During counselling sessions, a client* kept stating she “wanted to move on”. When I asked how do you move on if you have not acknowledged and understood the issue, she would simply reply “But I want to move on.”. Her distress reminded me of current attitudes towards negative thoughts and feelings which seem to be fashionable with self-help experts; techniques to “fix” your life, focus on the positives, build “resilience” to adverse experiences.
These are admirable goals but no one ever mentions how the negative feelings are supposed to be resolved. Where are they supposed to go? We may concentrate on positive mantras and sidestep our feelings but they will still be there. They can fester below the surface and influence our behaviours. We may get annoyed at ourselves when they re-appear at inappropriate moments. We may lash out at others and/or develop a pattern of self-blame and guilt due to an entrenched sense of self-denial. This may have a long-term effect on our health.
Negative feelings are important. They tell us that there is something wrong in our lives. They invite us to stop and consider what is going on and how it is affecting us. Exploring, understanding and processing feelings ourselves can be difficult. This is where therapy can help.
Therapy can help you accept this is how you feel. It is not giving in; it is recognising where you are and that you have the right to feel this way, at this time, while acknowledging it is hurting your life. From there you may consider how it affects your life and if this is a pattern of behaviour. Understanding patterns helps to identify the root causes for behaviours and feelings. We are not simply broken and waiting to be fixed. Something has led us to feel and behave this way. We have the right to explore why, while being kind to ourselves. This is not wallowing in self-pity. It is long-term self-care.
By properly processing your thoughts, feelings and behaviours in therapy, you offer yourself the opportunity to process your pain and heal in the best way for you. You will [re]develop your own sense of self-worth. This can be the foundation for long-term positive mental health.
Many therapists will offer compelling reasons to invest in their type of therapy. Choose the therapy and therapist you feel speaks to you.
*The client has given permission for this information to be used.