Therapy is not about 'fixing' you (phew!), or your loved ones for that matter (...); the work of therapy is to usher in the pain that needs to be seen, validated, integrated and healed to move forward in your life with a sense of wholeness. When we do not trust ourselves to be alone in our mind, with all of the memories, thoughts and feelings it contains, we lock ourselves out. Therapy is an opportunity to give voice to the parts of your Self that are too often silenced. It is a place to laugh, cry, curse or just be still for a moment. In therapy, we practice feeling our way through all of the emotions that make us human and develop the muscle of courage that allows us to show up before we feel ready and connect where we are most vulnerable. Progress is a practice and when we fear less, we live more.
One second at a time. Literally. In the moments when we feel sad, disappointed, irritated, mad, lonely, scared, confused, inadequate and stuck, we perk up our ears and start listening to the thoughts running through our mind. I like examples, so here we go. Person 1 | Thought: "Bleh, that sucked. I need something to make me feel better." Emotion(s): Sad, frustrated, disappointed. Action: Buy something, eat, get a Starbucks. Person 2 | Thought: "I am so overwhelmed by everything I have to do...but I just can't do it right now." Emotion(s): Worried, powerless, defeated. Action: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Reddit, Tinder, video games. Person 3 | Thought:"My relationship is falling apart and I don't know what to do." Emotion(s): Sad, scared, shame. Action: Send work emails, have a glass of wine.
When we feel an uncomfortable emotion, we are, of course, going to want it to stop; and we are, of course, going to do what we know has worked in the past. Except numbing, distracting, and bribing ourselves out of a tough spot is not sustainable. When we consistently turn to stuff, we wind up with clutter. When we consistently turn to food, we wind up with extra weight. When we consistently turn to work, the confidence gap between our professional and relational skills only widens making us even less likely to engage at home. When we consistently turn to technology, we wind up feeling empty because there is content, but no substance.
One second at a time, we learn to resist the impulse to lock ourselves out by escaping, distracting and numbing, and instead, trust ourselves to tune into the feeling. We ask,"What happened? Why did that experience affect me in that way that it did? I want the next decision I make to align with my long term goals, what are my options?" Insight to action.
For your garden variety emotional flare-up during the day, this process takes less than a minute. The heavier, and often historical, experiences not yet seen, validated, integrated and healed, tend to produce more complex emotions.
You can zip in and out of therapy for a tune-up if you want help with garden variety emotion management, or, if it would be helpful, you can stick around and we can do the work of transforming insight into courageous action. Fear less, live more.