Of course, we would never request any such documents, and in fact it does not actually matter to us what “really” happened, only the impact that it had on our client, how they feel about it and how they can move forward.
It raises an interesting question of whether reality actually matters and what is reality anyway. We know that every person experiences events subjectively, perceiving them through a compex prism, impacted by their own background, values and a way of being in the world. Often we can live through the most harrowing ordeal and cope very well with it. And then someone’s throwaway comment in an office impacts us so much that we can’t stop thinking about it for weeks.
Frequently we use the seemingly “objective” description of events to allow ourselves to feel a certain way about them. For example, a death of a loved one--naturally we expect to be in pieces. Stood up on a date--not so much. But there is no rule book about what should and should not touch us emotionally. Our feelings, emotions and reactions communicate valuable information to us about what matters, particularly if we can find some space to be mindful of them.
Sometimes when clients come to us for the first time, they say things like “therapy is so indulgent”, “lots of people have it much worse” or “another person needs this slot more than me”. The question we ask is “are you suffering?” If the answer is yes, you have the right to have help.
Accepting our emotions without judging them, changing them or linking them to particular past “facts” is one of the themes of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which is sometimes called third-wave CBT, as it developed from the same theoretical orientation. There is a growing body of evidence for the effectiveness of ACT, particularly in improving psychological well-being, reducing stress and anxiety.
We have found that ACT works really well for a lot of our clients, especially where other more traditional approaches have not been effective. One of our clients found it so useful that she has created a prototype app project to make the skills accessible to the wider audience.
You don’t need permission from anything or anyone to feel how you feel. Your truth is “the” truth. Nevertheless, acknowledging and respecting our own feelings, whatever these may be, does not need to paralyze us or stop us from taking committed action towards value-based life goals.
Fernwood Clinic Team
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