We have all heard the expressions: “Good Vibes Only”, “Think Positive”, and “Be Happy”. It was refreshing to read the recent blog posted by S. Wall that brought to our attention the toxicity of always seeking positivity.
As a therapist, I have long believed that suffering, loss, and pain are not feelings simply to be medicated or avoided. Instead, we can strive to process and absorb them. Despite the messages we may receive, it is important to experience your painful feelings. Feeling sorrow, fear, and grief at times is not only normal and okay, but necessary to experience, so they can be released. The full spectrum of emotions must be felt; it is virtually impossible to embrace elation without knowing disappointment—a titular paradox that there is no happiness without sadness.
Melancholy is a species of sadness that arises when one is open to the fact that life can be inherently challenging, and that suffering and disappointment are core parts of universal experience. Feeling down at times is not a disorder that needs to be cured.
Modern society tends to emphasize buoyancy and cheerfulness, but we must admit that reality is in part about pain and loss. The good life is not one immune to sadness, but one in which this emotion contributes to our development and growth.
As humans we were born with the ability to feel the whole range of our emotions from elation to despair. Figuring out how to do this in a healthy way is an important part of growing into a mature adult. How do we deal with both melancholy and joy? How do we straddle these in a way that feels genuine and true to ourselves?
Although this journey is not always paved with ease, there is a round map. We can follow a guide to help us identify and walk through these feelings in a way that is both productive and nurturing.
The first step in experiencing painful feelings is to notice what is going on inside of you. Identify what it is you are feeling by naming it and locating where it resides in your body. Ask yourself directly: “Is it disappointment, grief, fear, loneliness, rejection, shame, or another feeling?” Brene Brown, in her most recent book, reminds us that there are 88 human emotions, and the name we give to them dictates how they are interpreted physiologically and mentally. Our bodies react differently if we term our state stress or overwhelmed; being precise in this diction is key. If it is fear you identify, notice what other feelings are underneath that fear. Do you feel lonely or abandoned? Pay attention to what is going on inside your body. Are there areas of tension, pain, or other sensations? These sensations are where the feelings live in your body.
The next step is to find a safe way to express the feelings. Healthy ways to release your feelings are by:
- Talk about your feelings with a trusted friend or therapist
- Use self-dialogue that is compassionate
- Recognize your triggers: People, situations, and places often hold strong associations. If you find yourself feeling emotionally blocked when it comes to certain triggers, it may be worth avoiding them when possible.
- Limit your distractions: Cell phones, television, music, or video games hold many people’s attention hostage. Once you turn off the noise, you will be better able to tap into your inner feelings and express them outward.
- Write in the form of journaling or poetry: Regardless of your skills, writing is an effective way to express emotions and communicate with others.
- Practice Acceptance: Try to accept those aspects of your life that are out of your control. Doing so will make you feel better while freeing up your mind to become more emotionally expressive.
- Be Grateful
- Explore a novel interest: Getting out of your comfort zone often leads to greater emotional expression and wellbeing.
Hiding your emotions limits the honesty of your communication. Being in touch with yourself allows you to be in better touch with others. Hold the space for the full spectrum of feelings.
Written by Francine Baffa, LICSW, BCBA-D
Edited by Joe DeNoon
As posted at Operation Happy Nurse
When your tween or teen directly expresses the thought or desire to harm them self or commit suicide, of course, it is alarming. It may seem to come out of the blue or be part of growing distress they are experiencing. Either way, when you become aware that your child or teen talks about self-harm or suicide, it is important to take some steps to ensure their safety.
If your child is a tween or a teen take it seriously. If they are younger, certainly don’t dismiss these big feelings however I’ll cover some different steps in another blog post.
How to approach talking
Understandably you may want to minimize their distressing words and help them gain perspective by telling them the situation isn’t so bad. However, instead, manage your own feelings at that moment so you don’t take over the conversation. Press “pause” on your judgment. Your job is to be present, curious and compassionate.
Do they have a plan?
Once your child has shared what they can of their distress. Ask them if they have a plan to act on their suicidal thoughts. Listen very carefully here. A child who is planning on acting will often have quite a detailed story with potential time and place. They will have most likely been running through the scenario in their head for a while so will have worked out the details. For others, they may not have let their thoughts drift over to the action piece but are still caught up in just wanting to be gone.
Can they keep themselves safe?
Ask your child if they feel they can keep themselves safe in the moment? Start to investigate what they need from themselves and from you to help keep themselves safe. Perhaps even make a list of things that will help remind them of what they need to feel safe. Help them minimize triggers to their emotional upset for at least the moment.
Based on the conversation, let them know what you are going to do to help them stay safe. Again, manage your emotions as you may feel punitive towards them as they are causing you so much distress. You are definitively the parent taking the lead in this moment however this must be a non-shaming, collaborative conversation. Let them know that you are going to make sure they are not alone for the next while and brainstorm the options. Remove objects from their easy access that may trigger them to harm themselves.
Talk about self-care. This is a moment to be a strong parent. Get the basics back in line with proper sleep, eating and physically active routines in place. Brainstorm relaxation activities. This could include some distractions like music or screens but make sure there is a broader variety such as journaling, a meditation app, drawing, snuggling the family pet and engaging with safe friends.
When to visit the hospital
If during this conversation it becomes apparent your child won’t work to keep themselves safe, it is time to decide if a visit to the hospital is prudent. You can also suggest a crisis line or even another safe adult to your child if they aren’t feeling very comfortable sharing all of this with you.
It is very easy for teens to be overwhelmed by the intensity of their emotions. The struggle to fit in socially, succeed academically, please peers, parents and other adults is quite difficult. The added pressure of fitting in the world with the watchful eye of social media has amplified these pressures.
Teen counseling can support their ability to manage the big emotions and learn skills for navigating all the social, academic and family pressures. Suggesting the idea of getting a counselor they can talk to and trust is also an important support strategy.
by Leah Koenig MA, LMHC. Leah is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Family Therapist, and PCI Certified Parent Coach®. Leah specializes in working with children, teens, and parents on creating their best self and best family relationships.Learn More
Experiencing an impact or blow to the head can create what is known as Traumatic Brain
Injury, or TBI. This is defined as an injury that occurs within the cranium when an external force impacts and injures the brain. When that external force injures the soft tissue of the brain, it is called TBI.
TBI – the “invisible” injury
Unlike a broken bone, the injury isn’t so obvious. The “invisible” injury of the brain can greatly impact not only one’s ability to function but also to manage the resulting distress. Emotions commonly experienced by individuals fighting to recover can be overwhelming, such as anger, sadness, and grief. These can lead to anxiety, hopelessness, and depression. This is exactly what counseling can help manage and reduce.
Medical doctors for physical healing are critical. Occupational therapists to manage the physical recovery are critical. Counseling to have support for managing the overwhelming emotions are important as well. This is what we can help with at Bellevue Family Counseling.
Counseling for TBI
In addition to helping manage the difficult emotions that arise from TBI, counseling can also support your relationships, help with problems that arise and provide tools to manage the stress that life brings. At Bellevue Family Counseling, we have two excellent counselors available to support you on your journey back to being your best self.
Erin Manhardt works with teens and young adults who have suffered from TBI. Contact Erin through her team profile here.Learn More