“Manage your reactions, but do not suppress your emotions.”Yung Pueblo
I used to think that therapy was a place to get “fixed.” Talk about my problems for an hour, get some helpful tips of how to manage the issues, and continue living in the same survival mentality.
When I first started going to therapy, I was highly motivated to participate in conversational sharing and “work on” something each week. It was like a personal mission to “fix” an emotional or mental wound within a weeks time. I just wanted to be the “best” at therapy. This probably stemmed from an insecurity or a deep need to be adequate. But with grace and guidance from my counselor, I quickly learned that therapy isn’t about getting “fixed.” It’s not creating a list of my issues with myself or others, share about it, then check off a box with a red pen. Healing takes time. Learning from an experience takes time. Therapy gave me the tools to help me live from a survival mode to a thriving mode. We didn’t address every single issue I had in therapy, but we focused on what was bothering me the most and developed strategies so that I could face other issues with a different approach.
Therapy can be sitting in a counselor’s office for an hour. It can also be taking a walk in the park, going on a road trip to try new experiences to break routine for a period, or even getting back into healthy community with people you trust. Therapy, my family and friends, and making God a priority in my life again ultimately gave me the peace of mind and heart to be mentally and emotionally healthy.
Rediscover what you are passionate about. What brings you joy? Who brings you joy? Go after that. Life is too short to live in the mental and emotional prisons we build for ourselves. We are meant to have a full and abundant life.
My top 10 lessons from therapy
- Being able to recognize my feelings and physical reactions to emotional events in my life. This has been my best lesson from therapy that has practically helped me have deeper connections with friends and in dating relationships. I remember when there was a time I would hear sad news or go emotionally blank in uncomfortable situations. Now, I can say how I am feeling in a moment and not be afraid of how the other person will perceive my reaction. At the beginning of learning this new skill, I practiced talking about my feelings with a safe friend or family member.
- My needs matter. My personality is to be hospitable and put others need’s above my own. I literally could have the worst day ever and I will still make the effort to host friends or say “yes” to hanging out when I need a break. But I’ve learned that the people who love and care about me will not be offended if I need a break or need to voice my needs. In the same vein, I learned to not undercut or diminish my feelings for the sake of pride.
- Change isn’t always bad, it’s just different. It’s okay to have a new normal and have space and time to adjust to that change.
- Routine is very important to me! My brain needs organization, clear expectations, and familiarity. I don’t like surprises, but I am open to being spontaneous. I need a good sleep routine, a home maintenance routine, and a work routine to function at my best.
- I learned how to identify my triggers–the feelings or events that hit a past wound that can still affect me today. My biggest trigger is feeling helpless. This causes me to feel angry and undervalued based on past experiences. I think this is why I chose a career (Speech-Language Pathology) that is dedicated to helping people who can be helpless or need support to communicate. In moments I feel triggered, I know now to take a step back and process before acting.
- Being a leader is really important to me. I find a lot of my self-confidence in the value of serving others and being knowledgeable about a particular area. When I was in a situation as a leader where I felt misunderstood or inadequate, that hurt. But I chose to learn from my mistakes, grow, and not give up on leading in other ways.
- Silence in conversation is okay and does not always need to be filled. I learned this in group therapy. Just sitting with someone without the need to talk is kind of amazing.
- Be mindful of how someone’s experience makes me feel. Don’t always look for a way to connect with a similar experience with a “me too.” That take take the focus off of them when this is their moment to be vulnerable.
- Taking emotional risks with a safe person is a good way to grow as a person and honor my feelings.
- Be kind to my mind and give myself grace. I hope this isn’t cliché, but I know how hard I can be on myself. I struggle with over-committing and time management, but I have a successful career and completed education. I stay connected to my family and friends, and I have kept myself alive this long. I don’t complete my to-do list everyday, but I am learning. Life isn’t about being perfect, it’s about living with hands wide open and savoring the experience along the way.
Petit à Petit,