Ask yourself. Imagine that you were in some kind of distress and asked your best friend for some kind of advice. What would you think if they told you that you need to see some a specialist, a psychotherapist perhaps?
Many people would take offence. They would protest that they are not ill, and cut the conversation short. If their best friend was like them, they would back down immediately and would try to suggest something else.
Of course this is not a general rule. But it is something one can easily observe.
What I find more intriguing is that this fear of a therapy-“stigma” is more pronounced in certain ethnic groups than in others.
Take Greeks for example.
I am Greek and I have lived in Greece for the most part of my life, so I can say this with some claim of accuracy.
Greek people do not like the idea of therapy. They might not admit it openly, but most of us Greeks, on learning that someone is seeing a psychotherapist of a “psychologist”, we will invariably feel very sorry and think either that this person has been tricked into therapy or that this person must be very ill.
Mentally ill that is.
Of course Greek people who do find themselves in therapy after all, understand very soon that they had it wrong, and that therapy is not about curing illnesses; but they are a small minority.
It is very interesting to contrast this attitude to the attitude of people from a background where there is no stigma associated with therapy.
Take Latin America for example. In most countries there, being in therapy or analysis is taken as a token of your commitment to become a better person or to understand yourself and your motives better.
Differences related to social class and wealth of course exist; but comparing like to like, it’s much more possible to find a person with an open attitude towards analysis in Argentina or Peru than it is in Greece or Cyprus.
It would take a lot of effort to educate Greek people otherwise, and sometimes I wonder whether this would be at all possible.
Of course one could argue that in a society like the Greek, where the pace of life is not so fast, yet, and where family ties are not yet severely torn apart, like they are in Western Europe, people do not need to turn to professionals to get the support they need. They have friends and relatives to care for them.
This might be true to some extent, but I cannot avoid the feeling that there is a degree of wishful thinking at play here. I would go even further, and call it resistance. It seems to me that Greeks share a belief that no difficulty in life is difficult enough. Asking for help is a token of weakness: It is not what real “men” do.
Resistance to analysis and therapy is a well studied phenomenon. I will return to it.