why therapy makes you stronger - emotional strength

Why Emotional Vulnerability is a Sign of Strength

What have you been taught about emotions?

For many, talking about feelings, or being emotional, can be as taboo as expressing our thoughts on religion or politics. Some would say it is best to not to talk about them because doing this could make people feel uncomfortable. Best not to put people off by talking about what is going on inside of us.

Many people are not taught to acknowledge their feelings or to look inward because doing so is more of an unnecessary distraction than a useful tool. When emotions are acknowledged, they’re usually overly simplified and lumped into one of two categories: the good and the bad. Whether it comes from family, society or the media many of us are taught from a young age that  life is about getting more of those “good” feelings and that the “bad” ones should be pushed aside, quickly overcome or even locked away.

This makes a lot of sense considering the importance of the “pursuit of happiness” and the resulting need to accomplish whatever goals we have set out for ourselves. Keep pushing forward toward your goals, reach them, and you will be as happy or content as humanly possible. But what do we do when those “bad” feelings come up and we can’t overcome, push or lock them away? What do we do when whatever we pursue and achieve in life, does not bring us happiness or contentment?

I am not saying that what you have been taught about your emotions and what to do with them is right or wrong. Instead I encourage you to think about whether what you have been taught about emotions and feelings is working for you and your loved ones right now.

It is also not uncommon to have rules around emotional expression based on gender identity. For many, being a man DOES NOT involve being open about feelings or emotional vulnerable. Doing so could cause a man to be viewed as weak and not a “real man.” At the same time, being a woman is sometimes defined in part by emotional vulnerability. However, they also have the risk of being “out of control” or “overly emotional” unless they walk a fine line. It is normal to have these kinds of rules guide the way you manage your emotions and feelings, and I am not saying these rules are right or wrong. Again, I encourage you to think about whether what you have been taught about emotions and feelings is effective for you and those around you.

 

Being Human Means Having Emotions

Experiencing, expressing, and connecting with our emotions is an essential part of being human. When we pushed aside, quickly overcome, or lock away our emotions we are cutting ourselves off from so much. Being human and emotional vulnerability go hand-in-hand. We grieve the loss of loved ones, experience joy with our loved ones when they succeed, feel fulfillment when our work aligns with our values, and battle with fear and anger when threatened. We connect with others through feeling and emotion to enrich our lives.

Denying our emotions is like cutting off an arm – it makes life much more difficult. But unlike losing a limb, when we deny our emotions the impact is much less obvious. If you were missing a leg the impact would be clear and most likely you would immediately find ways to remedy the problem. The impact of denying emotions can be much less obvious, preventing a person from seeing the need of a remedy. Nonetheless, the impact is still great.

Denying emotions can negatively impact relationships. It can lead to experiencing less of the feelings you would want and more of those you would rather avoid. It can cause a person to repeatedly find themselves in crises either big or small.  Sometimes we cannot see the impact ourselves and those closest to us in our life are the ones who make us aware. Look at those around you: could your friends, family, partner, and kids seeing something you don’t?

 

Common Barriers to Asking for Help

Therapy can be a threatening idea, for many, being in therapy can be a sign of failure. It can imply that a person is doing something wrong and that they’re in need of fixing. We have all heard that “therapy is for crazy people…therapy is for people who can’t manage…therapy shouldn’t be necessary unless you are sick in some way…”  It can be difficult to rewrite this way of thinking and view participation in therapy as a strength, but do not let this stop you.

A lot of us are not familiar with the idea of slowing down and looking inward so it is hard to see its usefulness. In our more western culture, it is about that pursuit of happiness and moving forward toward that next accomplishment. However, it’s also hard to tolerate the process of slowing down and looking inward, to experience your feelings and emotions in a vulnerable space with another person. Sometimes the barrier is not as much about “not having time” as it is about “not having the courage.”

Although it is hard and even threatening it is also something that can enrich your life. It can change the way you see and understand yourself, your loved ones, and the world around you. Coming to therapy is a strength not a sign of failure or weakness. Therapy is a difficult process that could help make positive change in your life. The benefits of therapy are not only for those with labels of mental illness.

 

Connecting with Your Emotions

Human beings are a wonderful balance of emotion and logic. Distancing from our emotions is not good or bad, we just need to know when this is an effective strategy. We need to distance ourselves from our emotions and rely more on our logical side so that we can get certain things done. You don’t want to be deep in your emotions if you’re driving your car down a winding mountain road in the rain, AND you do want to let your emotions guide you when you’re trying to connect romantically with your partner after an argument. How often do you find yourself out of balance and leaning away from the “emotional” side of yourself? Are you aware of why this tends to happen?

Nowadays it’s more common to connect with the device in our pockets rather than connecting with our inner thoughts and feelings. We can go through an entire day without checking in with ourselves. Instead of going with the motions of the day at the usual fast pace, try to slow down just a bit and be aware of yourself. Perhaps ask yourself the question, “what do I need right now?”

Take time to stop and observe your thoughts. Don’t evaluate what you think about and don’t give a thought any more value than what it is…a simple thought. This is not an easy exercise as our minds have tendency to just go on their own at random. The first thing you probably will notice is how hard it is to observe your thoughts for more than just a few moments. we’re much more used to reacting to our thinking instead of observing and learning from it.

Ask yourself: Is there a pattern to the way I talk to myself?  What things do I think about most during the day? What was I thinking about just now when I stopped observing my thoughts and let my mind go at random?

Take time to listen to your body. We all can carry different emotional experiences in different parts of our body. Emotions can be linked to various types of discomfort we experience in our bodies. Tension, fatigue, stomach pains, apathy are a just a few of the physical experiences that can go along with our emotions.

Ask yourself: Where do I experience tension? How often does my body feel at ease during the day? Am I more tired than I think I should be?

 

Why Therapy Makes You Stronger

All emotions are valid and serve a purpose. When I provide therapy, I help you understand how to recognize what you are feeling and understand how your emotions serve you. No judgments and no expectations around how you “should” be feeling. Instead we’ll just look at your thoughts on whether there could be more out of life that you’re just not getting. Do you think something is missing?

 

You Can Find the Strength to Live the Life You Want

I know therapy can be scary, especially if it’s your first time. If you are unsure if therapy is right for you, or if you are nervous about starting, that’s completely understandable. I offer a free consultation, so you don’t have to worry about committing to it at this point. Let’s talk and see if we’re a good fit – contact me online or by calling (310) 853-3747.

Christopher Jackson

Posted by Christopher Jackson

2 comments

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Isabell Springer

As a therapist, I love everything you shared. Thank you so much for expressing the importance of vulnerability. It’s how we create closeness and connection and it is a skill that most of us did get growing up. Critical stuff. Great read. Will be sharing this one on all my socials.

Thanks Christopher!

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Isabell Springer

*did NOT receive the skill is what I meant to write. lol

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