I incorporate CBT with my clients, of course, most therapists do (naturally), but I don’t slam (shame) them with the positive thinking dogma. It’s a delicate balance for many. Most people these days are coming into therapy with the added burden of shoulding on themselves. “I shouldn’t feel this bad. I shouldn’t be grieving this long. I shouldn’t be this negative” etc.
Nonsense. If you feel that way, you should. Being where you are in this moment of time didn’t happen by accident. There is a long history of life experiences that brought you here. It’s completely logical, coherent, and valid.
It’s become this cancer in our society, the idea that we should only feel “good” emotions. I hate to be the bearer of negative news but it’s actually making us more unhappy. When we aim for only feeling good we inadvertently tell ourselves that there is some happier state we should be in than where we are; we grasp for happiness (which is really very slippery); and we judge ourselves for experiencing the reality we are in. It’s really problematic!
What’s the answer? It’s so simple (but maybe not). We feel what we feel. We allow. We take away the narrative our mind is spinning about the feeling. We do so without judgment. We make space inside of ourselves. We notice the sensations in our body, without the story. We observe. We calm the nervous system. We settle the flight or fight response that is amping up as a result of pushing against our naturally arising feelings. We even accept (maybe not approve or express) our shadow. Try this, the next time you notice a sensation, feeling, or emotion arise: try to make it stop. tell yourself consciously, “this is bad, I can’t feel this, go away.” Notice the fire that fuel builds.
Then notice that uncomfortable truth(s) inside of yourself. That less than acceptable part of yourself (shadow self), except this time, make room for it. See what happens. See your stress response slow down. Your body relax. Be aware of the ways that relating to yourself with compassion quiets the inner critic enough to allow you to become more mindful.
It’s a paradox and can be confusing, but the truth is you cannot hate yourself into a version you love. And you cannot love yourself without all of yourself included.
Even those desperate, insecure, angry, terrible parts you try to hide. Keep ’em close.