“I wish we would have come in sooner” and “I just want to be happy” are two statements I hear repeatedly in my office. Couples realize how much they have been holding on to their unresolved hurt and pain. They believe if they just swept it under the rug, that it would go away, only to discover that their rug is now touching the ceiling.
Sometimes, like that content green frog in the pot, we do not realize that the temperatures are rising more than we can bear. Every so often, we need someone outside of the boiling pot of water, outside of ourselves, to begin slowly helping us realize our discomfort and equip us with cooler water. I long for the day that therapy is seen as preventative care like going to the dentist twice a year. We all need tweaks. All of us, as individuals and as couples, need to be using different tools at times. What is working for us right now may not work for us in 3 months.
What are you doing to avoid or get rid of unwanted thoughts and feelings? Is it making your life better or worse as you sweep those thoughts and feelings under the rug? If we can learn what we are doing to avoid these certain thoughts and feelings, we can confront and work through the real issue. This is called creative hopelessness. It sounds counterintuitive. Creative hopelessness, according to Russ Harris, is “a process in which one becomes aware that trying hard to avoid or get rid of unwanted thoughts and feelings tends to make life worse rather than better…leading to a sense of hopelessness.” When we explore different ways of dealing with our thoughts and feelings, a more creative attitude will emerge.
Imagine the head space we would gain if we did not have to work so hard at avoiding! Some issues might even begin feeling less heavy. What would it be like for you to accept your feelings and be willing to sit in your difficult thoughts instead of fighting them or avoiding them?
Seeking therapy to help you become unstuck or gain another perspective is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and to those around you. When we work on ourselves, we become better humans, spouses, parents, co-workers. Everyone around us will be impacted in our improvement of our emotional and mental well-being. Sometimes we do not know how much emotional pain we are in until we go and begin dealing with what we have been avoiding. It’s equivalent to any physical pain. After my knee surgery last year, I did not realize how much pain I was in until after my knee stopped hurting. My body had accommodated the pain and physical therapy helped me walk appropriately again. The same is true when you go to a therapist. If you are struggling with an issue, seek guidance from a professional who is trained to be with you in your journey. Life is hard. This pandemic is hard. Unresolved pain and grief goes somewhere. Let someone help you tidy up your head space and bring the rug back onto the floor where it belongs.