In Touch with Your Feelings? It Takes More Than That
Therapy can often be seen as a way of getting in touch with our feelings. In fact, when we talk about getting in touch with our feelings, it's often therapy that first comes to mind for people – that going to therapy is all about feelings. However, the truth is that even though therapy can be effective for this, for many it's not the main purpose of therapy – it's actually much broader than that. Its about feelings, thoughts and actions.
Different people, different capabilities
We all have our strengths and weaknesses. For some people, talking about their feelings comes very easy. They can be quick to become emotional and can really well understand the ebb and flow of what they are feeling, and they find those feelings easy to put into words.
Others find it harder to talk about their feelings, and can become confused when asked questions like “what you feel?” or “what's going on inside?”. For some people, these questions just don't make a lot of sense and they can go blank when they're asked.
If we are someone who is comfortable and at ease with talking about feelings, when we encounter someone who isn't, it can be frustrating and confusing for us. “Surely they must know what they feel? Why aren't they telling me what they feel? What are they holding back on?”.
‘Feeling people' begin to wonder if they can actually have a relationship with somebody who isn't comfortable with their feelings. Their behaviour can seem mysterious.
So many of us have a strong bias towards the things that we're actually good at. we want other people to be just as good at those things as we are, and when they aren't, we become frustrated and then try to find ways for them to change. That's just human nature.
Different people, different struggles
People are different. Whilst some people are at ease with their feelings (whether expressing them or talking about them), other people are not at ease at all. However, this is likely because they have developed in other areas such as thinking or doing. Whilst these people might not be very good with their feelings, they can be exceptional at the those other primary domains of human activity, thinking and doing.
Thinking and doing are extraordinarily valuable things, and are not to be dismissed. In fact, aren't they worthy attributes to develop? Perhaps therapy can help there too.
The real purpose of therapy
Rather than just developing our feelings, we can think of therapy as being something valuable to get in touch with all of our different parts; for some people that can be getting in touch with their feelings, but rather for other people it can be getting in touch with our thinking, or, with our ability to take action as well.
The aim of therapy is to develop the whole person so that you become more effective in every way, not just with an increased ability to emphasise feelings.
The way forward with feelings, thoughts and actions
Therapy develops the whole person – feelings, thoughts and actions. It deepens the self, which makes you just like you are but more so.
Certainly, therapy can help you change some of your behaviours; certainly you can become more capable at understanding and expressing your feelings. However, the real power of therapy is that you can use it to change what you need it change – whatever that is. It much more than just advice.
I'd be interested in your thoughts. If you would like to read more, here and here are two other posts I have written on similar subjects.
– Tim Hill
Bohart, Arthur C., and Jeanne C. Watson. “Person-Centred Psychotherapy and Related Experiential Approaches.” In Essential Psychotherapies: Theory and Practice, edited by Stanley B. Messer and Alan S. Gurman, 3rd edition. Guilford Press, 2011. p.231
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