How can we help our kids and loved ones feel less ashamed of their differences, struggles, and challenges? One word, Normalize things. First, what does it mean to “normalize” something?
Often, in the therapy world, a lot of us refer to what we do as therapists as “normalizing.” I thought it might be interesting to share about both what that means exactly as well as just how important it is to do this for all of us, especially parents!
When I first start meeting with a client, one of my biggest goals is to build a relationship with them built on trust as well as helping them view themselves the way I often do... As a person who most likely is struggling with something (that is why people come to therapy after all) but who also has strengths and so much to offer the world.
No matter the age, the topic of “is this normal?” or “am I weird?” or “is this crazy?” inevitably comes up. Everyone feels a bit uncomfortable coming to a therapist and sharing their story for the first time, even those of us in the field! As humans, we are driven to connect with others and fear being cast out as “strange, weird, or not normal.” So, my goal is to create a safe space for my clients to know that they can be comfortable sharing anything and everything with me. Even their most shameful secrets or thoughts are fair game and not something that I am going to even have a big reaction to.
You see, I view people from a different perspective than most. I view people from an inherently positive perspective where I believe that we are all doing the best we can in our lives and that we are all flawed and amazing all at once. I also believe that the more we can learn to embrace the parts of us that are deeply challenging, our uncomfortable emotions like jealousy and anger and fear or even our actions we feel terrible about later - the more we can reconcile our identities and grow towards being more integrated people. You see, when we are more integrated and more of our unconscious thoughts and feelings are brought to the light, the more we can act in our lives with intention and purpose rather than acting out old patterns and wounds without even knowing we are doing that.
So, to help with this, my goal is always to help people not feel “other” and “different” for their struggles. This is what we therapists mean by “normalizing” the experiences our clients share with us. I started thinking that maybe this is something I could help other people do too as when anyone shares something tough, it is a great way to be able to respond that actually helps them rather than making them feel worse.
Here are 5 Key Phrases that are simple to incorporate into day to day conversations and that help people feel less alone, weird, or crazy when they are struggling:
The trick with these conversations is to just join with the person in the feeling of discomfort or even pain and to not then try to fix it. Sharing it with them can be as powerful as holding an umbrella over someone else’s head when there is an unexpected storm.
As a therapist, I also often use tools like books to help trigger these conversations with younger kids. I was recently shown a preview of a great book now on Kickstarter, called “We’re All Weird.” I’d encourage you to check it out here and full disclosure, if you use my link, I do get a small bonus.
At Thrive, we take a positive, client centered approach to therapy that is focused on creating a genuine connection with our clients. If you would like to talk with a Thrive Therapist about yourself, your child, or teen attending therapy via video sessions, please reach out to us by phone at 858-342-1304.
As always, thanks for reading and comments are always welcome regarding any issues around child or teen psychotherapy services in San Diego by Thrive Therapy Studio.
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