I was 40 when I went to therapy for the first time in 2011. At the time, I had no idea that going to therapy would transform my entrepreneurial pursuits. I just wanted to gain some insight on my (at that time) self-destructive tendencies and caustic resentment about my childhood that I’d held on to for 20+ years. My work with that therapist opened my eyes to many aspects of my behavior and life. It was my first glimpse of sitting in the witness seat of my own being.
Very people knew I was seeing a therapist. I still saw it as a sign of weakness. That I couldn’t figure my own shit out so I needed outside help. This was also reflective of the conditioning of being part of a fundamentalist church where therapy was – at best – seen as corrective. The general consensus is that if you had more faith or belief, you wouldn’t need therapy.
Over the past 10 years, I continued with a variety of therapists and modalities. I became more vocal and open about therapy – especially for men. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I began to truly see how therapy was benefiting me as an entrepreneur. I’ve now arrived at the conclusion that every entrepreneur needs a therapist.
Here is why …
Being an entrepreneur is a series of traumatic events and experiences. It is in direct contrast to the social conditioning of safety and stability. Even if you are not a trauma survivor, the stress and grind of being an entrepreneur can greatly impact your mental health. If you are a trauma survivor, the experiences of being an entrepreneur will inevitably be processed as trauma. In addition, the lens on yourself and your business is clouded by fear. And fear makes you either overly risk-averse and/or overly impulsive – both of which are detrimental to your business.
In my experience, the wired fear response of trauma manifests itself in your business in these ways:
- Seeing people as abstracts. If you have unhealed trauma, you inevitably have lower EQ and lower self-awareness. This means you are likely seeing the humans that you interact with as either threats or opportunities. This is the hero/villain spectrum being played out in who you partner with, what kinds of clients you work with, who you hire. This is also related to attachment theory (I highly recommend this book for all entrepreneurs) as well as internal family systems/parts therapy – both of which reveal that your wiring warps how you see and respond to others.
- Negativity bias. Trauma teaches you a worst-case-scenario mindset. It assumes that everything is negative until it proves itself to be safe. This is reflective of the wiring around threat assessments and forecasting failures. While a very useful tool for actual survival, it is a determinant to your business because it makes you miss that which is actually positive. It makes you blind to opportunities. It hijacks your imagination and turns it into a tool of projection.
- Inflation/devaluation. When untreated, the trauma pendulum swings between delusion and despair – often due to one compensating for the other. In my 30s and early 40s, this pendulum swung wildly between illusions of grandeur and valleys of gloom. I did not truly know my own worth, which made me in a near-constant pursuit of outside validation, legitimacy and identity. When you inflate your sense of worth, you still secretly feel like an imposter. And when you devalue your worth, you allow yourself to be manipulated and abused.
Doing the deep work of therapy reveals an important nuance for entrepreneurs: the difference between instinct and intuition. If you have untreated trauma, your instincts are going to be a faulty decision-making tool because these instincts were developed in response to emotional or physical pain. As you heal, you will access your heart and soul even more. When you do that, you will learn that your intuition is a much more accurate and powerful resource.
Ultimately, effective therapy returns you again and again and deeper and deeper to your core self. As I’ve written about, your core self is grounded in reality. It is the garden in which you grow compassion, creativity, clarity, curiosity, calmness, confidence, courage and connectedness. All of these are tremendous assets to being an entrepreneur. Any one of them can transform your business. So imagine the power of combining them all together! In my experience, a few magical things happen when you operate from your core self …
- You attract healthy, whole people to your business – as clients, team members, strategic partners.
- Your relationship with money is transformed and you have a much more healthy perspective on the financial aspects of your business.
- You practice kindness with everyone. But you also take no shit from people that try to devalue you or use you.
- You become more imaginative and innovative – with a steady stream of new ideas pouring out of you. Some will be wildly successful but many will fail, but you will have a healthy response to failure.
- You will seek out feedback from others. And you discern the value of the feedback in a healthy way.
I continue ongoing therapy sessions. In fact, I had one this morning! Once you connect to your core self and learn to return to it daily, therapy shifts into more of a maintenance mode. It becomes more of a self-care practice than a healing modality. On-going therapy gives you a space to reflect on the influence of your ego, assess your behaviors and responses in light of current conditions, look for drift or exile from core self and much more.
If you are an entrepreneur that regularly sees a therapist, I’d love to hear more about your experiences. If you are an entrepreneur that is currently not in therapy and are curious about therapy’s impact on your business, just send me a message. I’m happy to visit!