‘You shouldn’t feel that way’
I have lost count of the number of times I have heard people recite experiences that begin and end with the summation, ‘You should not feel that way’.
For me, I lump that phrase alongside ‘Cheer up, it might never happen’ or ‘Pull yourself together’. A client of mine once even reported being told by his DR, ‘you should try being more like me. I don’t do that’. Once I had picked my jaw back up from the floor I remember searching within myself for something to say, anything that would have resembled a sentence more constructive, more empathetic, more sage……The likelihood is there would have been many things I could have said that would have improved upon the DR’s remark yet the startling fact remained there were none I could think of that would alter the client’s experience or reality at that time or indeed his experience on the whole. That was a full two years ago and I’m still none the wiser.
Here is what I have learned though (sometimes dragged kicking and screaming I might add). As someone who identifies as a compulsive caretaker, with a finite need to look after and care for others it is often hard to accept the limitations of my profession and at the same time I have to acknowledge that there are limitations to both the service I offer and any service offered by any therapist or mental health professional and/or mental health service. Theories are flawed and techniques don’t always work. Life gets in the way, people leave, people get sick, we get sick, we feel better, we feel worse. I am sure that cuts like a knife to the egotistical among us. I have to admit to being a little dented myself by my own admission. I spent a long time in training and continue to do so, to better myself and to learn more so I can offer more and continue to evolve this thing that I have started. Sometimes it is enlightening and sometimes it is like wading through thick dense treacle. It has also been costly, both financially and socially and so to acknowledge I don’t now have the answers in the form of a miracle cure or a magic wand or an instruction manual pains me to say. It is actually less the saying it that hurts and takes affect than the need I now deem inevitable; to accept it. Because it is true. Hell, people say things that they don’t mean all the time, don’t they? It is internalising and accepting that are hardest………
And then I swing full circle, back to being in love with what I do. It is so simple and so complex all at the same time because there I remind myself of what is important in the process, of what does work, of what can cure and what can change and it really is nothing short of miraculous at times. Acceptance.
It is all there is. You cannot change a circumstance by pretending it doesn’t exist, that it doesn’t matter, that it isn’t that way for you. Because it is. You can’t change the way you feel with all the will in the world by becoming something else someone else deems more suitable. You cannot run from who and how you are at times (though this will always remain an appealing prospect to some I am sure. I even include myself in that bracket). Acceptance is what has to happen in order to move on, to change, to grow, to survive.
If you have found someone who is prepared to take your hand and try and see the world in the way that you do, hold on to that. It can be a rare commodity for some. And if you havn’t yet and are still looking, take your own hand for a while. Never listen to anyone who tells you what you should or shouldn’t feel, even if that someone is you. Be as you are because by being as you are and accepting yourself you are giving yourself the greatest gift there is. If you feel lousy, you feel lousy. If you feel elated, you feel elated. If you feel like it’s all too much and you want it to stop honour that. You don’t have to act on it. Acceptance and acknowledgement are wildly different than action. Maybe things will be better tomorrow. Maybe they will be worse. Maybe nothing will change. Regardless next time someone tells you that you shouldn’t feel a certain way thank them, and remind them that you still do or if you don’t have the strength to disagree then nod and walk away, remembering to remind yourself that you still do.
Just because they won’t acknowledge what the world is like for you doesn’t mean that you have to stop acknowledging what it is like for yourself.