First, Feel and THEN, Better

therapy and the disappearance of my favorite paper towels...

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People come to therapy to feel better, often in the midst of a family crisis, a personal moment of panic or existential moment of truth. And they want, desperately sometimes, to feel better. 

But first, you have to “feel,” and sometimes, that’s uncomfortable. And if you’re growing, you’re not always comfie-cozy on the level of emotion. 

In a culture where tears, discomfort and anything but an “i’m fine, you?,” have been considered socially inappropriate — perhaps uncomfortable? — responses to the everyday pleasantries we exchange with one another, social transparency has lost its cool. Was it ever cool? I am not  sure — maybe on As The World Turns?

Well, if the world was ever turning, it’s now. More like spinning, tipping off its axis a bit and leaving almost everyone I see in my practice a little tipped, too. So, what to do? 

There’s the normal anxiety that’s been experienced by many due to the (in no particular order) pandemic, unemployment rate, financial uncertainty, quarantine uncertainty, vaccine uncertainty, rioting, California fires, on-line learning, extreme home family time, opiod crisis, electionelectionelection, hurricanes, tornadoes, climate change, and out-of-control media driven fear mongering headlines. And, WHERE EXACTLY has all the Charmin been? And why can’t I find my Viva paper towels? 

Yes, if any one of those might have you feeling a little tipped, and you’ve already been struggling with a marriage that has lost it’s spark, a broken relationship, eating disorder, alcohol problem or rotten boss, or maybe a few you-love-them-with-all-of-your-heart kids who can occasionally unbalance even the best of folks, well, welcome to 2020. And, perhaps, to my office. The best “joke” I saw about this year? 2020, The Film. Written by Stephen King, Directed by Quentin Tarantino. 

What happens for many is this: an external irritant (see aforementioned list) pierces our sense of control. The structure, the illusion we have that everything is and always will be ok, and by ok, I mean unchanged. Because most of us resist change. As internal discomfort is tucked away with whatever it is that keeps us distracted and “not feeling,” the external world is bearable. But when what’s external is upended, well, that’s like playing an existential emotional game of whack-a-mole. Feelings. They pop up, we slam them back down and then like little defiant geysers they refuse to be held back.

If what has been troubling you has been put into perspective given the state of the world, well, then, that is a great thing. And this has been true for many. The people we love we love harder. Amends galore have been made as the value of time and love is more greatly appreciated.

For others, though, fear and loneliness have been accentuated and the need for community and support never more apparent. And for those whose lives have been fraught with family trauma of any type, conflict or fear, these times can “trigger” old wounds and render people who struggle with the dilemma of feeling powerless. And that is very uncomfortable. 

Enter therapy. Get comfortable with the discomfort. Experience the relief of honesty with abandon. Open the floodgates, face fears and discover the bliss of growth. First, feel. And then, better.

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