Distress is not always about what IS happening

by Fe Robinson

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​It seems natural to be distressed when something awful has happened. A death. A traffic accident. Abuse. Faced with situations like these, people generally find they can make sense of their upset and as a result can find ways to work through it.

What can sometimes be more challenging is embracing our emotions when they are evoked not by what happened, but by what did not happen.  

For example, there may have been times when people who ought to have been have not been there for us.  They may have literally been absent, or they may have been emotionally out of reach, leaving us to fend for ourselves in difficult circumstances. This is hurtful enough as an adult, but can be very damaging for children, particularly young children.

Not everyone who suffers mental health symptoms has experienced traumas such as abuse. For many people, coping with day to day life and emotions without depression or anxiety results from the drip, drip, drip of many, many seemingly small events where they have not felt emotionally safe, and have therefore not learned how to contain their emotions and care for themselves.

Understood in this way, symptoms can be known as old attempts to solve to old problems that have now become a problem in their own right. For example, if emotions are consistently disapproved of we may have learned not to acknowledge or express what we feel, in time this becomes automatic rather than a choice.  We can be stuck with it. 

If you have persistent feelings that trouble you, like depression or anxiety, and do not know how they arose or what sustains them, then maybe psychotherapy may be helpful. Why not seek out a psychotherapist locally to support you in finding new ways?

 

To sign up for a monthly digest of mental health self-help material, visit www.ferobinsonpsychotherapy.co.uk/get-in-touch

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