individuals to open up, be vulnerable, and explore their emotions and weaknesses. Many unhealed people are uncomfortable with vulnerability and may fear that therapy will expose their perceived flaws.
#5. Romanticizing their pain:
Some people have been hurting for so long that their pain has become part of their identity. They say that their pain is “too big” for therapy—that it couldn’t possibly be resolved by talking to a stranger about their feelings. The real problem, however, is that they aren’t sure who they are without their pain. The thought of healing makes them feel lost and afraid, so they choose the familiar pain over the uncertainty of healing.
#6. Resistance to Change:
Unhealed people may be resistant to change because they believe their current behaviors and attitudes are entirely justified. Therapy challenges these beliefs, which can be unsettling for them.
#7. Externalizing Blame:
Many people who refuse therapy tend to externalize blame, attributing their problems to others or external circumstances. This external focus can make it difficult for them to see the value of introspection and personal growth through therapy.
#8. Perception of Weakness:
Seeking therapy may be viewed as a sign of weakness by some people. They may associate therapy with admitting inadequacy, which goes against their self-perception. Our culture has come a long way in de-stigmatizing therapy, but it seems there are still some people holding on to old (and untrue) beliefs about what it means to be in therapy.
#9. Weaponizing Pain for Control:
A more sadistic reason some people avoid therapy is the unfortunate tendency to weaponize their pain as a means of control. They might use their suffering as leverage over others, manipulating situations to gain sympathy or power. This approach can provide a false sense of control, but it ultimately hinders genuine healing.
#10. Denial of the Need for Help:
Many individuals also resist therapy by convincing themselves that they can heal “on their own.” This denial of the need for professional help can stem from societal stigmas or a reluctance to confront their pain. Unfortunately, this often results in prolonged suffering rather than genuine healing.
For people who want their loved ones to finally embrace healing and growth, these barriers to therapy can be enormously frustrating. It can be hard to convince people who have embraced these reasons for refusing therapy that they should give it a try. The truth is, some people will never give therapy a chance, no matter how many arguments they hear. However, if you’re just beginning those conversations with someone you love, here are some compelling reasons you can give them to consider giving therapy a try:
Professional Guidance: Therapists are trained to provide effective strategies and support tailored to your specific needs. They offer a safe space to explore your emotions and develop healthier coping mechanisms. Although speaking with a stranger can feel scary, many people find that they can be more open, honest, and vulnerable when speaking to an outside observer than a loved one.
Validation and Empathy: Therapy provides validation for your feelings and experiences. Therapists offer empathy and understanding, ensuring you’re heard and respected without judgment.
Breaking Harmful Patterns: Engaging in therapy helps individuals break free from destructive patterns and behaviors, fostering personal growth and healthy choices.
Learning Coping Skills: Therapy equips you with practical tools and techniques to manage stress, anxiety, and other mental health challenges effectively. These skills apply not just to the context of healing, but to life in general.
Building Resilience: By addressing your pain and working through it, you’ll emerge stronger and more resilient, better equipped to face future challenges.
While some unhealed people may choose to avoid therapy for various reasons, it’s important to keep trying to (gently) nudge them toward healing. Therapy offers a path to genuine recovery, providing professional guidance, validation, and the tools needed to overcome adversity. It’s never too late for your loved one to seek support and embark on a journey toward mental and emotional well-being.
Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.