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The Worst Thing a Therapist Can Say to You

As a past therapist, there is one pet peeve I have that therapists say all the time! It's so wrong and drives me insane. Read to find out what it is...
make you feel

Coaches and therapists say this, but more so therapists. I am putting it out there as a personal rant for today’s blog because I just need to get it out in case you have a coach or therapist who says this thing I hate and is one of the worst things they can say!

So let’s imagine you are watching a TV show that depicts the typical “patient” lying on the long couch in a therapist’s office. We can pretend it’s a young woman who’s seeing the therapist for relationship troubles. She tells the therapist about a conversation with her boyfriend this past weekend and the therapist says…(can you guess it?)

“How does that MAKE you feel?”

I’ll be right back, I need to go scream in a pillow.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! 

Ok, I feel better now.  I HATE this question so much. I’m sure you’ve heard this before whether on a movie, TV show or even in your personal experience (I’m so sorry if you were ever asked this).  

Let me just say I am all about client empowerment.  I want my clients to feel they can take control of their lives, reach their goals, and discover their full potential through every choice they make.  The moment this question is asked it disempowers and strips you of your choices.  Something outside of you is “making” you feel.  It’s saying you are powerless against your emotions and just have to accept them or blame someone or something else.  

I can play along here with an example…

This should not happen:

…so let’s say the young woman responds to the therapist and dialogue goes something like this:

Woman: “…then he said he wasn’t ready to move in with me.”

Therapist: “How did that make you feel?”

Woman: He made me feel depressed because he didn’t want to move in with me.” 

Therapist: “Yes, he made you feel sad because you wanted to move in with him”

Woman: “Why would he do this to me?!”

Therapist: “We will never know what he thinks”

I get twitchy just reading this. This is blaming the boyfriend for her feelings.  Now her response has officially taken away her power over her emotions and brought the session focus on her boyfriend.

It’s not the woman’s fault for responding this way. Her therapist gave her the idea there was something else to blame, something else that “made her feel.” She set her up to disempower herself. 

To be clear, no one “makes you feel.”  Sure you can have your feelings, but you are in control of what happens next.  Lots of people like to blame others for not having control over their emotions.

I’m sure you know someone who says “They made me feel…” instead of “I felt…when…”

Now let’s replay a different way with the following dialogue…

This should happen:

Woman: “…then he said he wasn’t ready to move in with me.”

Therapist: “How were you feeling after he said that?”

Woman: “Well, I was depressed because he didn’t want to move in with me.” 

Therapist: “That’s understandable, I know you wanted to move in with him from our last session.  Did this moment remind you of another time?”

Woman: “Yes, it reminded me of when my best friend from high school didn’t want to room with me in college, so immediately I felt anxious about not having someone to live with”

Therapist: “It sounds like you have some fear about living alone”

Woman: “Yes, I do. My parents always told me I wasn’t mature enough to live on my own”

Now, this is a therapy example, so it’s going to go into deeper symptoms, etc.  In coaching, we look forward and not behind so the conversation would be more about transformation and renewal rather than exploring her past. You can see how the 2nd conversation gets to the real issues. It is not about the boyfriend being blamed, it’s about the woman taking ownership of her feelings and getting to the bottom of where they came from so she can learn to work through them. She has a lot of things to work through from her past that have affected her. 

I hope this article helps you understand that nothing “makes you feel.”  You are in full control of your emotions and recovering from the not so good ones (even if during the dark times it doesn’t feel that way). There’s no reason to blame anyone because feelings are perfectly natural and you are perfectly human.  We all have good days and bad days and we can all move forward learning more about ourselves and know we have the power to overcome.  

You got this! 

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