Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

When Disruptive Emotions are Normal

I recently met with a client who told me she had “gone downhill” since our therapy session the previous week. She said she had felt so good directly after our session and now she was really “back in her feels.” She was upset that she was upset.


I hear both of these things frequently from clients.


First: my clients typically report feeling good for a few days after therapy until a disruptive event or something else activated them. It makes sense, they leave therapy feeling heard and understood. They are grounded and ready to move forward with the week. And then, as it happens in life, something throws them off.


An illustration by Art Therapist Jackie Schuld of a small person who is standing and grimacing because they are upset.
"Upset" Illustration by Jackie Schuld

Second: my clients often are upset that they are upset again. They want disruptive and activating events to not phase them. They want to stay in the neutral to positive range of thoughts and emotions.


I get it. That range is pleasant.


When I explored with my client what happened, she shared that her partner’s friend had said something offensive to her. When she spoke with her partner privately about it, her partner told her she was being “too sensitive.” My client tried to explain further why the comment hurt her feelings, which led to her partner digging in and claiming that she’s always overexaggerating and taking things the wrong way.


Regardless of whether her partner “had a point” or was right (as a therapist, I cannot know the full story), her partner certainly did not communicate their opinions in an effective, connected, or loving manner.


After a conversation like that, I want my client to feel angry, sad, and any other emotion she is feeling. It means her body is working. It means she is able to recognize when her own needs are not being met (needs for being understood, seen, heard, trusted, etc.). Her “upset” emotions are an important messenger.


Furthermore, my client was experiencing unmet needs on multiple levels. First, there was the interaction with her partner’s friend. Second, there was her partner’s dismissal of the event. Third, there was her partner’s extrapolation of the event to her entire life.


Thus, my client was understandably experiencing disruptive emotions and thoughts. This is not anxiety or her “feeling too much” or being “too sensitive.” It is a normal response to a difficult experience.


Women are often made to feel like there is something wrong with them or that they are crazy, when that is simply not the case.


When I listened to my client and validated her emotions and thoughts, she immediately began to calm down. As we talked more about how her emotional response was normal, she was able to return to a grounded place - which she hadn’t been able to do for two days since the event happened.


I help clients learn how to provide this for themselves: to recognize when their own responses are normal. To validate their own feelings. To understand the unmet needs behind their feelings. That they can trust themselves. That they are not being too emotional or over thinking - they are appropriately responding to difficult events.

 

Thank you for reading. If you would like support as you learn to work with overwhelming thoughts and emotions,

you can schedule a free therapy consultation here.



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