Therapy can be ugly sometimes. It can be raw. It can be painful. It can be the best thing to happen in someone’s life, in terms of emotional relief and clarity. It can be the worst thing to happen in someone’s life, in terms of awareness of their traumas or their own behaviors impacting their happiness. A part of my job as a therapist is to be real with my clients, and sometimes that means I get to cuss like a sailor.
That’s right, my swear jar is overflowing, but there is a method to my madness in session.
I often work with clients who in some way have been told, either consciously or subconsciously, “Do not show your emotions.” This can happen in various forms during development: a parent telling their young child to go to their room if they want to “throw a fit” (i.e. express anger), being given a dirty look by a friend when you express how they hurt you, being told by a coach to “suck it up” when you are experiencing pain, etc. By the time clients reach my office, many are conditioned to ignore their emotions instead of acknowledging them and reacting in healthy ways. I have heard clients speak of their past emotional, physical, or sexual assailants with such indifference, you would think their perpetrator was just a stranger in the store. Other clients have told me forthright, “Well there’s nothing I can do about it,” as if the feelings from their traumas should be swept under a rug because they feel helpless.
I have a responsibility to my clients in these cases. A responsibility to help them understand that emotions are not the enemy; they are okay and they serve a purpose (whether it is to protect us in the future, to help us follow our instincts, to help us work through past traumas, etc.). Clients are given a safe space to air their grievances in session, no matter how ugly it may sound. No judgments are made about the tears shed or the amount of profanity that is used.
I like to point out my clients’ ability to handle these difficult emotions in session and give them time to regroup before facing the world again. We can handle these emotions better than we think, and sometimes it takes a safe space to learn these emotion management skills. We can handle them, we can cope with them in healthy ways, we can share them, and we can grow from them.
For those of you reading this blog, I encourage you to share your feelings with someone supportive once daily. You will probably be surprised by their response—empathy, an open ear, and connection would be my guess.