Three Quick Quotes and a FREE resource – 3 March 2021
Spring is in the air … I’ve had my first jab … and lockdown is near to lifting … Things could be looking up! – but read on for the latest instalment in my series of unfortunate events (no gross photo allowed!) And check out our ‘Emotional Thermometer’ PDF resource.
“Therapy must be geared to maintain or enhance the client’s functioning, not just to provide symptom relief or a sense of catharsis or personal triumph. Although those are important goals, the “rubber hits the road” with the issue of functioning – the ability to live a life free from or less hindered by the lingering effects of the trauma. Functioning may become impaired during memory and emotion processing due to the distress and confusion that are elicited in facing troubling memories and emotions that previously lacked coherence and evaded understanding. Daily functioning may also be more difficult in Phase 2 because clients are relinquishing a familiar and comforting way of coping – namely, avoidance – and journeying through difficult and unfamiliar territory. The therapist directs and guides the client through this uncharted terrain and monitor and modulates the pace, intensity, and topical focus. Although decreased ability to function is commonly experienced, it is usually temporary. Over time, clients often find that their functioning begins to increase as they are free from the distractions and the emotional load of unresolved issues and feelings, including the fear and anxiety that long plagued them.”
“Core shame has a number of key symptoms that therapists need to keep an eye on. Unyielding perfectionism, a lack of self-care, and choosing partners that are either abusive or non-supportive are the most common. You also see expressions of shame in an inability to tolerate being alone or in individuals who attempt suicide after a breakup. For people with core shame, relatively minor abandonment is experienced as life threatening because it triggers implicit memories of early abandonment experiences. For some, any feedback suggesting that they are less than perfect triggers panic, making then unable to take risks, explore new ideas, or accept guidance.
When we are ashamed, our brains, like our bodies, shut down. Many who struggle with disabling shame have their cognitive and intellectual capacities negated by their negative emotions. In other words, it’s hard to think rationally or to see reality clearly when your brain is telling your mind that you are in danger of abandonment or death. One of my clients described it this way: ‘My shame makes it impossible for me to be loved because I’m certain I’m not lovable. Therefore, if someone does love me, I can’t possibly respect them because their judgment is so poor.’”
this week’s free resource
This emotional thermometer resource comes from the Emotional Resource Guide but is available here as a handy poster. It’s an example of how we can identify how safe we are feeling, what that looks like on a scale of zero to one hundred degrees, and it then encourages us to to figure out in advance some ideas of what we can do to cope.
snapshot of my week
This week I broke my toe. I would regale you with a photo of it, but was warned off from doing so by the threat of mass unsubscriptions, so I won’t! I broke it by doing that most dangerous of activities: standing up from the toilet. Literally. Somehow in turning and twisting away from the loo to wash my hands, my leg swung wildly out and forwards and stubbed violently into the skirting-board.
Even now I can’t really explain how it happened. All I know is that I spent the next ten minutes trying every psychological trick in the book – distraction, counting, breathing, swearing, imagining – to avoid actually throwing up from the pain of it. And then I decided that I was overreacting (clearly) and just employed denial and avoidance (closely followed by humour) to get on with my day, trying ever so carefully not to apply any kind of pressure to the front half of my foot. Walking was feasible as long as I mainly went heel first and only for a few paces at a time, whilst telling myself that I was evidently overreacting and that it didn’t hurt really.
Come bedtime, though, I took my sock off and experienced a mixture of both horror and pride at the incredible ring of bruising around the middle joint of my middle toe … It was impressive. So impressive that I took a photo of it to share with my friends (some were sympathetic; others grossed out by the mere mention of ‘feet’). And I realised that the pain I’d been experiencing all day actually had a reason for it.
It’s funny, isn’t it, how often we (or is just me?!) rationalise away the pain we’re feeling – physical pain, emotional pain – and assume that we’re making a fuss out of nothing? I was trained throughout childhood not to express pain. I’ve taken this habit, it seems, well into my forties. Even a broken toe feels like I’m being melodramatic, making a mountain out of a molehill! It’s also funny that I seemed to feel the pain more once I actually saw what my toe looked like – as if my brain connected the visual with the sensation and said, ‘Aah, that makes sense – NOW it hurts!’
In society generally, we’re told that to suppress our pain is ‘brave’ and to express it is ‘attention-seeking’. I grew up with this philosophy burned deep into me – in dangerous ways, in an abusive and pain-inflicting family. We’ve also been taught that physical pain is more acceptable societally than emotional pain. A broken toe is a good enough reason for someone to walk Pepsi for me this week … I wouldn’t dream of asking someone to do it because I was nursing a broken heart.
If you’re in pain this week, know that you’re not alone! Pain is painful … whatever kind of pain it is, and however it was caused.
(Having been advised against sharing my sore toe picture, here’s a gratuitous cute Pepsi pic instead!)