Honestly, my clients know that I sometimes say off the wall things. Ok, more than sometimes. I like to use metaphors (like every dyed in the wool therapist) and sometimes even I don’t know where I pull them from. It's not uncommon for me to use examples from Gilmore Girls or Braxton Family Values, or really anything that pops into my head and seems even marginally applicable. Phrases like "that's just like this one episode of Pretty Little Liars, where X Y and Z happened" and "it's like that old pair of jeans we all hang on to and try to squeeze our butts in" are just a few nuggets of wisdom I've dropped on the winding road of clinical connections I make.
That leads me to share this: I told a client to plan a pity party... I know, right? Like...huh? As therapists, we strive to instill hope and optimism, which I totally do, but I also help clients to sit with their emotions, rather than avoid or invalidate them.
In a bid for continual optimism, I find that many clients (and people in general) quickly try to find the silver lining, the lesson inside the situation, the testimony in the test (a nod to all my folks who grew up in the Black church). But I think this sometimes rushes the emotional process and leads to ignoring real true feelings occurring. So, when processing trauma and client reported feeling bad for themself, I said "well, let's plan a pity party. Who's on the guest list?"
Walk with me here on this psychobabble journey while I (try to) explain what I'm saying. I believe the best way to deal with emotions is to experience them. Acknowledge them, sit with them, roll around with them like a pig in sh*t! Yup, I said that to a client before. This can be scary because, oftentimes, the emotions are not ones we like to experience. We may not even know how to feel them. Emotions sometimes are so raw that they cause physical pain. Yet, the benefit of inviting them into the therapy room is that we can sit with them together. We can breathe through them together. I can be a support and guide. And if afterward, someone wants to throw their own shindig, they have the confidence that they can get through it, just like we did collaboratively during session.
I had a pity party yesterday. It was fun, you know? I invited anger, sadness, irritability, dread, hopelessness, exhaustion. It was a full guest list, girl. I was casual chic, wearing a nightgown and bonnet. We had pizza and dessert and a bit of wine; then we washed our faces and brushed our teeth and went to bed. Today, I am up and grateful that I gave myself some time to process. To be clear, the emotions have not completely disappeared, but I appreciate that I gave myself the time to actually feel them, to acknowledge and honor them, to validate my reactions; I believe the emotions would have been much more present today if I had not chilled a bit with them yesterday.
So, who are you inviting to your pity party? Remember to not let the guests overstay their welcome. And if you need an experienced pity party planner, feel free to contact me. - Dr. B