Dr. Erica Wollerman shares all about what people are truly looking for while in a place of struggle.
I’ve been reflecting a lot about how things have been going for many of us, particularly those of us who have been struggling to manage our stress or feelings during the current pandemic and shelter in place orders.
Which is possibly, all of us at one time or another.
I think this situation is highlighting the challenges our society has had with many, many things and how we handle emotions is really just one of them. It is, however, a big one.
Especially right now and especially for those of us who access our emotions more readily.
I had some thoughts about what others could do to help and wanted to share them!
The biggest suggestion I have is this… Be the person who cares to listen to the truth when you ask someone how they are. Be brave enough to just listen rather than trying to fix it. Especially now... our world feels lonely and even those who are surrounded by people might feel unseen and unheard. Let’s hold off on any problem solving for a while as it places pressure on us to have what just IS, not BE.
I personally am well equipped to help people experience their emotions mostly because I am a therapist and it is literally what I do all day. While it can be a challenge, it is valuable beyond measure for people to feel connected, seen, head, and understood. I am personally of the belief that this is what most of us are truly craving while we are in a place of struggle.
Unfortunately, when people offer suggestions too quickly, it takes us out of a place of connection of equals and puts us in a place of feeling that emotions are to be avoided and need to be fixed. It can create an expert-subordinate kind of dynamic that just does not feel like connection but like you are in trouble for your emotions or shouldn’t have them.
For example, recently I was sharing about my grief related to changes in my life due to the coronavirus pandemic. I have been preparing to create and launch an online course (surprise!) for many months and have had this planned to roll out this year. Unfortunately, due to the current situation and our lack of child care it is just not realistic for me to continue working on this right now. I was sharing about how sad this is and have heard a lot of suggestions and comments that sound like this…
While these comments and suggestions were genuinely meant to be helpful and supportive - they were after all encouraging me towards my goals - they did not feel helpful or supportive but like more pressure that I don’t need. As a recovering perfectionist, I’ve struggled with managing expectations of myself during this time of change and transition. It has happened so quickly that I first resented the changes and held so tight to my previous goals. This just led me to feel so much anxiety and pressure. Why? Because my previous expectations and goals are no longer realistic. I’m able to work maybe 60% of the time I was before and comparably to other parents with young kids, that’s actually amazing. I’m lucky to do that. However, I still have a business to run and clients to see and a family to help support emotionally and financially and that means that some of my other goals are just going to have to be on the back burner for a bit. This doesn’t mean I am giving up, not managing my time well, or that there is some solution for this that I couldn’t find (and need someone else’s help to find for that matter) – it means I am accepting reality on its terms.
If someone tells you something is just not realistic for them right now, believe them. Honor their pain and struggle that it took to tell you that and hold space for them to be sad about the conclusion they drew that is inevitable. I know this is uncomfortable because a lot of us like to believe nice ideas about life like, “you can do anything.” I’m here as a mama-business owner- and generally tired person saying, nope. I can’t do anything. It’s not worth the stress or burnout so I am just going to do what is possible and enjoy the process as much as I can.
This has been a theme in my sessions with clients recently too. More of us, particularly those of us characterized as sensitive, need less problem solving and more genuine support. We just need someone to listen and hear our pain and struggle, not someone to help us take it away.
There are two things people are looking for in emotional conversations…
Unfortunately, when you meet emotion and a search for connection with problem solving all you end up with is disconnection. Feeling less understood. And for me I also have to then renegotiate my new expectations with myself all over again because not only do I have perfectionistic tendencies that I work on daily, I also have people pleasing tendencies.
This is a time of change for many, especially those of us who struggled already to have reasonable expectations of ourselves. For those of you who love a perfectionist, please be gentle in your support and suggestions. I know it does not feel like you are doing anything when you just listen and confirm that our lives are indeed challenging, but this is EVERYTHING when someone is emotional.
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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"Watch your thoughts,
They become words.
Watch your words,
They become actions.
Watch your actions,
They become habits.
Watch your habits,
They become character;
It becomes your destiny."