Blog posts

“You don’t have to like everyone.”

I haven’t liked seeing every client who I’ve treated. For me, severely depressed clients or clients who aren’t ready to take an active role in their recovery are difficult. I usually don’t like working with them. The severely depressed clients can be a little triggering for me, and I often find myself feeling depressed after sessions with them. I struggle to disconnect from depressive material. That’s an area where I could use some improvement, but that’s a topic for another day’s introspection. Additionally, clients who aren’t ready to take an active role in their recovery are really just frustrating to to me. Sometimes I just want to smack them. I get irritated that they expect me to solve their problems for them. If I could, trust me, I would, but that’s not my job. I’m not a feelings wizard. I can’t make all of the bad things go away by myself. I can help you, but I can’t do it for you. I don’t dislike either of these types of clients as people, I just tend to dislike working with them.

Now, there are clients who you will not like on a personal level. Maybe they’re annoying or have really horribly racist or misogynistic views. Maybe they are really mean to you. Maybe they treat their partner or their children terribly and that doesn’t sit well with you. Maybe you just don’t like them because their voice reminds you of that bitch who went to your high school who tried to steal your boyfriend (JOKES ON YOU, LAUREN- WE BROKE UP AND HE STILL WOULDN’T DATE YOU!!!). Maybe they come to every session really smelly and you have a very sensitive nose. These things will happen.

When I was in college, I interned at a psychiatric intensive care unit and there were patients who I thought I could never learn to care about. Some of the patients were rapists, abusers, animal killers- all groups that I “hate”. However, that internship was one of the most enlightening experiences of my life. I learned something very important- you can dislike things that someone has done, but you don’t have to dislike them as a person. These people had complex life histories, severe mental illness, and wonderful little quirks about them despite having done some horrible things. Sometimes, especially as a therapist, you need to set your convictions aside in the interest of your patients’ or clients’ well-being.

Regardless of whether or not you like your clients, in order to help them, you have to care about them. You have to become personally invested in their wellbeing and recovery. You have to be invested for more than a paycheck, because no matter how well or poorly you do with a client in a given session, they will probably still pay you for that session (whether they come back is another story).

For whatever reason, some of my colleagues struggle to care about clients who they do not like on a personal level. Since becoming a therapist, I have not had this problem. I do not have to like someone or relate to them on a personal level to care about their suffering. I want to help people even if they aren’t the nicest or are extremely annoying or do not have the same political opinions as I do. We all have good and evil inside of us. Trying to decide who is “worthy” of our help as therapists is a slippery slope, and one that I am not willing to climb. In my opinion, even the “worst” people on this planet deserve relief from their suffering. Maybe this is what sets me apart from a lot of the other students in my PhD program? I am not the world’s best person. I have done shitty things, I have a chip on my shoulder, and I go into attack mode when I am feeling vulnerable, but I know that underneath all of that awfulness is a kind, warm, and tender person. I can be mean, but it’s usually because I am feeling hurt and that is how I learned to cope. I recently read on Twitter that part of overcoming abuse is unlearning abusive behavior that you developed as a way to defend yourself. I really identified with that.

Maybe this personal experience helps me to see past the flaws of some of the more abrasive clients. Maybe it helps me recognize that everyone is deserving of help. Whatever the case may be, other therapists struggle more than I do to become invested in the care of clients with whom they do not connect, and that’s okay. We all have our strengths and weaknesses as clinicians. What matters most is trying to improve and grow.

So, what do you do if you are working with a client and you find yourself uninterested in their care because you do not like them on a personal level?

Here are a few ideas.

  1. Try to find something you like about your client. Maybe they’re a total asshole to people, but they really like cats. Maybe they’re always late to sessions, but they do a great job on their homework. Maybe they can be a little rough around the edges, but they always have a great sense of humor. Trying to see the good in them (because there is good in everyone) can help to facilitate the therapy and it can make the experience more pleasant for all involved. And don’t give me that, “I just can’t find anything I like about them, sorry, that’s just how I feel,” bullshit. You can find something you like about anyone. If you can’t, you’re not trying hard enough.
  2. Similarly, try to find some common ground with your client. If you really are struggling to find some unique quality you appreciate about your client, try to look for some things you share with them. Is there a band you both really like? Are you both huge fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race? Did you both grow up with alcoholic parents? Do you also get depressed sometimes? Try to connect with them over that common ground, even if it is on a superficial level.
  3. Catch yourself and be more open. When you find yourself rolling your eyes at their excuses for not doing their homework again or start to think, “Great, that asshole comes in today!” take note of it. This behavior will not help you provide services to your client. With that attitude, you will only ever see the bad in your client. Let yourself learn more about your client. Don’t get stuck on your first impression and don’t cling to an overly rigid case conceptualization that you think somehow validates your negative feelings towards them. We all know about self-fulfilling prophecies and the confirmation bias. Try not to fall victim to these traps to the detriment of your client.
  4. If there is a certain therapy-interfering or inappropriate behavior driving you nuts, address it. Is your client’s consistently late? Do they make snide remarks to you and question your intelligence? Do they refuse to complete any homework? Of course these issues would foster and fuel resentment if you leave them unaddressed. Talk with your clients about the issue. Find out what is driving their behavior. Set boundaries with them. If necessary, you could set up a therapy contract. A therapy contract is a formal document that therapists and clients sign and are expected to respect, otherwise treatment will be terminated. For example, if a client has problems with lateness, they may be expected to show up on time for three consecutive sessions, or else therapy will be terminated. I usually like to save therapy contracts for when verbal agreements don’t seem to be working. Make sure you’ve first tried to talk to your client and understand what is going on before you whip out the therapy contracts.
  5. Try to understand why they are the way they are. Understand your client in the context of their history. Do they tend to doubt you and have trouble trusting what you are trying to teach them? One interpretation is that this client is just an antagonistic person and it’s a pain in the ass to work with them. A more helpful interpretation might consider the client’s past. Perhaps their father made promises to them but never followed through and this led to a tendency to doubt what others say to them. If you have a clingy client who won’t stop calling and emailing you, instead of immediately becoming annoyed, it may be helpful to remember that they have had a history of abandonment and abuse. This recognition of someone’s history can facilitate empathy, which is always a great approach to take. It can also help you to address problem behaviors, as recommended in point number 4.
  6. Recognize when you haven’t done your best. This is related to point number 3 and allowing yourself to be open to other interpretations. If you have a client who isn’t completing homework assignments, maybe it’s not because they’re lazy or unmotivated. Perhaps you didn’t explain the assignment clearly and they were confused. If your client is showing up late, it could be a cultural difference that you didn’t realize you needed to address. If your client is “mean” to you, maybe they are feeling unheard. If you cannot motivate yourself to care about your client, chances are they will pick up on this at some point, and that won’t help the situation.
  7. Care about them because you care about being the best therapist you can be and doing the best job you can do. This is self explanatory. If you cannot care about your client for their benefit, care about them for your own. Shouldn’t you want to grow and develop as a therapist? Take pride in your work. Mentally thank this client for the challenge and put forth your best effort, because that’s just what you do. Thinking about this case like a learning opportunity rather than a chore can really impact the quality of work you are able to do.
  8. Express your concerns in supervision or through consultation with other professionals. If you attend clinical supervision, bring up this issue. Try to talk with your group and/or supervisor about what the problem seems to be and why you are having such a hard time mustering up genuine care and empathy for this client. Maybe they will have some additional suggestions for you. If you do not attend regular clinical supervision, seek out consultation with another mental health provider. Talk things through with them. You may learn something important about yourself as a person and a therapist through this process.
  9. Do some reading on Carl Rogers and humanistic psychology. I recommend setting aside a few hours over the weekend to really dive into some of his work. Really try to get a deep understanding of unconditional positive regard. Once you’ve done the research, put it into practice.
  10. Last resort: refer them to another clinician. If you are not equipped to deal with what this client is bringing to the table or you simply cannot move past certain qualities about them, you would do a disservice to yourself, to your client, and to your profession if you were to continue to see them. Seek consultation and supervision on the case and try the above suggestions first, but if things really aren’t changing for you, it’s best to cut your losses and send them to someone else who can better meet their needs.

You don’t have to like working with every client who walks through your door. You don’t even have to like every client as a person. What you do have to do is your job. What you do have to do is care about them and their recovery. During this process, you may come to find that you’ve developed a fondness for this client, despite and possibly because of their flaws.

Often times therapy clients worry that we only care about them because it is our jobs to. To that I say, “So what?” Once you genuinely care about someone, the fact that it is part of our job to care about them doesn’t make the care any less real.

 

 

 

poetry

Your Poetry Sucks and So Do You

Your room still smelled of latex and lube when you asked me to read your poetry.

It was the first time you’d been inside me.

You kissed me all over, like I’d been your lover for years.

You told me I was perfect.

I was uncomfortable.

I’d only met you once before and even then, you were too open for my taste.

We sat by the lake and you told me about your depression and how you’ve never really felt like you fit in.

And I did what I do best. I listened.

Then, you said what they all say,

“You’re so easy to talk to. I don’t think I’ve met anyone like you.”

I did not want to read your work.

I was content to look at your drawings. Your room was covered with them.

I was content to admire your tattoos. Your body was covered with them.

But I did not want to read your work.

I told you it felt too personal.

You urged me to read it anyway and it felt rude to refuse.

It was fucking terrible.

I mean really, really awful.

Since you now think I’m judgmental anyway, allow me to share some critiques, offered in the stylings of your shitty poetry.

Your voice is affected.

Your despair seems feigned.

You have no real sense of

Rhythm.

Your choices in terms of flow make

No sense.

Again,

Affected in tone.

Trying too hard.

You sound like you took a creative writing class but dropped out because the professor didn’t “get” your “style”.

Consider writing for a failing emo garageband.

There, you may find success.

Your metaphors-

Absurd.

Your syntax-

Unnatural.

Your redundancy and over-exaggerated hyperbole are cringeworthy.

I hate to break it to you, buddy.

But you are not one of the greats.

Your mimicking tone mocks their memory.

Your abrasive alliteration absolutely appalls all

Your forced paired couplets

Are more painful than birthing quintuplets.

Your thesaurus implementation and over-adjectivication

Are painful.

You think you are original

And have mastered slant rhyme.

Your narcissism bleeds through the pages like an ink spill

A simile that makes no sense to use at this point in time.

Your use of repetition

And “interesting”

Sentence structure

Is

Terrible.

Who taught you to write like this?

It

Is

Terrible.

Why is everything you write about how you are alone?

Why is this your constant tone?

I cannot help you.

You’re beyond it.

Your shitty poems make me want to vomit.

All over.

You can call me unkind.

But at least I know how to spell “breathe”.

Your poetry sucks, dude.

And guess what?

So do you.

 

 

Blog posts

Bittersweet Goodbye

It’s no secret that I’ve never been good at goodbyes. I tend to either cling or I am too cold. I am not only referring to saying goodbye to people, but saying goodbye to places, plans, and ideas about how I expected the future to unfold. If I am forced to say goodbye when the parting is not on my terms, I am especially difficult.

Recently, I said goodbye to my first therapy client who stayed the entire course of treatment. This client had been with me since January. I had gotten to know them (I am intentionally being gender-neutral here) very well and we did some good work. I had seen so much growth them. The time was right to say goodbye.

Still, it was difficult for me. I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving them with nothing from me, so I got them a gift. I gave them a copy of a self-help book that is consistent with the approach we took during therapy. I also left them a handwritten note inside the book’s cover about how proud I am of them and how I have no doubt that they will continue to grow. I hope that wasn’t too much… As you may have noticed by now, I have a tendency to go overboard.

I think the idea of leaving someone’s life having made no impact or leaving no evidence behind is what upsets me most about goodbyes. I don’t want to be forgettable or untraceable. I want to have an impact. I want to leave something. I want to at least be a story someone can tell. I’d even be happy to be a footnote in their story. As long as there is some relic of my presence. Maybe I want to be… powerful? This sounds horrifyingly selfish. Am I a monster?

Regardless, I really am so pleased to see this client taking charge of their own improvement from this point forward. It’s bittersweet, though. I’m sure this experience is not unique to me. I’m sure most therapists experience these mixed emotions when therapy discontinues because the client has improved enough, especially this early in their careers. Any fellow therapists out there, I’d love to hear about your experiences saying goodbye to clients. Does it get easier?

I will miss my sessions with this client and I will miss hearing about their improvements and accomplishments. I will miss watching them grow and seeing them open up and blossom. I will always remember this client. I never told them that they were the first client I had seen to completion of therapy, but I wish I could thank them for everything they have taught me. Our work together has set me on a certain course as a therapist, and I think it is a positive one. I wonder if, as I have seen them grow during the past seven months, have they seen me grow?

 

poetry

Hey.

Hey.

It’s me again.

I just wanted to let you know I’m sorry about how things ended.

I know I already said that, but I’m not sure you got my message.

There was no reply.

Hey.

It’s me again.

Is everything okay?

I know I wasn’t as supportive as I should have been that Saturday.

I was caught up in my own shit, but if I could I would go back and fix it.

Are you there?

Are my texts going through?

Where the fuck are you?

Sorry, but I think it’s really rude that you’re ignoring me right now.

Okay, stay calm.

Maybe nothing’s wrong.

Maybe you’re just busy.

Or maybe you lost your phone.

Or maybe you just need a day to be alone.

Hey.

You answered me again.

Thank God. I was going fucking insane.

What? Oh, okay.

Yeah, no, I get it. You’re just not that into me. That’s fine.

No, really, I’m okay. It’s alright, I promise.

I mean, this has never happened to me before but it’s fine. I appreciate you telling me.

Wait, no. Fuck you.

There was so much we planned to do.

Together.

I don’t understand. You said just the other day that no one has ever made you feel this way.

I know you’re lying. I know it.

I’m sorry, but people don’t just up and change their minds like that. That’s not normal.

You think I’m unkind?

You don’t even know me.

If this is how you always are, then no wonder you’re alone.

Hey.

It’s me again.

I feel bad about saying that to you.

I’ve been thinking about it all night.

Can I make it up to you?

Let me make it up to you.

Please?

Just let me take you out.

I’ll show you.

I’ll show you that I can be kind and I can listen to good music and I can be non-judgmental.

I’m a fucking therapist, after all.

Wait, why don’t you want to come?

No, I get that you don’t like certain things about me but I know that you like me overall.

You said so the other day.

I don’t understand.

How someone just change their mind that way?

Is there something wrong with me?

What is wrong with me?

Can you just tell me?

Wait, no. Fuck you.

What’s wrong with you?

What the fuck is wrong with you?

Just come out with me, come on. I can be nice, I’ll show you, I can.

Come on, please? Come out with me.

Why won’t you give me a chance?

You don’t understand a fucking thing about me.

Come back. Let me show you.

Let me show you that I can be exactly what you need.

I need to be.

Hey.

It’s me again.

I just wanted to say that I’m sorry I’ve been acting so crazy.

I bought you a gift.

It’s coming in the mail. Can I give it to you?

I remember you said you wished you’d had this.

See? I can be nice.

No, I know I didn’t have to do that. I know.

Well, do you want it?

Can I give it to you?

Hello?

Hello?

Hey.

It’s me again.

Where are you?

I saw you on Main St the other day.

You were in your car. I saw your hair, I couldn’t miss it.

You were going the other way.

Why were you there? Where were you going?

I stopped walking for a minute so I could just stare.

I think I knew it was the last time I’d really see you.

I didn’t say goodbye. I didn’t say anything.

I just stood alone and watched you go.

And you didn’t see me.

Hey.

It’s me again.

I feel weird about this, but I left that gift on your porch.

I felt creepy sneaking around there.

I didn’t want to see you, though, I swear.

Hey.

It’s me again.

Just wondering if you read that letter I left you.

Can you just let me know?

Did you read it?

Did you get your gift?

Did you use it?

Do you like it?

Do you like me?

Like me.

Say yes.

Say something.

Hey.

It’s me again.

I’ve been looking at your Twitter.

Was that tweet about me?

It sounded like it was about me.

See, I knew you’d think about me.

Hey.

It’s me again.

I’ve been looking at your Instagram.

Did you draw me?

That looked like me.

I think you like me.

Hey.

It’s me again.

Why are you selling the art that I inspired?

Why does that caption say for a friend?

I thought you didn’t like me…

I knew it. You like me.

Hey.

It’s me again.

I’ve been thinking about showing up at your job.

I looked up the address.

I won’t go.

I might go.

Hey.

It’s me again.

I’ve been going to that lake we went to when we met because you said you go there almost every day.

But I haven’t seen you yet.

Hey.

It’s me again.

I know where you went last night.

You’re making this too easy for me.

Hey.

It’s me again.

I know when you’re home and when you’re not because your house is exactly 4 miles away and I can get Tinder to say if you’re 1 or 4 or 10 miles away.

Hey.

It’s me again.

I just want to run into you.

I remember you said you use the library at my school.

I know you’d like me if you just got to know me.

I just need to convince you to.

You would; you’d like me.

Hey.

It’s me again.

Did you read that letter?

Do you think I’m crazy?

I wish I hadn’t sent it.

Hey.

It’s me again.

It’s been awhile.

I haven’t checked your Twitter for a few days.

You’re actually… kind of boring.

Hey.

It’s me again.

Sort of.

I don’t care that much anymore.

I haven’t thought about you all day.

I met somebody else.

And somebody else.

And somebody else.

It’s good for me to do that, right?

I feel like me again.

Hey.

It’s you this time.

You just wanted to thank me for the gift.

That’s what you said.

And when I answered, you disappeared again.

Hey.

It’s me again.

I was just wondering (and wondering and wondering)

Were you thinking about me?

Is that why you reached out?

How much was I on your mind?

Could you not take it anymore and just had to talk to me?

Did you use the gift as an excuse?

Do you think of me with its every use?

Am I in your art?

Do you think about me?

Do you want to see me again but you don’t know how to ask?

Do you like me again?

Where did you go?

Hello?

HELLO?

No, that’s not fair. I was done.

I was done with you. You came back, I didn’t go to you.

Is this a game to you? Is this your sick idea of fun?

You fucking screwed me up again. I was fucking done.

Hey.

It’s me again.

If you wanted me to, I’d let you back in.

Just let me know

If you like me.

Hey.

It’s me again.

I get that you’re gone.

I get that you don’t like me.

I truly hope you enjoy your life.

I’ll just be here.

Watching

To see if you do.

Blog posts

When the Other Shoe Drops

I often talk to my clients about avoidance of emotions. Avoidance of emotions essentially means doing certain things to avoid experiencing aversive emotions or thoughts, physical sensations, memories, etc. that have been linked to aversive emotional experiences. Now, everyone can imagine why you might not want to feel sadness or irritability or loneliness, right? Those emotional experiences in and of themselves are aversive. However, emotion avoidance does not apply to negative emotions alone. It can also apply to positive emotions, such as excitement, happiness, and love.

You might wonder why someone would avoid a positive emotion, but chances are you’ve actually experienced this yourself. Have you ever had a job interview go really well, but you temper your enthusiasm after the fact because it’s not a guarantee that you’ll get the job? That is avoidance of a positive emotion. Usually, this type of avoidance is in service of avoiding potential subsequent disappointment, but it can take other forms. For example, some people avoid engaging activities that make them feel happy because they feel that they don’t deserve to be happy. Generally, though, it’s usually a reluctance to fully experience positive emotions because there is some inkling (warranted or not) that things will not work out or this feeling will not last.

I recently discussed this with one of my clients and she strongly identified with this form of emotion avoidance. We didn’t have the time to really dive into the topic, but it’s something I’ve experienced as well. Unfortunately for me, this avoidance has been reinforced by a series of recent shitty events. 

Most recently, I thought I’d found my dream apartment. I’ve been looking for a new apartment for over a month, since my landlord decided not to renew our lease. He’s an asshole, but that’s an entirely different story. Since I started looking, things have continued to fall through, I have been met with disappointment after disappointment in this domain. I found an excellent situation back in mid-June, but things fell through. I found a few other situations that seemed ideal, until I arrived at the actual apartment and was faced with disappointment. I met with several new potential roommates and things continued to fall through with them. I finally found someone who committed and we started looking at apartments together. After an intensive, stressful week-long search, we finally found it- the perfect apartment.

The place was absolutely magnificent. It wasn’t a luxury condo or anything like that, but it had everything I could want in a beautiful Victorian home in a quiet neighborhood. Ideal location, off-street parking, lofted ceilings, open floor plan, in-unit laundry, large bedrooms, a dishwasher, a garbage disposal, a wet bar (A FUCKING WET BAR), and a private porch. It was perfect and affordable. My new roommate and I filled out applications and agreed, this was the place. I almost got excited, but I had a bad feeling. I “knew” something would fall through. I kept having the thought, “Things like this don’t happen to me. I don’t get to be this happy.” I actually talked to my parents and told them I felt like the landlord was going to back out or the place was going to burn down over night. They told me to “think positive”. (By the way, if you ever have a therapist who gives you this advice without any cognitive reappraisal strategies, leave. They are not a good therapist).

So, I tried to do that. I tried to recognize that I’m just afraid of being disappointed, after everything that’s gone on lately, but that I deserve to feel excited and happy.

Then, I got the news. My roommate backed out. 

We’re looking for other places now and I’m sure we’ll find somewhere suitable to live, but, long story short, I had my avoidance strategy reinforced. The next day, I sat across from a client and told her that even though these emotions may be temporary and that sometimes things may not work out, we deserve to fully experience those positive emotions when we have the opportunity to. I said this as if the day before I hadn’t been furious at myself for trying to be open to excitement and happiness. I sat there and said this as if I am some sort of guru, who has unlocked the secrets to a healthy emotional life.

I’m no guru and I’m no authority on your emotional experience. However, I am a trained therapist. With that in mind, I offer you the following advice as both a professional and a human being who struggles with her own emotions.

Experience your joy and excitement and love to the fullest extent when you get the chance to. The fact that it doesn’t always last is more reason to. I know disappointment hurts, but you will be disappointed whether you allow yourself to experience those positive emotions or not. I can’t say I’m any less disappointed than I would have been if I had let myself experience that momentary joy. So, you may as well milk those positive emotions while you can. The fact that they’re temporary should make you cherish them that much more. You also don’t want to have an avoidance pattern reinforced. Then, you’ll learn to just never allow yourself to experience positive emotions. I’m not sure what kind of life it would be if you restrict your range of affectivity. Probably one that is less than fully human.

I know that the advice I’ve given here may is likely easier said than done. I obviously haven’t been entirely successful at it (hence this blog post), but it’s an important pattern to recognize in yourself. If you think you fall victim to this avoidance trap and you’re working with a therapist, see if you can talk to them about it and work on it together.

If you do not have a therapist, you might try getting one or you might just track the avoidance behaviors for a few weeks. Really get to know your patterns. Then, in the moment, when you start to notice that you’re avoiding a positive emotion, acknowledge the behavior. Say to yourself, “Hey, look at that. I seem to be avoiding a positive emotion right now.” To try to connect with the emotion, make space for it inside yourself. Recognize its presence. Greet it like a friend who is joining you for dinner. “Hi there, Happiness. Come right in. I saved a spot for you at the table. How are you tonight?” See how that works for you. Let me know in the comments if you run into any trouble with that or have any other tips for allowing yourself to feel positive emotions.

I guess the take home message here is, I give very good advice, but I very seldom follow it. Here’s to constant self-improvement.

Cheers.

Blog posts

Short on Time, Short on Thoughts

I have no idea how this summer has slipped through my fingers. I had all of these plans, all of these things I was going to do. I was going to get so much done. Instead, I got depressed.

I wasn’t anticipating having to move this summer. Trying to find a new apartment has been really difficult. I finally found a roommate to live with but we’re having difficulty finding an actual space. It’s extremely stressful, since I lose my current apartment in two weeks.

On top of that, I’ve fallen even further behind on my research. I have no time left, at all. I really need to get things moving along but I am constantly so depressed and worn out from looking for apartments and preparing to move that I never feel “up to it”. I guess I should probably use some behavioral activation on myself and schedule research time into my day. Maybe that’s what I’ll do…

Being a therapist doesn’t always mean following your own advice. I wish I could do everything that I teach my clients, but that’s just not possible. At least, it isn’t for me.

I spent too much time dating, I think, this summer. But don’t I deserve to have fun for once? It’s unfortunate that I lost all of that time spent with that particular individual who sent me on my most recent spiral into madness.

I really am running out of time and I cannot believe that the summer is almost over. I am going to fall to pieces when classes pick up, I can feel it. It’s what happened last year, too.

I don’t really have anything insightful or wise or profound to say today. My thoughts are boring right now. I apologize for not having more to say. I like feeling like I have something to contribute, but right now I simply do not.

Blog posts

Pause

I’ve been trying this new thing lately where I pause before I act. It’s all very new to me.

I’ve always had this tendency to explode or implode when I experience strong negative emotions. Anger is a big one for me. I have done and said a lot of hurtful things out of anger. It feels fantastic in the moment to really let someone have it. It’s incredibly empowering. I have a sharp wit and I’m usually quite proud of my cutting quips, but I’m not sure I want to be that person anymore. I don’t really like to hurt people, it’s just a bad habit at this point. I also tend to work myself up and expend a lot of mental and emotional energy on minutia that do not warrant it.

Recently, I was working with one of my clients and we were trying to figure out a way for her to recognize when she is catastrophizing so she can implement cognitive reappraisal. She has a striking amount of insight and suggested that she should learn how to take a second to pause before she frantically takes action. We worked on identifying physiological symptoms of anxiety to use as a cue to anchor herself in the present and observe her thoughts.

I have to say, this moment of insight for my client became a moment of insight for me. Of course, during the therapy session I was focused on her and meeting her needs as a client. However, after the session I was struck by how many of my own problems stem from my lack of self-control (primarily, over my big mouth).

I have been making a conscious effort now to notice when something sparks a strong, negative emotional reaction in me. When this happens, I tell myself that now is not the best time to act. I can always take action later, when my head and my heart are clear, but I cannot undo actions.

For most of my life I have wished that I had a rewind button to undo specific moments of fuckery. I could probably spend years creating an itemized list of every moment in my life that I would redo. I suppose I have a lot of regrets, which can largely be attributed to my impulsivity and emotionally driven behavior. I’ve hurt a lot of people and I’ve hurt myself because I get these emotional blinders stuck on my head and all I can see is this straight path to destruction and I make a run for it. I run right off of a cliff and there’s no turning back and I crash land and everything is broken. Things are irreparable, often. The striking part about it is that the regret is usually immediate. If I could just go back 30 seconds and do this over again, things would be fine.

It’s interesting… since things recently blew up with the guy I had been seeing for a few weeks, I developed a sort of heightened self-awareness. I can see my flaws as if they’re under a microscope, but instead of trying to burry them, I feel driven to improve.

This strategy of pausing seems to be successful. It has made me more empathetic, I think, and certainly more stable. Things are not bothering me as much as they usually do. I can already see a positive effect on my interpersonal relationships. It’s amazing what you can see when you finally pull your head out of your own ass.

It’s also pretty amazing when as a therapist, you learn something about yourself from your client. Thank you for that.