I’m Sorry You Have to Hear all This
Therapy is kind of weird in some ways. The whole idea is that a person, couple or family will share their concerns with a therapist who listens and (hopefully) responds in a helpful way. Together they come up with ideas about how the client can better cope or move forward with their situation. It is intentionally a one-sided experience.
Occasionally, clients will apologize for telling me the very things they are coming to therapy to talk about. They seem concerned about burdening another person with their problems. Some express concern that I spend my days listening to the problems of others. This is a lovely reflection of their caring hearts and their awareness of the human relationship involved in counselling.
But when someone tells me they are sorry I have to hear their story, I’m surprised, because I’m not feeling sorry about it myself. In fact, when we as therapists talk about hearing the stories of others, we generally describe feeling honoured, humbled, and having a sense of being given a sacred trust.
Client’s stories are a window into their life. They show a bit of someone’s experiences or history, and how they cope with it. Stories give clues that help us make sense of current experiences and symptoms—they help us understand why anxiety has shown up, or how relationships have spun out.
When therapists hear stories, we aren’t just passive listeners as someone vents. Instead, we interact with the storyteller and help shape the story as it is told. As a result, when we hear a story of trauma, we are also hearing a story of endurance and resilience.
Coping at Christmas
For many people, holidays like Christmas are a time of joy, connection and celebration. But, let’s face it, not everyone likes Christmas. Whether it is your friend, your loved one, your neighbour, or even you yourself, there are some who are finding Christmas hard this year.
So what helps, when the holidays are hard rather than happy? That might be different for each person, depending on their situation, needs and personality. Each of us needs a personalized plan for intentionally addressing the hazards of the holidays and adding layers of self-care. Here are four categories of strategies that you might want to draw from.
Keeping things the same
Part of what makes the holidays special are those annual rituals, events and symbols that add meaning and connection. Whether lighting advent candles, or trekking out to find a tree every year, it can be helpful to keep the traditions alive even if you have to push yourself to participate.
Similarly, daily routines such as consistent mealtimes, bedtimes and regular exercise help stabilize our moods and emotions, and are particularly important to keep up during the holidays, which is when we are most likely to let them go.
Changing things up
This year might be the time to start new traditions and rituals that reflect the new family realities, or your changing personal needs. For example, you might find a way to remember those who can’t be with you by adding a special ornament to the tree, or arranging a visit to the cemetery.