Here’s the scene: A new client enters my office and we say “Hi” and get comfy. I explain a couple of ways we can go about our first meeting: she can ask me some questions or she can tell me a little bit about what’s going on and we can talk about how I might help. Usually people pick the latter. As the person starts telling me a bit about with what they’re struggling, their cheeks get a little pink, their eyes get glassy, and the tears start welling up. Inevitably, the person on the couch apologizes.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that it’s hard to cry in front of someone you’ve just met. It’s just that I so wish to help people understand what courage it takes to be vulnerable to come to a therapist in the first place–especially if you haven’t been in therapy in the past; to understand that their tears are something for us both to honor and for which to make room. Of course, if this was easy most folks wouldn’t be coming to therapy in the first place. And so in the end, it’s just something else for us to work on. How can we recognize the ways that we’ve internalized the societal message that vulnerability, sadness, and fear–that any of our shadow parts–are cause for shame.
Another thing I often hear is: “I know it probably sounds silly but…” and “You’ll probably think I’m crazy but…” I can tell you that in my 7 years of work as a therapist in private practice I have not once heard a silly or “crazy”-sounding second half of that sentence. When we feel the need to qualify, apologize, or offer a disclaimer for our honest, human feelings or struggle we can know that we are caught in our own self-judgement. We can work on feeling where we hold that shame or embarrassment in our bodies and bring loving attention to that place.