What do you need right now?
About a month ago I attended a conference and while there I was part of a panel presentation. During the presentation, an audience member vulnerably shared her experience on the topic. Several people in the room took what she had to say personally, assumed it was directed towards them, and experienced some of their own guilt. She expressed her frustration in not being fully heard and shared that it was not personal. As the presentation unfolded, it slowly hit me that in taking what she had to say personally the focus was no longer on her experience and her vulnerability. This concept resonated for me in a way that it had not before.
It is not our children’s job to take care of us as parents. I think most of us parents would agree and even say that this is obvious. However, I wonder how often we create this dynamic without even realizing it. This was a topic on a recent clinical supervision call with Dr. Brad Reedy. A supervision call is a consultation group in which the Evoke team of therapists join to discuss specific therapeutic topics. He talked about how he almost always discourages parents from sharing “I Feel” statements with their children. I was surprised to hear this. As someone who is a deep feeler and also wants to role model emotional awareness for my children, I share my emotions fairly frequently. I also often encourage the parents of my clients to share their feelings.
“The Road to Self Belief is potholed.” Nyasha Madavo
Several years ago I started to notice this sense of free-floating anxiety. As I explored it deeper and worked with my own therapist, I recognized that my anxiety was connected to needing to be in motion. I felt the constant need to be doing, completing, and accomplishing. Slowly I began to recognize my struggle with just being, sitting, and really feeling. With being, came self-judgment. I made the realization that my sense of self-worth was tied into my ability to be productive and my fear that if I am not productive and purposeful then I won’t be good enough. As I built this awareness, I was able to explore new ways of showing up in the world. I began to push against my own discomfort, fears, and insecurities in order to embrace just being. This was no easy feat and I cannot pretend to have mastered it. However, I will say that I no longer believe I need to be productive in order to feel good about myself and I no longer feel that free-floating anxiety.
A tool I find myself teaching almost every parent I work with is to LAV on their children. LAV stands for Listen-Acknowledge-Validate. So often with the people we love most, we skip these three key steps and charge head first into fixing and finding a solution. I too am guilty of this both as a therapist and as a human. By skipping these three steps we often set ourselves up for what feels like resistance from the other person. But can you blame them? Two of our most basic human needs include feeling connected and understood. I personally do not feel either when someone swoops in and tells me how to fix my problem, how to be better. In fact in that moment I feel like the underlying message is “you are broken, you’re not good enough.” I may eventually want to brainstorm and figure out a solution but first I really just want to be heard, seen, listened to.
In 2003, I became a field instructor at Entrada. I could not have predicted that I would spend the next decade living in Southern Utah and working at the same company, first as an assistant therapist and then as a primary therapist. The truth is that I fell in love with the work and the company. On a weekly basis I had the honor of witnessing profound transformations for young people who initially showed up feeling angry, sad, depressed, anxious, hopeless and the list goes on. I had the privilege of sitting under the stars by a warm fire listening to people courageously tell their story and start to find healing. It often did not feel like work.
“Don’t ask the world what it wants from you, ask yourself what makes you come to life. Because what the world really needs are more people who have come to life.”