I’m hugely supportive of people choosing therapies such as CBT and using language from NVC. However, it’s possible to go too far.
My wife has told me “not to use that language” with her before when she thinks that I’m using it in a way that doesn’t feel in some way natural. And it seems that it’s particularly prevalent in younger generations? Interesting article.
In recent years, therapy concepts like self-care and boundary-setting have shown up everywhere online, with Instagram accounts and other social media communities sharing mantras and advice advocating for self-actualization. TikTok therapists like Nadia Addesi and TherapyJeff offer tips for struggling with anxiety, self-esteem, and people-pleasing. “Therapy speak” — prescriptive language describing certain psychological concepts and behaviors — can be found everywhere from group chats to dating apps. Now, we have more language to advocate for ourselves and our needs, whether it be canceling plans when we feel overwhelmed or ending relationships that no longer serve us.
It’s important to be able to set boundaries and advocate for yourself. Occasionally, though, the emphasis on protecting one’s individual needs can overlook the fact that someone else is on other side of that boundary-setting. In 2019, for instance, a relationship coach’s Twitter thread offering a template for telling friends in need of support that you’re “at capacity” at the moment drew criticism for equating friendship to emotional labor. Earlier this year, a clinical psychologist’s TikTok video outlining how to break up with a friend went viral after viewers pointed out that it sounded like a missive from HR. Critics have noted that personal relationships require a touch more compassion than some of these therapeutic blueprints offer.
There are reasons a person might be tempted to overindulge in some of this self-care behavior. Conflict can be difficult, and people might think they can avoid it by asserting their needs in a way that prevents the other person from responding — by using HR language to end a friendship, for instance, or via straight-up ghosting. And by couching the behavior in therapy language, the hard “boundary” can feel more legitimate, or even virtuous.
Beyond boundary-setting and inflexibility, the proliferation of therapy speak has also inspired some people to assign labels like “toxic” and “narcissistic” to certain relationships or behaviors. Though toxic people and narcissists do exist, these armchair diagnoses don’t always accurately capture every dynamic, and being on the receiving end of this language can be destabilizing when it’s misplaced.
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