I can’t count how many times I’ve heard a patient start a sentence with, “so I don’t know if you have ever heard this before but……..”, and they then share something we hear ALL time. In fact, we may have heard it already several times that day. It can be anything from describing symptoms, how they’re feeling about their sexual dysfunction, challenges coming up in their relationship, or just feeling plain abnormal— we hear it on a regular basis, from people of all ages and backgrounds.
I think that part of this phenomenon is the reality that sexual and relationship issues are often kept private—and legitimately so– but with that can come a sense of isolation and confusion about whether your experience is something others experience as well. Of course, it’s not that you hope others are having challenges, but that you are having an experience that is part of the human experience. That you’re not the odd man out. That you’re not incomprehensible. That you’re not hopeless.
After years of being a therapist I’ve seen that despite varying background details from person to person, the core feelings and longings in life are often quite similar; the need to feel normal, the need to feel understood, the need to feel validated. When I’ve conducted group therapy, I’ve seen magic happen when people see themselves in others and breathe a sigh of relief that they truly aren’t alone in what they are going through. Perhaps this is partly why online forums are popular for various life challenges; there is a power in hearing that others have been through and are going through what you are enduring and that there is hope. Yes, each of us has a unique story with its own twists and turns, but often times we have more in common with each other than we may have thought.