Mad feels better than Sad, but does it?

Yesterday I lost one of the my first chickens. She was my Buff Orpington known affectionately as Nancy Drew. On Wednesday I saw that she was not doing well. In chicken farming, that usually means the end is near. Chickens do not let you know they are sick until it is too late. They hide their illness. I have learned not to feel bad anymore and that by the time I know, there is little I can do. I let myself feel sad rather than avoid the feelings. She was a good chicken who provided me with hours of joy and many, many eggs  Although she stopped laying a few years ago I felt she earned the right to stay for the duration of her life. I do not enjoy the painful feelings that come when we lose an animal, but it is inevitable as we usually outlive them. I also know that we humans as a group tend to hide or mask feelings a lot of the time.  For example, it is far more ladylike to look anxious than angry.

Therapists make mistakes too


Last week I continued to listen to a podcast of three jungian analysts. It is called “This Jungian Life.”  It helped me personally get through the pandemic. I would listen to them pretty much every night. I found myself feeling connected to them. It was very comforting.  Last week they spoke of all the anger around the country and that they felt that it was more related to how sad everyone is actually feeling about the current state of affairs. I felt they were exactly right about what is going on.  That is that “we would rather feel mad than sad.” Feeling mad is so much easier than allowing ourselves to feel sad.  Like when we leave a job or relationship, it’s easier to go when we feel mad vs. sad.  When I have a patient who is angry at me or  seems  mad, I will often ask to see if something I did made them feel upset. I make mistakes all the time.I am human. I readily own that I will NEVER be a perfect therapist. However, therapy is a relationship that is to be learned from. It is not only my patient who learns. I try not to beat myself up when I make mistakes, but I know I can feel badly when they happen. A mistake could mean me not offering empathy at the right moment, or letting my own feelings into the session.

Mean is the new normal

Outside my office I am disheartened to see the personal attacks on people for having differing opinions than one’s own. I have made a conscious choice to leave some forms of social media when it seems too personal. I wish we could all be kinder to one another and allow for differing opinions. Yesterday I was watching a conversation on social media. There were differing opinions. I watched one poster start a personal attack on the other poster for simply having a different view. I understand this comes from fear and sadness, but it seems endemic. That it seems to have become acceptable to lash out at people with differing views. I think the lack of dealing with that which makes us sad has infected social media. It has become a platform of meanness and “having to be right.” What might happen if we dealt with the sadness? I suspect those angry misguided feelings would evaporate. 

I will leave you today with a picture of Nancy Drew. She is the yellow one. She will always live on in my heart.

It Wasn’t The Fish

“One thing about which fish know exactly nothing is water, since they have no anti-environment which would enable them to perceive the element they live in.” ― Marshall McLuhan, War & Peace in the Global Village (1968)

Many times in life we can be so heavily immersed in something that we miss what is actually happening around us. What I mean by this is if I am so involved in a movement or cause that I may fail to see my own short comings or how I too am like what I seem to be fighting for or against. The bigger question is “what is it I am fighting against inside of me?” “What am I afraid I might be?” Sometimes those short comings can look opposite of what I am fighting for but in essence opposites are just different sides of the same coin. For example, the opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference. Hate is a very strong attachment to the previous loved object. So instead of actually letting go of the relationship or person, I am still holding on very tightly but in a negative way. This happens frequently in contentious divorces. If one or both parties “hate” each other they may fight for years in court. This does nothing more than keep the two very negatively attached. Or years later one or both parties is still unwilling to let go by keeping past grievances alive.

Can I get a side of Masochism, please?

So if I am a fish swimming in the water and I have nothing to compare the water to, I don’t really know that I am swimming in water. When my patient grows up in a family where she is told she is loved but family members are also mean to her, this becomes her “normal.” My patient then learns love comes with pain. Going forward, her adult relationships resemble this family pattern  She becomes masochistic.  Unbeknownst to her she picks very sadistic partners. That being loved in such a painful way is the norm. Ah, if someone really loves her then of course they would treat her badly!

Therapy is deeper work

Therapy is not to make us feel better and to have the therapist cheerlead away the problems. It is a process of discovery. It is learning to immerse ourselves in a discovery process. Lawyers use discovery to get at the truth. In therapy it’s kind of the same thing. Finding our truth is the way out of the dark and frequently murky water.