Nowadays, it is not uncommon for exercise to be seen as something that is not only far more effective than therapy but as something that is far cheaper too. Like mindfulness, then, it is often seen as a panacea.
Based on this outlook, no matter what someone is dealing with or what is troubling them, the answer will be for them to exercise. This will allow them to change their life and it will save them a fair amount of money too.
As for therapy, well, this can just be anachronism and thus, something that is no longer needed. Also, this could just be seen as something that someone is likely to pay over the odds for and waste their life having.
If this is the case, so exercise works and is relatively cheap and therapy doesn’t and is expensive, there is only going to be one option. Exercise will be the answer and that’s all there is to it.
A Closer Look
When it comes to why exercise is the answer, someone could say that it’s because it will allow another to feel good and even relaxed. They could even say that endorphins are released, which like morphine, will suppress pain and allow them to feel better (endorphins are said to be a far more powerful pain killer than morphine).
With this in mind, it will show that someone like this probably believes that someone would only have therapy if they felt depressed and/or had anxiety problems. The purpose of therapy is then to make someone feel better and/or more relaxed.
A Natural Outlook
Most likely, this is something that exercise will help with, at least while one is exercising and shortly after. However, what will one do when they are at work or out socialising and they feel depressed or anxious? They won’t be able to exercise during this time.
Now, exercise does have long term effects but it clearly has its limits, just like everything else. Moreover, although it may seem as though someone would only have therapy to feel better and/or to be more relaxed, there is far more to it than this.
If someone has this outlook, it could show that their mental and emotional health is generally good and feeling down on the odd occasion and/or even anxious is about as far as it goes for them. As a result of this, it doesn’t occur to them that there are some people who have serious mental and emotional problems.
This can also be seen as an example of projection, where one is projecting their inner experience onto others. The outcome of this is that they don’t realise how different some people’s inner experience is compared to theirs.
A Deeper Look
For example, someone could have a very weak sense of self and need the positive regard that an attuned therapist would provide, or they could be estranged from their true self and need assistance to gradually reconnect to it. Clearly, neither of these two challenges, or any that are like it, is going to be solved by them engaging in some kind of exercise.
Yet, even if someone is suffering from depression and/or anxiety, it might be necessary for them to look into what is taking place at a deeper level. If they don’t do this, they might feel better by exercising but this can just be a way for them to repress what is truly going on for them.
An Acceptable Addiction
The thing with exercise is that it is typically seen as something that is purely positive and not something that could be harmful. But, if someone believes that exercise is a replacement for therapy and receives positive feedback for being this way, why would it even occur to them that they could be avoiding anything?
With all the endorphins that are released when they exercise, suppressing their true feelings in the process, what is truly going on for them will be hidden from their conscious awareness. Yet, by being overly reliant on exercise to regulate how they feel, they could end up causing themselves a lot of damage as time goes by.
A Very Different View
Another hurdle, when it comes to someone reaching out for the right support, is that while someone is likely to be seen as doing the right thing by exercising, it can be a very different story if they were to have therapy. Instead of being seen as ‘strong’, they can be seen as ‘weak.’
It would be accurate to say that both men and women will always be judged in the same way, though, as a man can be on the receiving end of far more criticism. Some men, who are perhaps emotionally shut down and stunted, can believe that lifting weights, taking action or even becoming religious, and each of these options can be seen as another way for him to repress how he really feels, are the way for a man to sort out his mental health and to be a real man.
To say that exercise is a replacement for therapy is a bit like saying that plastic food can replace real food. One of these things is very different to the other and is not a suitable replacement.
Does that mean that exercise doesn’t have a purpose? No, just as plastic food has a purpose; as something for children to play with or for show. Each thing has a purpose and one is not there to replace the other.
Nonetheless, if someone is unable to afford therapy, exercise is certainly going to help them. The difference here is that it won’t be seen as a replacement, it will simply be seen as another thing, along with a balanced diet, fulfilling relationships and a sense of purpose, amongst other things, that will have a positive effect on their wellbeing.
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Oliver JR Cooper
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 26 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.