Unstuck: Moving Past Difficult Emotions
By Trisha Gibson, MA, LPCC, LICDC
Licensed Psychotherapist, Connective Clinical Counseling, LLC
Sometimes in life, difficult things happen that are outside of our control like divorce, an affair, loss of a job, denied a promotion, someone cut us off in traffic, or having disagreements with family or friends. No matter how big our small, it is distressing. We may tell ourselves, “This isn’t fair. That shouldn’t happen. I can’t stand this. It shouldn’t be this way.” These are logical responses to circumstances that don’t go as we had planned. An old Buddhist saying says, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” Let’s look at this a bit deeper.
When we are distressed, we fight reality with those thoughts that it isn’t fair or it shouldn’t be this way. In an attempt to avoid the feelings of pain relating to the disappointment, sadness, or loss, we add suffering to the pain by trying to avoid or change the circumstances by refusing to accept that it happened by telling ourselves that it shouldn’t have happened. We are building the emotions bigger through resisting what is. The thoughts of the unfairness keep circulating. We become stuck. We may tell ourselves, “I’m anxious and not ok.”
A form of psychotherapy called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) tells us that two opposite things can exist at the same time. From this perspective, we can switch from right and wrong, either/or thinking and realize that we can be anxious and ok at the same time. It can mean that, “I am right and you are right” at the same time. DBT teaches us to be able to manage our distress in various ways, but I specifically want to discuss one skill called Radical Acceptance. Acceptance does not mean approval. It is important to know that. We don’t have to be ok with what happened for us to accept that it did happen. When we tell ourselves something shouldn’t have happened, we are trying to change what happened by fighting reality. It’s difficult to accept something that we didn’t want to happen. Radical Acceptance allows us to simply recognize that this did happen allowing us to process through the situation without becoming stuck by trying to change past events.
Practicing Radical Acceptance can lead us to more healthier statements like, “I don’t like what happened, but it did happen,” or, “I don’t approve of what happened but I can’t change it.” Remember, DBT teaches us that two opposites can exist at the same time, so now we can get to, “I’m anxious and I’m ok” at the same time. This skill can help us to manage distress in a more effective way and allow us to begin navigating through the healing process.
If you are having difficulty working through difficult emotions, professional counseling can help you learn to navigate thoughts and feelings that lead to distress in a supportive environment.
For more information about visit www.connectiveclinicalcounseling.com