In a toxic relationship with our wording
Often, people sit across from me in my practice whose problems already come along with a very concrete self-diagnosis. Nervousness before exams turns into an anxiety disorder, and constant lack of concentration can only be an indication of ADHD. And so it spins straight on: the stubborn partner is a narcissist, with whom you find yourself in a toxic relationship a lousy day makes one depressed, daddy-issues and shadow children become the topic.
Is it a panick attack or am I just scared shitless
Psychological terminology has found its way to the kitchen table, into the office, and into social media feeds anyway. As a systemic psychotherapist, I’m pleased that people who previously didn’t dare express what was bothering them mentally are now finding words for it. On the other hand, I ask myself how one can still classify one’s own feelings at all when everyone seems to have everything. Because if we assign ailments to a diagnosis, this relieves us of responsibility. Then a “I don’t want to” becomes a “I can’t”.
In addition, pathologization creates drama and attention. This often creates a unifying: “…I know what you are talking about, I have that too.” But since no two people are alike, even the self-diagnoses described rarely fit together.
What worries me is the tendency to assume a clinical picture in every natural emotional phenomenon. With the symptoms that google summarizes so beautifully for it. With its own name. And with countless crazy examples, stories and the right influencer to go with it.
A cheer for deep talk
Being able to admit: “I’m scared” (instead of anxiety disorder), “I feel really panicky” (instead of panic attack), “I can’t concentrate right now” (instead of ADHD), “The situation has overwhelmed me beyond measure” (instead of “I am traumatized“) – also leads to connection and empathy in our fellow human beings. Started this way, we invite our counterparts to engage in real deep talk. And that certainly does us as a society a lot of good!
So – we don’t need eloquent psycho-talk at all, we don’t need phrases. They just give a fancy name to what we feel. But it is more important to talk about what hurts us, what makes us angry or speechless.
A propos toxic relationships: If you fear you might be stuck in one, find some good reading material here: https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-four-horsemen-recognizing-criticism-contempt-defensiveness-and-stonewalling/