Last week a client walked into my office with a no-nonsense demeanor and said the following in an exasperated and pressured voice:
Identify The Problem
“It’s a new year so why am I still dealing with the same old stuff from 2012?” She went on to say, “I can’t get my husband to see things my way and our relationship is always in survivor mode. My employees are worthless and they never meet my expectations. There is tension between myself and some of my closest girlfriends. And my mother expects me to jump every time she calls. I need to get away…I need a vacation!!!”
She slumped into the couch with an angry yet defeated posture. As we both sat in silence for a moment, she began to sink deeper into the couch, allowing her shoulders to drop from the tension. Her energy changed from anger and indignation to inflection and honesty. She looked at me and asked; “What is wrong with me? Why is there turmoil in every area of my life?”
This type of rant is common. Any of us can reach an emotional state in which NOTHING seems to be working and our emotions are running a muck. While we can’t control or stop others from bringing external duress into our lives, the one thing we can regulate is our reaction.
This client spent the remainder of her session identifying how each of these areas of turmoil trigger her unresolved pain and conflict from past relationships and occurrences. She shared a story of how her mother would always tell her that she had to be a “good girl because good girls get everything they want.“
Now, before we proceed let’s be clear, therapy is not designed as a place where parents become the villains and clients become the victims. So as we proceed, let’s focus on the clients story and not that of blaming the level of functionality of her parents.
Making The Connection
So back to the session. She went on to express how she remembered an occasion at the age of 9 when she was in the grocery store with her mother and her sister. This client’s mother told the two little girls that if they behaved, she would buy each of them their favorite candy. She recalls behaving and that her sister did not. At the end of the shopping trip her mother kept her promise. She received the reward of selecting her favorite candy and her sister did not. It was then that she learned a valuable lesson. She told herself that she could get anything she wanted if she behaved and “performed” as expected. This was the moment a simple and innocent realization became a reinforced mindset and a negative memory point. A mindset that did not prepare her for inconsistencies in life.
Course Of Action
This brings us to present day. This client and I worked to correlate that lesson with her current reactions of not getting what she wanted in spite of the fact that she behaved accordingly. When her good behavior did not yield the results she expected, she went into a tail-spin. We also discovered that she had not learned a healthy way of processing disappointment. In addition, we were able to identify her emotional triggers which equipped her with knowledge and insight towards a balanced way of regulating her emotions and a way to regulate her reactions and the need to overreact. Taking the time to slowly explore, discover, and identify mis-beliefs and false perceptions allowed her to gain the tools to target the exact moments in which she began to lose control of her emotions. Through this discovery, she ultimately gained a level of emotional regulation that now allows her to:
- Think before reacting
- Tools to identify “why” she feels out of control
- Knowledge to understand and regulate her emotions
Observing this level of discovery and healing is miraculous. Gaining tools to begin a more peaceful existence is a very noble course of action. You can begin the steps as well. If you find difficulty in harnessing your emotions, you too can achieve a stronger stance in this area of your life. Erratic and unregulated emotions that interrupt peace within your professional and personal life should be addressed with a mental health professional. Or you may find educational courses in emotional regulation to be more suitable to your learning needs. Click here to find out more about current courses offered by Living Anew, LLC.
**This story is a depiction of a fictitious therapy session.