The Baader-Meinhoff Phenomenon


“Everyone should see a counselor six times in their lives…”

I heard that phrase twice in a short period. Does that ever happen to you? 

Here’s exactly what I typed into the magical google machine: “what the effect called when you learn something new, and then keep hearing about it.”

Can you spot the glaring typos? Whoops. But it still worked! So the gist- The Baader-Meinhoff Phenomenon- is that you learn something new, and then you keep hearing the same info again and again. It feels random, but our brains love patterns, and it processes the info in a way that keeps seeming like random coincidence, but it’s all secret observation. It’s also a LOT better explained online, so check it out! Fascinating stuff! I love psychology. 

Ok, so that lesson happened. But when the Baader-Meinhoff Phenomenon happened to me about counseling, it stuck into my brain.

Maybe because I was in the middle of counseling. 

The last two years have been HARD.  Previous articles of mine hint at the stuff we’ve been through, future ones will explain as the chapters to the hardships will finally be written.  

We lost dear dear loved ones, and lost hard in adoption. The price of love can be heartache. And sometimes, heartache is so bad, that you can’t deal on your own. That’s where I was at. I was trying to finish a school year of teaching, and riding this horrific trail of grief. Motherhood, it seems, would never happen. It was truly too much. So I asked for help. I asked a trusted person who knew of counselors for some names. That step alone was big. I mean, come on, who asks for THAT kind of help? Well, we all do sometimes, and as an act of bravery. I found a name, called, and was just crushed when I found out the wait time. Now, I DO NOT recommend this next step for everyone: I waited. I waited til she was available. 

The Baader-Meinhoff Phenomenon | Duluth Moms Blog

So let me back up a little. My grief was also coupled with some pretty decent anxiety. I was assessed with this counselor, but I don’t seem to have chronic depression. More like situational.  But anxiety- whoooooooaaaaa. Did I jump off the charts or what! This is why I will not advise about wait times. I do not know what it’s like to have a depressive disorder, and so I will not say what I did is what you should do! 

But, nonetheless I waited til she was free. And I am glad I did. She fit the some personal perimeters I needed. (Met the want of same gender, same faith, and then there were other things that just happened to match me.) She is calm, and non-judgmental. Her role was to listen, and to help me figure out WHAT was going on.

So you may ask, what WAS going on? Well, I cried. ALL. THE. TIME. Basically if I was alone, I was crushed by crippling grief. I still get teary, but I had zero control of my emotions. Super helpful at a school right? I was crabby, and relationships were struggling.  

The counselor I found helped assess what was going on. She legitimized the pain I was experiencing, and made me realize the anxiety. Here’s the kicker- the anxiety had been going on pretty much my whole life. I thought everyone felt like that most of the time. UM, nope. BUT I had such freedom in naming my issue. HUGE HUGE freedom. She helped me by giving me guidelines, boundaries in certain relationships, and letting me cry. I was able to work on it at home and at work, and my husband saw big positive changes. The ironic part was I would be more in control of my emotions during the week, but then I’d go see her and be a big mascara dripping mess. But that’s normal. And she let me cry. It’s healthy to express emotions in safe areas.  

As time went on, I was able to grow and change some of my behaviors with her help. I spent a couple of months seeing her, and felt so much better. I am forever grateful I did go. I look back now, and wonder what my life would have been like if someone had spotted the anxiety when I was six or sixteen. But also, I don’t know if I would trade. I’ve now learned to be brave, and that my mental well-being is worth it. If that’s what it took to be brave, well, all righty! 

Don’t ever let money be the reason you don’t call. You don’t know how they can help in that area unless you ask.  e had a small roadblock with insurance, and the counselor worked it out with us and it was easy after that! 

I didn’t do six sessions in a row. But after she felt I had a toolkit of success, she made sure I’d come back if I needed a “tune-up”. Fast forward six months, we had more hurt in the adoption world, and I went back for that sixth session. Again, it just helped SO much to have that safe place. No judgement, just the wanting to help.

Now, I realize I got “lucky” that the first counselor I saw was a match for me. This isn’t always the case- I know that. But PLEASE. If you strike out the first time, don’t give up! Ask trusted sources.  

Also- you don’t have to have anxiety, depression, or any label to see a counselor. Sometimes bad things happen and you just need a safe place to unload. GUESS WHAT. Do it. It’s wonderful. It spares friendships and family relationships the burden of the feeling of “always complaining”. (Or that’s what my anxiety would tell me…)

I also need to shout out to my husband for being my biggest champion. He handled my emotions as best he could- lovingly, and was completely supportive of me seeking outside help. That encouragement was huge. 

So, maybe now you’ll be seeing the idea of getting counseling multiple times this week. Don’t say I didn’t give you the heads up!

Duluth Moms Blog is not giving medical/mental health advice; this is one writer's opinion.