Youthology (Anonymous), “A Diary of Four Years of Psychological Treatment: From Seeking Help to Helping Others”
Introduction and Translation by David Ownby
When I visited Beijing and Shanghai in May of 2023, what surprised me most was that China was nowhere near over the pain and anger caused by the abrupt end of the zero-covid policy in mid-December 2022. Particularly for many Chinese young people, the incompetence and cynicism displayed by state authorities at this juncture seem to have engendered a full-blown ongoing existential crisis.
Early in my visit, I met with two thirty-something people who work in the private sector in the general area of “culture.” The pretext for the meeting was that we had worked at arm’s length on a vaguely common project, but I had never met either of them in person. Nonetheless, they both poured their hearts out to me at length on the subject of the end of covid-zero. One was furious, and said: “You would like to think that your government cares a little bit about you, but apparently not!” The other was less angry than lost, confessing that “Nothing in my education has prepared me to deal with this.” He talked at length about how he and his friends felt completely adrift and off balance; ultimately it seemed to me that he was in mourning.
The conversation was long and intense, and I can only give the bare bones here. The following day I asked a professor (whom I was also meeting for the first time) if what the two thirty-somethings said made sense to him. Without a moment’s hesitation he said “yes,” confirming that many people in China are experiencing a sort of PTSD due to the end of covid-zero, complicated by the fact that they cannot talk about it – the regime having declared victory and moved on. Virtually everyone else I talked to in China said some version of the same thing.
This extreme reaction makes sense once we understand that young Chinese see their government above all as competent – or at least they once did. The Western media focuses constantly on authoritarianism in China, which has certainly worsened under Xi Jinping. Authoritarianism worries some Chinese people as well, of course, but for others, it is simply baked in; China has always been authoritarian, but life goes on. And for Chinese who choose not to focus on politics, life in China, at least before the pandemic, was pretty good.
China has its problems, of course, but in terms of the basic infrastructure and services that makes life comfortable for its citizens (particularly those who are already well off), China is in many respects way ahead of North America. China’s airports, trains, and urban transit systems put America’s to shame, and China’s cashless society means that you can navigate everything on your phone. I don’t know how North American delivery services stack up against China’s – Amazon & co. surely made great strides during the pandemic - but you can get virtually anything delivered anywhere in China: on the train from Beijing to Shanghai, I saw KFC delivered onto the train when we stopped at Jinan and Nanjing. I assume bribes were involved, but it was still pretty impressive.
China’s covid-management called all of this into question. The first year was hard, but China was proud; they had stopped the virus no one else could, if at great cost. The second year was okay; China’s formula seemed to be working, but the sacrifices were still great, and people were less proud and confident. The third year, everything fell apart. While the rest of the world decided to learn to live with Omicron, China doubled and tripled down, multiplying lockdowns and controls although it was clear that the results were mixed, and that China’s people had had enough. Then, in mid-December, following the late-November demonstrations, the authorities reversed course overnight and removed all controls and lockdowns, without vaccinating the elderly and without restocking the pharmacies. Millions got sick and tens if not hundreds of thousands died while the Party-State declared victory and tried to change the subject.
The about-face looked awful from abroad, but our media is used to finding awful things in China. There was some online outrage from China (see here), but I got no sense that the anger was more than skin-deep and simply assumed that China had moved on. Actually, re-reading Xu Jilin’s piece on the “silence” of the Shanghai lockdown after having visited China, I get a greater sense of his message; he is talking about the huge emotional price everyone paid, and almost suggests that it could be a turning point for China. I might add that when I saw Xu in China he told me that that piece was downloaded 20 million times before the authorities took it down because “even if it was moderate, they didn’t like me having that much impact.”
In any event, my sense is that for many Chinese young people (especially those who live in urban areas), the image of Chinese authorities as responsible and competent managers of the people’s business was deeply tarnished by the events of mid-December 2022. Since their sense of patriotism was always a bit fragile (almost “transactional”), based on the notion that China performs better than other countries, the way authorities botched things in December might well mark a turning point in the relationship between China’s youth and China’s Party-State.
The text translated here is not directly related to this particular youth crisis, but I ran across it in China while trying to think about youth issues and decided to translate it. The text relates one young woman’s journey toward psychological therapy, and talks about her life experience in ways I think would resonate with many Chinese young people. It strikes me that Chinese young people are in some ways a few decades “behind” North America on issues such as independence from parental control and sexual experimentation. For example, the pronoun issue has now come to China, and the author uses TA and TA门 (instead of 他/们 or她/们)as a gender-neutral way of referring to people. In any event, this text confirms many of the generalizations about the 1990s generation of China’s youth in the piece by Fu Yu and Gui Yong also translated for this update.
I started therapy in April of 2019, so it’s been four years now. "Did therapy work for me and did I change as a result? Does therapy work in general? What exactly does it do?" I have been asked this question many, many times, and I believe that the answer to all of those questions is “yes.” So I decided to write this article, both to provide answers to those questions from the perspective of how I am feeling today, and also to produce a sort of “journal of self-investigation” following this long period of in-depth focus on myself.
Admittedly, this article cannot cover all the issues regarding therapy, and people seek therapy for different reasons, but this text still represents my most personal insights since beginning to ponder the nature of life. So I will talk about how I decided to seek therapy, the process of finding a therapist, and what I gained from the therapeutic experience. I will also discuss my thoughts about how being an “East Asian child” led me to procrastinate in seeking therapy, my reflections on privilege, and finally my transformation from someone seeking help to someone who helps others.
I can’t cover all of life’s ins and outs in one article, so let me start out by labelling myself: I am an East Asian child, a feminist, a bisexual or pansexual person, and a student and practitioner of gender studies at the professional level. These labels, or some of them, can also be said to have slowly surfaced over the course of therapy.
East Asian Identity and Delayed Therapy
The first time I googled "depression and therapy" was one day in my second year of high school (2012), and I nonchalantly clicked on some of the top results, all of which had flashing chat boxes in the bottom right-hand corner, “eagerly awaiting my call.” I still don’t quite know what prompted this first online search; it could have been the frequent family quarrels happening at the time, or the pains of what is called “young love,” or the tedium of high school life itself. Most likely it was a combination of all of these that left me feeling adrift.
At the time, I was indeed in a relationship that my parents and teachers defined as "premature love 早恋." My mother found out about it by going through locked drawers in my room, while my teacher found an "extracurricular 课外" novel buried in my classroom desk and confronted my parents about my home environment because the story contained what she called “adult themes.” Eventually, I had to do a self-criticism in front of the whole class.
In fact, I was already experimenting with sex at the time, if not entirely of my own volition, which led to a great deal of confusion, anxiety, and shame. I desperately needed to talk about this, but had nowhere to turn.
What was absolutely clear to me was that couldn't discuss any of this with the adults who went through my drawers, “advised 劝” me to end my relationship, and thought I was living in an unhealthy home environment. Nor could I handle being secretly talked about by my friends and classmates, so it was impossible to broach these kinds of topics with my peers. Looking for therapeutic resources online was more or less my last option. Nonetheless, I closed the websites as soon as I looked at them, and immediately cleared my browser cache. I don't trust sites that stick their phone numbers right in your face in flashing, bold numbers. To me they looked like monsters with their mouths wide open, ready to eat me alive if I showed the faintest sign of weakness. As sad and lost as I was, I would have readily swallowed whatever “chicken soup” they were peddling.
Looking back now on my state of mind at the time, my inevitable identity was that of an "East Asian child" in terms of how I thought about and understood my family, my education, my larger family relations, sex, and gender-related questions; this identity became the staging ground for all of the problems I was experiencing. This label once had a powerful hold on me, leaving its mark on every aspect of my psyche. As an East Asian child, I grew up knowing that making mistakes and being punished was the way the world worked, and that I had to meet the standards of a "three good student 三好学生" in terms of grades, personal interests, and even appearances. This taught me to keep an eye on other people and to keep a lot of things to myself. I did not believe that I could get help from my environment or that adults were a safe place to turn.
I have also experienced those trials unique to the East Asian experience. For example, the college entrance exam, which felt like running a marathon, all the while knowing that there would be few winners 千军万马过独木桥, which in no way helped to me locate my own interests. For example, when I went to university in an unfamiliar city, even after I encountered new people and new things, the weight of being a "good student" meant that I could not stop comparing myself with everyone constantly, be it about my appearance or how much spending money I had, my grades, or whether other people were checking me out. Should I do like everyone else and eat in a restaurant that the Internet said was hot and learn the coolest online expressions?
For me, being an "East Asian child" means that when I run into things that do not match up with the default rules of traditional East Asian education, I slip into a state of helplessness and panic. For example, when I discovered that I liked girls, I needed to spend time educating myself about this, and often struggled with how to tell friends and family about it. Another example is when I started to become aware of gender issues and recognized the existence of widespread prejudice and discrimination, but once again felt like there was no one around to talk to or ask questions, all of which led to a great deal of confusion, worry, frustration, and fear early on in my embrace of a feminist identity.
These feelings were confusingly intertwined and mutually reinforcing. For at least seven years, from 2012, when I first sought out therapy online, to 2019, when I first started therapy for real, I have lived with these complex emotions, although I was not ready to talk about them to anyone. I think this procrastination itself may also be typically East Asian.
So my breakdown came all of a sudden. In early 2019, I started an M.A. program in Australia, and despite the fact that I was working on gender studies, which I like, the fact of having to adjust to a new language, to new ways of thinking about the discipline, new buzzwords and theories, difficult roommates, an unhappy long-distance relationship – all of these new problems added to my old anxieties and insecurities, and the whirlpool of internal conflict sucked me downward. So, just three months in, a strong feeling of being overwhelmed left me unable to function.
I wrote about what I was feeling at the time: "What overwhelms me is not one particular event, person, or experience, but instead too many things that are hard to talk about......Everything in my life that has gone unseen over the past twenty odd years, things where I needed help or felt that something was unfair, all of it came to a peak at once and erupted like a volcano." If I didn’t face up to the feelings, the volcano of my emotions would scorch me or even destroy me. In other words, it was this complex of emotions and moods reaching a yet higher pitch that made me feel the need for therapy more urgently than I had seven years earlier.
Finding a Therapist and My Privilege
During those seven years of silence and dormancy before I began therapy, I had continued to observe and learn about the therapeutic profession. My earliest skepticism about choosing a therapist at random was no idle worry; more than once I had read about or heard stories of people who tried therapy, only to feel violated and judged, and I also learned that there are many types and levels of therapy. Luckily, I developed a sufficient level of trust and security with both of my first two therapists. What led me to my first therapist was my participation in an anti-stalking gender activity which I joined in 2018. The event organizers invited a therapist to participate in the event and share their thoughts as a therapist.
All of this happened precisely at the moment when I was awakening to gender issues, so when the event was over, the therapist and I shared our WeChat addresses. Although we exchanged little in the days following the event, six months later, in my hour of need, he was there to help immediately. By this point, we had been WeChat friends for some time, which meant that we were already somewhat aware of one another’s private lives through friends’ groups, etc. Such information had served to consolidate certain impressions and expectations we already had of one another, which meant that establishing a therapeutic relationship was perhaps ill-advised. Therefore, instead of establishing a direct relationship with me, he recommended another therapist he knew – I’ll call them therapist A.
I met therapist B in a similar manner, in that she was giving a talk about the therapeutic method that she was currently studying and practicing – feminist narrative healing – which piqued my interest. This type of therapy looks at the universality of gender inequality and does not blame the individual, but rather helps her to see and to externalize the lessons patriarchy has taught them. Curious about this therapy and identifying as a feminist, I took the initiative to ask her if she was taking on new patients and eventually established a therapeutic relationship with her. Consultation with therapist B started before the pandemic and has continued until today, and the frequency of our meetings has been gradually reduced from once a week to once every five weeks. Our next meeting will be our 56th.
Writing all this up now, everything seems so smooth and easy, but the screening I have been talking about is not a simple process. The work I put in included, but was not limited to: questioning various friends who had been in therapy, debating over and over again whether to do it in Chinese or English, researching what resources the school where I was studying offered, and learning about fees, hours, etc. I even tried out two online pay-for-service therapy platforms...
During the screening process, I found that gender consciousness was a very important criterion in my search for a therapist, and I was worried about winding up with someone that I would have to educate about the prevalence of gender inequality. I imagined the terrible response I might receive if I said something that didn't jibe with mainstream gender norms, such as "marriage is a waste of time [lit. “marriage is all pain and no gain 结婚就是百害而无一利].” If my future therapist were to give me a disbelieving glance, no matter how slight, or to ask what they might take to be a well-intentioned question - pushing me in the other direction, such as "is there really no benefit to getting married?" - or if they launched into a seemingly rational lecture along the lines of "marriage has been around for so long that there must be some validity to it" - I could wind up feeling all the more traumatized.
The reason I am going into such detail about my search for a therapist is that much of the "luck" encountered in the process was in fact the result of privilege. Therapy is a long-term experiment requiring an investment of time and money with no guarantee of “results,” and whether it “works” or not takes time to figure out. Not everyone has the money, time, resources, and energy that I do, all of which has allowed me to continually invest in and adjust the process, even as I maintain my faith in therapy as a method. And for feminists, sexual minorities, and other groups that do not conform to mainstream gender norms, mental health-related support resources are even more scarce, and the likelihood of experiencing violation is greater. Consequently, even when we decide to seek therapy, we need to be prepared for such violations, and this vigilance is already an uncalled-for emotional labor in itself.
As a result, it also takes longer to build trust in the therapeutic relationship. According to a survey report on the mental health of non-mainstream groups [多元群体, i.e., LGBTQ, etc.] in China by Beitong Culture, nearly 70% of group members said that they were not sure whether they would dare to reveal their non-conforming identities to social-medical services. Some respondents spoke of having been harmed more than once by therapists. For example, one female student recalled talking about her homosexuality during therapy sessions with her mother. When the therapist firmly told her mother, "I do not believe that your daughter is this kind of person" looking at the daughter with contempt, she felt a wave of unforgettable shame. Later, the student fell into a long period of self-imposed isolation and depression.
I have to admit that thinking about privilege can be endless – if I had a hearing impairment or a visual impairment or some other impairment, or if I was not someone already used to sorting myself out by talking things through, could I have found something more appropriate than talk therapy? Taking a step back, how would I have dealt with my psychological problems had I lived somewhere where therapy was not widely available? I must acknowledge the existence of my good fortune and the privilege behind it.
The therapeutic journey is like peeling an onion
The ruminative effect 反刍作用of therapy on one’s life is like peeling an onion with your bare hands. After peeling my own onion for four years, I truly do feel the effects of therapy on me. At first, this expressed itself by my saying whatever came to mind: things from my childhood, things from yesterday, my relationship with my family, the culture shock involved in studying abroad... During this period, there was no particular theme to my therapy because everything was a theme: my family origins, my close relationships, school and work, self and life...To put it more graphically, during the first six months or so of therapy, I expressed myself by “vomiting,” not knowing what I would – or should - say the next time, or even the next second.
This kind of regurgitation served to transfer a great many things from me to my therapist, allowing me to believe that they were now safe with her. This was unlike talking to a friend in that I neither worried about burdening the other person (because I paid for the service, and because the therapist also worked under supervision) nor about how what I said might affect our relationship (because we were in a professional relationship, which has its own with distance). Freed from these psychological burdens, I was able to "vomit" very freely.
In a podcast, “My Therapy” founder Jian Lili 简里里 once described her “progress” in terms of observing her own mental health, saying that: "Although I still cry often, now when I cry, I cry about one particular thing instead of all of life's grievances lumped together. And once I’m done crying, the matter is more or less closed." As the frequency of my therapy increased, I similarly found that different people and things required different levels of attention; some things I only needed to bring up once, while others I needed to come back to three times, five times, even ten times. But once I’ve discussed them sufficiently, I rarely think about them or discuss them again, because they are now safely with my therapist.
Later on, I also happened onto this magical “hindsight:” to be able to cry about one thing instead of crying about your unhappy life as a whole is a very fortunate experience. At the same time, as the feeling of being overwhelmed began to fade, the things that really mattered to me stood out more clearly, again as if you were peeling away the layers of an onion, and so I got to the topics that I really needed and wanted to think deeply about. In general, those people and things that I no longer needed to talk about were now somehow "outside" me, while the remaining innermost core of the onion is more directly related to me.
I have also gradually come to realize that one of the most important issues for me is gender. To take my relationship with a cousin as an example, at first I would talk about how much I loved her when I was growing up and how much I believed she would serve as a role model for me, but we gradually drifted apart; in my next session, I discovered while talking things through that the reason we drifted apart is that she complied with her parents’ demands that she find a partner, marry, and have children in short order; later on, I stopped talking about her altogether and talked about my feelings of love and hate for her and about my fear of being trapped by the same mainstream narrative, about my own views on personal and family relationships, the institution of marriage, and having children…In this narrative shift from her to me, I let go of the expectation that she and I would travel the same path, affirmed my right to both love and hate her, and made clear what, as a feminist, I do not want.
I gradually got to the core of my onion, which I had peeled with my own bare hands, enduring the smell and the tears, but the core of my onion is ultimately quite lovely. Feminist healing has indeed helped me in the therapeutic process, but it is not a specific technique or trick. When the patient knows that the therapist practices feminist healing, they feel more at ease telling their story. Many women who have already embraced gender consciousness share a common feeling, which is that even though they have been exposed to feminist ideas and have been on the path to self-acceptance for a long time, they are still unable to express their anger freely or to deal frankly with awkward situations in which they are criticized and denigrated because their ideas or actions do not conform to mainstream norms or to some specific traditional feminine virtue.
Similarly, I have imagined how a mainstream therapist might try to “empower” me if I were to talk about my non-mainstream views of marriage. For example, they might lead me through a breathing exercise because they sensed that the rhythm of my narrative had increased, or perhaps help me to increase my perspective, reminding me that I could look at marriage as an institution, which we have the choice to reject if we find that is based in gender inequality. Intimacy is also a topic I often talk about in my therapy. Because I believe my therapist has a basic feminist orientation, I don't worry about them morally judging me. I feel comfortable talking about the kinds of relationships I have experienced and experimented with, whether they are serious one-on-one relationships, fun dates, or hook-ups just for sex.
I have also worked with my therapist to relentlessly look back on my relationships and romantic partners from a feminist perspective, hoping to come to come to terms with the insecurities and shame I felt in my sexual explorations in high school, to reflect on the shackles that heterosexual romantic love had placed on my imagination, and to embrace the diversity of my own emotions and desires. Gradually, I stopped needing to meet once a week, and the intervals between sessions have gradually increased to once every five weeks.
From Seeking Help to Helping Others
Over the past few years, I have had friends ask me from time to time how I found a therapist, whether it worked or not, and whether it was worth the expense. In their questions, I can sense the same anxiety, doubt, the same desire to confess that I once felt, as well as their deep desire to be supported. Like the old me, they were worried that if they sought therapy, people around them might see them as “sick,” or they had already had experiences of violation or instances of disempowering when they sought help. Such experiences linger in their minds, making it hard for them to locate a reliable therapist.
The questions they ask have led me to think that if the words that people so desperately need to say appeared in dialogue bubbles, like in a comic book, then they would fill the very air. But because we are not the stock characters we find in comic books, we choose not to talk about what is in those dialogue boxes both at the level of society and as individuals. This avoidance of pain is no accident. The volume Helping Skills: Facilitating Exploration, Insight and Action mentions that every person who decides to seek help has already done countless psychological exercises. When a person takes the step of asking for help, he or she needs affirmation and support, someone to tell him or her, "It's okay, sometimes people just need help.” Four years of therapy has allowed me to experience the work, good fortune, and privilege behind being a "receiver of help."
So I also want to act as some kind of outlet or bridge, to open myself up and provide the interaction the other person needs. In other words, I want to be a helper of sorts, and “try to change society's negative attitude toward the act of seeking professional psychological help," to cite Helping Skills. Writing this article is one such effort. For the past three years, I have also been trying to help people in my WeChat friends’ group. As someone with considerable study and practice in the field of sexuality and gender, I choose to help people in an area I understand well, which is all the more appropriate.
Many friends have come to chat with me because of this friends’ circle. Some of the conversations are extremely personal and some refer to public events; some reflect their personal confusion and others are about other people in need of help. I have found that, at least on gender-related topics, people don't really have many outlets to express themselves. So a lot of the time, I just listen to what they have to say to make them feel better, and basically don't give try to give advice. My experience with therapy has taught me that a helper is not a doctor, and the purpose of helping someone is not to prescribe a specific remedy, but to remind them that they have the right and ability to make their own choices. When someone doubts themselves, I tell them what valuable qualities I see in them, and when someone feels they are not doing enough, I remind them of the efforts they have already made.
This is the power of narrative and of language, which I have felt in therapy and am learning to pass along to others. For example, I still remember one session when I was talking about my emotional ups and downs and my therapist said "that sounds like a lot of work!” – and my immediate reaction was “you’re right!” All along, all I’d wanted was to hear somehow acknowledge how “hard” it was. Writing it down simply in this way may not convey the extent to which I felt comforted at the time, or it may be read as glorifying the role of therapy, which cannot always work for everyone and at all times. But I truly felt accepted, which was an excellent experience that I want to share.
In fact, telling someone how hard they have had it can be almost miraculous. It's not like a moment in a company group chat where the boss “thanks” someone as a formality for “offering” to work overtime, but rather a natural empathy that arises when one person invests trust and courage, and another person offers sincerity and patience, putting them in the other person's place. When dealing with friends who take the initiative to open up to me, I often acknowledge how hard it is for them to do this. My feeling is that for East Asian children, who are always taught that suffering is good for them, allowing themselves to feel how hard this can be is a self-care exercise that needs to be practiced over and over again. And telling someone "that must have been hard" after listening to them seriously is a concrete and effective practice. Similar things worth saying to yourselves and others include:
You've done a good job. It's not your fault. Your reaction was normal and justified. You deserve to be treated better. You are not alone.
I will also take care to say these words especially often to my friends who share my concern for gender issues and hope to advance gender equality, because this path is really not an easy one. There was a time when many of my female friends felt powerless, disappointed, and frightened because of frequent incidents of gender violence, and felt misunderstood and even talked down to when discussing these incidents with people around them (especially men). They told me about their own self-doubt, anger, and sadness over this, and wondered how to go about explaining themselves and convincing others. I could readily relate to their situation because there were countless times when I was in their shoes. So after reminding them to take care of themselves first, trust their feelings and that I was with them, I posted the following message:
“Recently several female friends have talked to me about the secondary harm, anger, and disappointment they have felt when discussing sexual violence with the people around them (particularly the men). I would like to say:
1. When people say to watch out for yourself, to not go out, to ratchet things down a bit, to find a boyfriend—these are things that men worry about. From one perspective, they cannot adapt to and accept the fact that their own schoolmates, colleagues, girlfriends, and daughters are feminists, and from another they cannot shake off their macho habit of saying “now you listen to me!” The problem is definitively not you, you’ve long since gotten past them, and my wish for you is that you leave them even further behind;
2. Your feelings of anger, disappointment, fear, powerlessness, and pain are a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. This situation is absolutely abnormal, and the last thing you want to do right now is to doubt yourselves;
3. Your goodness, sensitivity, and sympathy are all precious qualities, so extend a bit more sympathy to yourselves, because this is no time for a preening macho man to tell you how the world works;
4. You’ve already done a good job, it must have been really hard;
5. You are not alone.”
In the comments on my post, many friends of like mind said they were comforted or wanted to retweet the message. This also allowed me feel the flow of power and helped me believe that in moving from the first friends’ group to the second, I had completed a cycle enabling me to help people. Very often, at the end of a conversation, the friend who sought me out will say "Thank you for listening to me talk for so long" or "I don't really know who to talk to about this" and I will tell them "I want to thank you, too, for trusting me and for being willing to reveal so much." That's something else I learned in therapy: acknowledge that the other person is revealing something, because it's never easy. As the person on the listening end, it is also comforting to practice seeing the trust and courage required for the other person to reveal themselves, and to tell them that directly.
Of course, I'm also well aware that saying such things is no less difficult than admitting that you actually need to hear them. So this is by no means the only way to express such feelings, among which many are more relaxed and less awkward. For example, many times I am greatly impressed by the wisdom and healing effect of some memes, and I often send joking memes to people who seek me out. I like this one [includes a meme of a fake political slogan painted on a wall in China saying “Don’t blame yourself, blame someone else!”], a send-up of the kind of slogan we see all the time which seems meaningless, but which is actually a rare response and a minor push-back against the difficulties of life. By sharing memes with one another, we bear witness to and relieve our common anxieties, if only for a moment.
If the above-mentioned helping exercises might be categorized as "heart-to-heart talks," this cannot work in more difficult, complicated cases, which leave me feeling drained, powerless, and inadequate. I have received some requests for help in situations of gender violence, and even though I have read the books, listened to the lectures, and discussed specific cases with friends with more experience, it is difficult for me to simply apply the terms, ideas, and processes found in books and PPTs to real-life situations.
Acknowledging people have had a hard time is occasionally useful, but it is also often insufficient. The people involved may put things off for a long time, peeling their onion over and over, and only manage to help themselves with a good bit of luck. How to provide value in this process is still something I am learning and practicing. Helping people will always a concern of mine, and it is a theme that has slowly emerged as important to me in addition to gender, thanks to what I have learned from therapy concerning trust and the importance of choices. I am no longer a frightened high school student, but instead am growing into the kind of adult I needed at the time. I will remain sensitive to my own privileges, and continue to learn, practice, and document my experiences. I hope this "handbook" will be of some help to you.
青年志 (Anonymous), “四年心理咨询手记：我从求助到助人,” published online by Youthology on May 16, 2023.
Translator’s note: Google translate and Wikipedia both translate zaolian/早恋 as “puppy love,” but to my mind, in English we usually think of “puppy love” as cute or inconsequential, whereas in China, such relationships are frowned on, and zaolian is thus a term with negative connotations. See here for more basic information (in Chinese).
Translator’s note: The word quan/劝 means to advise someone, but in this context carries more weight; a better translation might be “if you know what is good for you, you will do what I say.” Authority weighs far more heavily on most Chinese teenagers than is the case in most Western societies.
Translator’s note: The idea can be traced back to 1954, and the three “goods” are moral, intellectual, and physical.
Translator’s note: This center was apparently closed down while I was in China. See this VOA report (in Chinese).
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