Do I need psychological help?

Many people benefit from professional help. You don't fix your own car or teeth. Emotional problems are complex and not always easy to sort our ourselves.
Many people benefit from professional help. You don’t fix your own car or teeth. Emotional problems are complex and not always easy to sort our ourselves.

I am a self-funded retiree. My family tells me I am peculiar and would benefit from consulting a psychologist. I am extremely penny-pinching when it comes to my own temporary comfort, prefer living alone and, if angered, I have a sharp and vicious tongue. Can you suggest a direction?

Are you unhappy? Your family might be unhappy about your behaviour but that is no reason to seek treatment. If your behaviour is causing you grief in some way then it would make sense to address it.

Each of us has learned to manoeuvre our own way through life and it can be difficult and painful at times. We develop strategies called defence mechanisms that keep us relatively safe such as isolating ourselves or reacting sharply to perceived insults. Sometimes these defences outlive their usefulness and become a liability. For example, having a sharp tongue alienates others. This is fine if you want to keep others at a distance but not helpful if you want close friends.

Think about what you really want deep down.

If you don’t want to get close to others, you are best accepting that your behaviour is a tactic to keep others at bay. It is your life. You are allowed to play it anyway you want. If, on the other hand, you feel sad and lonely, it is time to seek help to address the way you react to people.

You prefer to live alone. You probably like to have your own way. Sharing your life with another involves compromise. One either spends time complaining about their habits or has to learn to put up with them.

Being alone exacts a price too. Some people feel lonely and miss the daily companionship. Neither stance is without its cost. The real question is whether you are happy or not. There is nothing wrong with preferring to live your life alone to avoid fitting in with the needs of another.

You don’t want to spend money on temporary comforts. Perhaps you are one of those people who feel comfortable suffering. This may seem a paradox at first glance but it actually depends on what you value. If you believe that suffering is noble while self-indulgence is weak and cowardly, then you would feel more comfortable denying yourself certain indulgences.

You have sought advice from us rather than going directly to a psychologist. You might equate seeing a psychologist as weakness or you might fear being mentally ill. Through Medicare, the government is supporting people with a diagnosed mental disorder. There is nothing in your letter that suggests you have a mental disorder that would qualify for a Medicare rebate. But your GP can talk that through with you. If you have private health insurance that covers Psychology, you can use that.

Many people with no mental illness seek help from skilled psychologists.

Psychologists study human behaviour like a mechanic studies the workings of a car. Of course, it is a little different because humans are organic. They change and grow and they are extremely complex. The principle of seeking help, however, is the same. Most of us go to a mechanic when our car is not performing as expected. We don’t think we are weak or incompetent if we cannot fix it ourselves.

If we are unhappy about our own behaviour or performance, it makes sense to seek help from someone who understands patterns of human behaviour.