Therapists sit with suffering, while we hold onto hope, and so can you.
Updated: Sep 18, 2022
Everyday is a story more awful than the last. Things just feel bad all around. If you are even a remotely empathetic, compassionate, or highly-sensitive person (HSP) that bad-ness sits on your chest, tight & tense, and whispers a message of hopelessness. That badness can become the loudest thing you hear, that nothing will ever get better. I know because I experience this a person, but I also witness it as a therapist. I want you to know, however, that you can feel this pain, and you can hold hope too. I do it everyday. That’s basically what therapists do. We hold space for difficult emotions and we make room for hope. It’s a delicate job to make space for both, and even more delicate to do that inside of yourself, but it happens every single day nonetheless.
In fact, as a therapist I witness the duality, the non-binary, the dialectics of life each and every session. People are complex beings capable of many emotions, sometimes all wrapped up together. We can mourn losses and be a shoulder to cry on. We can be content and work hard for our goals. We can do really difficult things while holding space inside ourselves for peacefulness. We can do and feel seemingly opposing things at once, and we all do it, all the time.
We are not either/or beings. We are yes/and beings. We may feel like things are black and white, but we certainly are not. We are capable of so much more than we believe. Two opposite things can be true at once. Things can be really bad and things can be becoming better. Certainly our brains, with it’s shortcomings and biases, can struggle with this, but we can practice this way of thinking anyways. We can learn to focus our attention differently. Using this framework we can hold space for conflicts giving rise to progress. To struggles and happiness coexisting. To seeing things as they are and wishing for what we hope they will be. This allows us to kick the perfectionistic, critical lens out and open ourselves up to new possibilities. If it’s possible that I am capable of both negativity and determination, I keep marching up that hill. If I can be in a state of healing & recovery and a good enough friend or healer, I push forward into my full potential.
Here are a few ideas to get started:
Think about your own life. Where have these concepts shown up? Practice mindfulness, just be with whatever shows up. Start to notice when you feel tension in your body. Sense into the sensations. Are they similar or very different. Are you all angry/ sad/ frustrated or are there neutral spaces in your body? What are the messages coming up in your feelings and emotions? Is it just one thing or another? Make space for opposing ideas/beliefs. Can you open up enough to allow things to be, without trying to accept only one version of your truth? Write every morning from a stream of conscious perspective and look back at the end of the week. Even if you tend to be a more black&white thinker, do your emotions align that way? Think about your relationships. Can your partner be your number one supporter and fall short sometimes? If we open up to the idea that there is this and there is that, we can defuse some of the stress we feel. Whenever we can alleviate stress from our nervous systems, we open ourselves up to more happiness and wellbeing. A world with more gradient is a far more beautiful, expansive world.