One thing about being a therapist is that I’m able to work fairly quickly through my own ‘stuff’. So I’m writing this having returned to a place of relative peace (with a twinge of sadness) after having my own ‘reaction’.
But it’s worth remembering that your therapist is human too, has feelings, thoughts, beliefs and reactions to the world and other people, including you, just as you do.
Once in a while I’m in session with a client who, for whatever reason, has turned up that day in a difficult or even antagonistic frame of mind. Projection abounds, and as therapists we’re often the ‘repository’ for all feelings, negative ones included. So anger, frustration, sulks, hopelessness, tantrums, hate and all sorts of unpleasant feelings that the client is suffering/enduring, can be projected towards the therapist. Whilst in full understanding that this is what’s happening, indeed it is absolutely a useful function of our job itself, sometimes – as you can imagine – it’s not a pleasant experience.
I’m pretty good at holding the space for that, so that the energy of it can be held and spent, so that those feelings can lessen, quieten or pass, so that we can regain a good place of open communication again.
Once in a while it presses my buttons, because I’m human too, and I find myself on the odd occasion going through a mental process that looks something like this (only at superspeed, because as I say, experienced therapists are always analysing ourselves first, and I got pretty good at it!).
Self-pity (why is this being directed at me; I don’t deserve this)
Self-questioning (did I do/say something to provoke/invite/deserve this?)
Anger (how dare you/why do you think it’s ok to talk to/behave towards me this way)
Self-righteousness (I’ve given up my time, my energy and my best efforts to help you, wtf)
Self-reflection (hmm, my reaction to your behaviour is nothing to do with you and everything to do with me)
Self-enquiry (ah yes of course, [historically] I’m reacting to anger/resentment/aggression towards me, it makes me protective of myself and angry/afraid/sad/reactive accordingly, and expect to be blamed/not good enough again, presses my ‘unfair’ button, usually whilst rolling my eyes at myself)
Self-soothing (this isn’t about me, no need to take it personally, you know this can be a helpful part of the job, which you signed up for, breathe, relax, allow the process)
Resolution (this is ok, you are ok, I am ok, this may be unpleasant, but this is ok)
(not necessarily in that order!)
That may take some folks days to work through, hours at the very least, but generally it’ll take me under a minute or two, whilst a client is raging/rampaging/projecting etc. and usually before they ever notice. I become fully and consciously aware again once I breathe and relax my body, and then we can continue, with me gently holding, or softly challenging, or occasionally putting down a firm boundary if I feel it’s necessary (i.e. with gentleness, kindness and understanding but firmly; I’m ok to hear all of this, but swearing ‘at me’ or raising your fists at me is not ok, [for example]).
Only twice in my therapeutic history has anyone ever ‘walked out on me’ (i.e. both times I was hung up on mid video call]. That absolutely leaves me running through this process!
It feels really rubbish… and even after that process, can leave me mostly a little sad, that a session didn’t end well, that the client is in such a bad place that in that particular moment I’m part of the problem rather than help towards a solution, and that the client is simply in a bad place. It leaves me a little heartsore.
Also worth noting here; there are times where I grow as a therapist through this process, realising that there may well have been an action or some words of mine that did indeed play a part in the client’s reaction and behaviour! Sometimes a challenge is good, sometimes the client isn’t ready for it, or open to it, sometimes it’s simply the wrong time. And that is a good reminder to me; to always assess and reassess whether something is in fact appropriate for this particular client, or on this particular day. Do no harm, the very first rule.
We live and learn too, as humans, and as therapists, always.
I want to talk about feelings. I’m a psychotherapist and also a shamanic practitioner with decades of personal exploration, journeying and self development, so I deal and have dealt with a great deal regarding feelings over the years. So I’m going to explain a few things here about them, because this is a really important subject to talk about in self-development terms, and in terms of mental health, wellness and wellbeing.
There are several important points about feelings and once we can understand their very functions and purpose and the way that they are meant to work, we can all learn to simply accept them and in doing so, accept ourselves as a by-product.
Key understanding #1 – FEELINGS ARE MEANT TO BE TRANSIENT
Feelings are meant to be TRANSIENT. They are designed that way! They come, they pass through us and then they go. Feelings are designed to be transient, and it’s only through our learned behaviours and habits that we instead, hold on to them.
[***more to write here later about; Repression. Societal structural systemic pressure to repress. Becomes habitual. We are not born to repress, we learn to. Be a good girl, don’t be angry, don’t be loud. Be a big boy, don’t cry, be a man.]
Key understanding #2 – FEELINGS ARE NATURAL
Feelings are the mind/body/spirit system’s way of telling us something. Fear – we’re in danger. Pain – something is wrong with the body. Sad – something is wrong either internally (e.g. lonely) or externally (e.g. loss of something or someone). We are genetically, biologically, chemically and spiritually designed to have feelings. Feelings (or ‘feels’ as the younger generation calls them) are not, in and of themselves, bad. They are a message to listen to. Knowledge to explore. Actually at it’s simplest they are merely things to be felt and to move through. Some feelings feel glorious and wonderful such as love, joy, contentment, peace, playfulness. Some feelings feel awful and terrifying, brutal and unkind such as hate, anger, jealousy, pain, resentment or rage.
Key Understanding #3 – YOU ARE ENTITLED AND ALLOWED TO HAVE FEELINGS
You are a person in your own right. You deserve to be alive. You are just as entitled as every other person is to have feelings. YOU are ALLOWED to have feelings. Something in your own upbringing, or school, or work, or relationship may have led you to believe that your feelings are inappropriate, unwelcome, or undeserved. Baseline here, you are allowed to have feelings, your feelings are valid, you need to give yourself permission to have them, feel them, know you are entitled to them.
Key Understanding #4 (the big one) – FEELINGS ARE MEANT TO BE FELT
A feeling is meant to be FELT. Not suppressed or repressed, not swallowed, not wallowed in. Simply felt. Many clients over the years have heard me use my own expression, “don’t swallow, don’t wallow, just allow, allow, allow”. The more skilled you become at simply allowing your feelings without trying to supress or swallow them, without wallowing gloriously in them, simply observing and experiencing them; the easier they will become to manage, and learn from.
Let me repeat that one, it’s absolutely crucial for you to understand.
A feeling is meant to be FELT, so that the energy of it is SPENT, so that the feeling can PASS.
When we don’t allow our-self to feel a feeling, when we choke it down, swallow hard and move on, pretend it’s not there or busy ourselves with other things to distract from the feeling; guess what happens? It stays INSIDE us. It sits, unspent, unfelt, unwanted, WITHIN us. We carry it around, sometimes for many years, accumulating all those unspent feelings within us until we crack under the weight of it all. Imagine an empty rucksack you carry around invisibly, and each unspent or repressed feeling goes over your shoulder and into the bag like a stone, weighing heavier and heavier on your shoulders until it becomes unbearably heavy to carry. Or a pressure cooker inside you, where each and every repressed or unfelt feeling, adds to the pressure contained over years until it can no longer contain it all.
Many people reach an age where they feel like they’re no longer coping, no longer fitting in with societal or familial demands, no longer capable of simply rolling their sleeves up and just carrying on as they always have. The sheer weight of all those feelings becomes just too much to bear. People ‘break down’. Fall over either physically (and yes, there is much research* to show that holding onto hurt [trauma] can result in physical illness and ailments) mentally or emotionally (mental health/breakdown), or indeed a combination of all of the above.
This is a dreadful failing of our current societal expectations and demands. We expect people to just get on with life, function, do as they’re supposed to do. We don’t allow them to have feelings and then as a society we wonder why so many people reach a point where they simply fall over?
There is very good reason that exercises such as ‘primal yell’ and explosive physical activities help. They help to spend the unspent feelings that we are holding onto!
A much beloved person once said to me, many years ago that “your eyes are as deep as the well of unshed tears”, which although oddly lovely, was extremely potent and held deep reverberating meaning for me. Yes, I’d spent many years accumulating unspent feelings. I needed to learn how to cry again, I’d actually unlearned how and hadn’t cried for many years. I needed to befriend and allow my own feelings. I needed to believe that I had a right to have them. That I was WORTHY of being entitled to them. I needed to believe that I wouldn’t just crack, crumble or disappear into a ‘broken’ black hole if I actually gave myself permission to feel my hidden and buried feelings. I needed to literally excavate a lifetime of repression and suppression. Yes that was incredibly hard work, difficult and painful, and took time. However, the result was a far lighter, happier, more authentic and honest sense of self, and a better version of myself going forwards.
One last time to make sure it sticks.
Feelings are meant to be FELT, so that the energy of them is SPENT, so that they can PASS.
Key Understanding #5 – YOUR FEELINGS ARE NOT YOU
The issue of identifying with your feelings too closely! YOU are not your FEELINGS. Try to learn to know and exercise the difference. I am feeling or experiencing sadness, rather than I AM sad. Differentiate the feeling as a thing other than you, though you are the one feeling it. I am feeling very angry, rather than I AM angry. If we instead continue to internalise and identify with the feeling, then it can be really difficult to let go of, because essentially it can feel like we’re letting go of a part of our-self. We’re not, we’re a human being, experiencing feelings. Try to read that paragraph again. Try not to identify with the feelings, don’t internalise them as somehow being a ‘part of who I am’ – because then you don’t allow for the feeling to pass, you bring it inside you and make it a part of you. Therefore how can you let them go?
It is ONLY a feeling. No matter how big, how enormous, seemingly unbearable or overwhelming it is, no matter what circumstances real or imagined, horrific or awful created the feeling; it is still a feeling. Valid to feel, legitimate to have so ALLOW it, so that you can spend the energy of it, so that it can pass. The bigger or more complex or difficult the feeling, yes perhaps it will take longer to spend the energy of those weighty emotions, so it will take longer to truly pass (e.g. grief), but it is still a feeling. It is not YOU. Trust yourself, give yourself permission to feel the feeling, it’s nobody else’s business but your own. You don’t have to direct it either to another person or at yourself; it’s your feeling, so simply observe it, allow it… and thus allow it to pass, once properly spent.
Key Understanding #6 – THE PRESSURE COOKER LID THAT CRACKS
If you hold inside your many unspent feelings, as mostly we do, then they will find their way out inconveniently, inappropriately, when you least expect it and likely when it can do most harm! People written off as having ‘anger issues’ are almost without exception, simply carrying a lifetime of anger that they were not allowed or able to express or hadn’t allowed themselves to feel about something unrelated from childhood even, so those unexpressed/un-felt/unspent feelings are there, close to the surface, ready to explode or implode.
You may well believe you have a good grasp of keeping the pressure cooker lid on right now; but I assure you that eventually, that lid will crack, and all the steam will find its own way out. So roll up your sleeves, give yourself permission to feel your own feelings, own them, get to know them, and figure out how to spend the energy of them safely.
FOOTNOTE ON ABLISM: I am aware of the ableist nature of this dialogue. For some among us, there is neither the time nor space to ‘indulge’ in this kind of reparative, restorative work on ourselves. For some the limitations may be of social class and/or poverty, not having ‘a room of one’s own’ (Virginia Woolf) or any privacy at all, perhaps not even a roof over your head. For others there are physical limitations, knowing that on bad health or low-spoon (read up on spoon theory) days the price of allowing a bucket load of feelings out is actually going to be way too high to pay in terms of pain and fatigue. I can only apologise for and empathise with (and validate the truth of) the dreadful state of our society in which such lives are deeply enmired in suffering to begin with. Perhaps you are actually unable to get out of bed today or to leave a room with other people. Perhaps you are unable to find privacy in the out of doors because you’re homeless in a city, or you need to focus on surviving by merely getting out of freezing rain or it’s frankly more important to find something to eat. I wanted to note this, not to ignore it. It is vitally important to realise and recognise where ableism brings the assumption that we’re all starting from the same place. We are often and most decidedly not.
(c) DK Green 31/03/2021 – do not use or quote without permission from the author. You may reference this piece by crediting the author and linking to this website.
I’m exceptionally pleased to be facilitating this full day workshop – FOR THERAPISTS – on Family Constellations Therapy. Since this is a branch of work I’ve been studying for awhile now in order to provide it as an offering within my own work.
I’ve brought together two utterly fabulous people to teach both myself and others interested in learning!
NOTE: all three of us have a particular desire for this workshop, which is to enable and facilitate Queering the modality i.e. to make it thoroughly accessible to the LGBTQIA+ communities. We’ve found that often Family Constellations work can be explicitly binary-gendered, both in ancestral and individual client terms; and we’d very much like to adapt that wherever we can and/or need to.
So we have TWO fabulous family constellations therapists coming to teach this work for us throughout this day. For the morning we will be taught theory and working with individuals by Rose, and in the afternoon we’ll be guided into the group work by Rafe.
Rose C Jiggens is a multi modality practitioner working with individuals, couples and groups since 2007. She supports people in a wide range of enquiries to do with relationships, sexuality and life purpose. Her cross disciplinary practice enables her to choose the best tool for an enquiry, her trainings include Family constellations, Rebirthing Breathwork, Neo-Tantra and Bioenergetics. https://trueselfsystems.com/family-constellations-therapy-2/
Rafe Nauen was born in 1950 in Orpington Kent. He is married to Julie Bowman and has 8 children and 14 grandchildren. He works in Derby as an EFT, NLP and Family Constellation practitioner to private and business customers. The workshops and one to one sessions are places where people can find out quite a bit more about who they really are. His training is in working with “what is” in other words noticing the links within and without systems – family or other and seeing how the bonds could be shifted to provide better comfort for the clients. His purpose for the day in Chesterfield is to demonstrate and learn how to manage groups and especially how to keep people safe, and yet help them explore just outside their comfort zone as that is where growth can be gained. He works in groups, one to one, and on Zoom or Skype. https://www.rafenauen.com/
I’m very excited about this opportunity. Many know that I travel and speak regarding many GSRD (gender, sexuality and relationship diversities) topics I’m working with. I’ve given workshops, talks, lectures and demos on many aspects of subjects around polyamory, kink, BDSM, leather, tantra and of course myriad LGBTQIA+ topics. (Not to mention many Shamanic workshops!)
However tomorrow I have the opportunity to speak TO the caregivers, the medical staff and practitioners who are working with and supporting TRANSGENDER folk up and down the UK.
This means the gift of a chance to speak to those people in positions of power (over our transitions) that trans folk have to navigate, helping them to see the issues around gate-keeping, sensitivity around language and practices, NHS ‘tick box’ procedure routes etc., but from the other side. Also naturally an opportunity to talk to them about mental health, correlation rather than causality (or indeed reverse causation) that trans folk have to endure throughout the process of transition itself. To speak about the different ways these people can make an incredibly difficult journey – that some simply do not survive – as gentle and kind as humanly possible.
Listen to and trust a trans person when they’re telling you their truth. It can literally be a matter of life and death for them.
Well it transpires I’ve been saying I’d put my rates up for the best part of ~coughs~ two years. Well today I finally managed to pull my socks up and do so. I’ve been resisting fiercely for a long time because I’m so passionate about getting therapy to the people who really need it, particularly the less privileged in terms of GSRD (gender, sexuality and relationship diversities), ability, BAME (black and minority ethnic) etc. It’s been difficult to rationalise raising my fees with that particular ‘mission statement’.
However the truth is that my rates have been too low for some time. People read that as either inexperienced or not very good and I’ve studied and worked for years, I’m worth more. I’ve been less than the industry standard by a good margin (by approx 1/3rd), so it was time to buck up and do it. Besides, my supervisor and accountant would divorce me if I put it off any longer!
Fact is my education and experience places me quite considerably higher than I have been placing myself. Thousands of hours of therapy over several years including nationally and internationally, more CPD (continuous professional development) than I can shake a stick at, teaching, speaking, facilitating and giving workshops hither and thither. Yes, OK I give in, I’m a specialist and I’m worth it.
Isn’t it hard sometimes to place proper value on ourselves?
Isn’t it difficult when our own values and moral judgement preclude us from what is good/healthy for us?
So, I came up with a solution I’m comfortable with. A stepped system of rates according to income. That way those who can pay shall, and those who can afford less will pay less. That FITS IN with my ethics and still puts my rates up to a more suitable value and energy exchange for the work that I put in. Did you know I work from 10am to 9pm on client days?
I still offer the part-bursary paid places for those less privileged (hopefully now slightly better funded and less out of my own pocket through the Patreon Page (PLEASE DO become a Patron via that link and help support this work, it’s SO important to me and more directly to the clients; it helps to access therapy who otherwise couldn’t). I still do pro-bono work when truly appropriate. I still offer the base rate for financial hardship that I was already offering.
Directly due to the wonderful individuals who have made contributions into the pay-it-forward fund, I have, this past month, been able to take on two more bursary clients from less privileged, oppressed minorities whether that be by virtue of race, differing abilities, sexualities, genders and mental health.
This is SUCH important work. Taking therapy out of the glass ceiling world of middle class, white, hetero-normativity and into the realms of those who really need the work that we do but genuinely cannot afford it.
I do not work exclusively with minorities, I am open to and do work with *everyone*, but I feel strongly not to exclude those who otherwise might find themselves unable to access real help, proper therapy and support when it’s most needed. That is why I set up this fund.
The fund is not bottomless, it is donated in pounds and pennies from people who truly want to help others receive this important assistance, into a separate account specifically called ‘pay-it-forward’. Often just being able to offer someone a half price bursary is sufficient to enable access. I personally MATCH the contribution from the fund myself if the client is unable to even manage that.
Please feel free to use the direct paypal me link https://paypal.me/DKGreen (or paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org) and put reference payitforward and I will transfer it to the fund directly. OR ask me (private message or email) for the specific bank account details to make an online payment, or better still set up a small standing order!
Every single penny of your donations to this fund is spent on clients’ sessions; any administrative costs come out of my own pocket.
With heartfelt thanks from those clients already benefiting and those yet to come.
This is something I get asked quite a bit about and below is a useful ‘worksheet’ of tips to help you. I can’t remember whence it came in order to credit it properly, but it’s something I’ve used effectively for years. There IS work that can be done for anger management; this is a good place to begin.
1. Breathe deeply from your diaphragm.
2. Visualize a relaxing calm experience or place from your memory or imagination.
3. Repeat a calming word or phrase to yourself such as “slow down’ ‘relax’ ‘keep cool’. Keep repeating the words whilst breathing deeply from your diaphragm.
4. Listen to some relaxing music.
5. Try non strenuous exercises such as walking, yoga or even dancing.
6. Recognize if the person you are really angry with is you. Try to be less critical of yourself as this will continually sabotage any progress. Learning tolerance starts with yourself.
7. Use humour to ‘lighten up’ but don’t be sarcastic (sarcasm is another less obvious expression of anger).
8.When in conflict with others, try using I statements instead of you statements. An example is; ‘I feel angry/sad/upset’ rather than ‘You make me feel…..’. Taking ownership of what you feel is a crucial step in learning to manage your anger.
9. Practice forgiveness and letting go of your sense of injustice so that you do not get eaten up inside with bitterness. The world is not always a fair place and to have expectations that it always will be, will cause you to continually suffer disappointment.
10. Know when to seek help from a professional who specializes in anger management. If your anger is causing difficulties in your relationships or at work, now is the right time to seek help.
Today you are you, that is truer than true, there is no one alive that is youer than you.
Who doesn’t like a little ‘nonsense’ or a bit of Dr Seuss in life now and then?
I was put in mind of this quote when my youngest daughter Lina took me out for a smashing day yesterday. We enjoyed the cinema and a meal out together. At one point, wandering through the mall together I was struck by the fabulous array of colours both in the background on a wall, and of her hair. So I took this shot and thought I’d share it.
What better example of being ‘youer than you’ could I ask for? That she’s comfortable enough to shine in her own colours. It certainly gave ME pause for thought, so maybe you should spare a thought too? What are your true colours? How can you welcome them, love them, and enjoy allowing them to truly ‘shine’?
Would you like to work with me to discover your true colours? Contact me.