Recently, a new client arrived with some anxieties about ‘having to lay down on my couch and be analysed while I scribble secret notes on my notepad and thoughtfully rub my chin’ (being female, I don’t have a beard to thoughtfully stroke) and this got me to thinking about the movie and media stereotypes of psychotherapists…. Cue Sigmund Freud lookalike with strong Austrian accent saying “and how does that make you feel…?”
Now although this is not a true reflection of a typical therapy session and as cliche as this view may be, if I stop and think about it, it’s rare that we talk about our feelings on a day to day basis.
Even with the experience I have (experience in both professional terms and unfortunately, age) I still struggle to sometimes put my feelings into words. It can be pretty easy to talk about how we think but when it comes to feelings, it can be more challenging – at least, that’s how it feels for me.
Over the next day or so, you’ll probably find yourself in a situation where you have an opportunity to tell someone what’s on your mind – it could be at the end of a day when someone asks you how it went, perhaps during a telephone call or over coffee with a friend. I have a suggestion to make that you might like to try…..
As you chat, ask yourself if you’re talking about events and thoughts, instead of actually expressing your feelings? Are you explaining a situation rather than relating how it made you feel? Most of us, to some extent, do tend to explain rather than express, sometimes because we haven’t taken the time to work out what we do feel. Yet talking about our feelings can be an excellent way to help us process them and, indeed, to understand them better.
To make things easier, imagine there are just four basic emotions:
These are pretty good for starters.
As you tell your story, why not make a conscious effort to build in an element of ‘and that made me feel…’? Even better, add in a ‘because…’ explanation.
Opening up to someone can often make you feel better and letting in another person can feel good for them, too – Even if their name isn’t Sigmund.