We have been tasked to reflect on emotions that we carry, hold, share freely, shared cautiously etc. We are moving into experiential work and I know that I need to be able to distinguish between my own emotions, my empathic responses to emotions (felt sense) from the client, and my emotional responses to the client and the process of that moment.
I’m choosing irritation for this blog because I’m going to let loose. As a people pleaser (see 7a!) I tend to be, do and respond in ‘socially accepted’ ways so that people will like me – let me give you some stuff to see if you know what I mean…
– writing and handing out Christmas cards to people who have given them to me; Secret Santa; the office meal/party; looking like I’m listening when I’d really rather be somewhere else; repaying a compliment; not ever screaming; smiling because “it might never happen”; putting on a brave face; saying “Fine, thanks. How are you?”
We all play roles and it feels like the role we take that makes the most people accept us occasionally becomes a prison. I’m relatively new to my job and I presented myself as pleasant, sociable, willing to help out etc. Basically following the rules. I quickly got lots of work. Recently, for a number of reasons, I’m not sleeping well and a lack of sleep combined with hormones and just plain familiarity has reduced my tolerance levels. I am irritated by getting up, sorting breakfast, driving to work, dealing with some of my co-workers, my chair, pain, dirty cups…sorry, the list could be endless. My usual way of dealing with irritation is to sit quietly, plough through the essentials, and effectively lock down until it passes and I am amazed by the reactions of some people when I don’t play my role. I have said no to work or helping out and people have nearly collapsed. I have tried to explain when I’m asked but then some people feel that they must diagnose or suggest remedies whilst others want to top my story (“You think you’re having it bad? Well let me tell you…”) Still others, I know are smiling and sympathising yet having a dig when I walk away. All this makes me want to withdraw more. I’ve tried simple clarity “I’m not sleeping well, my tolerance is low and I’d prefer to be left alone, thanks” but some people find that offensive, or sad, or even as invitation to comment on how I’m not myself and I’m even more irritated by the fact that I don’t feel I am allowed to be truly me, shitty bits and all, because we all must get on with it. I am judged when I’m irritated and I am forced to measure me against other people’s acceptable constructs.
In therapy, I must work to show acceptance of the other and her deepest, darkest elements. I must use all of my presence to give the other total freedom to be who she wants to be in that moment. However, I cannot support someone to be self-accepting if I am not able to sit with and accept myself. I don’t want to present my brave face or get stuck in small-talk swapping when I really need to be alone with my own thoughts, but voicing that truth brings a shame and a judgement that I am not the Colette that everyone else wants me to be, when they want me to be that. I want to scream, shout and tell people to piss right off. I want to laugh with real abandon. I want to not feel tired and irritated but feel absolutely okay about feeling tired and irritated when I do.