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  • Writer's picturepivotalcounselingl

Name it to Tame it!

I had an interesting interaction with a client recently that highlights the importance of language in mental health. This person was telling me about a significant other who had been manipulative in a situation where the significant other was clearly the impetus of the argument. My client felt at fault, although on some level they didn't regret what happened. The details are less important that what happened next. I gave a name to what was happening in the experience they had had. Gaslighting. It was naming it that brought my client peace and compassion for herself in this situation. My client found validation knowing this was a pattern that others experience enough to have its own name.

I often advise my clients who are experiencing difficult emotions outside of our sessions to be mindful and name emotions as they are occurring. Is what you are experiencing fear, sadness, isolation, criticism, anxiety, depression, frustration, shame? More than one word can describe what we may be feeling and that is ok too. Name them all!! The important thing is stepping back a bit and saying, "what is this I'm feeling?" Naming our emotions returns power to us by taking the power away from our fear of confronting whatever we are feeling. It can be liberating and reassuring to call it what it is because if there is a name for it then it is shared. Knowing that we are not alone in our suffering is healing and an important component of Self-Compassion. I work a lot from a Mindful Self Compassion framework. The common humanity of our suffering eliminates the loneliness that comes with feeling not okay, not worthy, or not valued.

Sometimes I help clients name what is happening. I can almost see the light bulb go on once we touch on that right word. And then relief. Sometimes I just remind them that naming it and taking their power back is okay and safe. Just the reminder that our emotions don't have to define us is freeing, transformational. So over the next week, when you feel uncomfortable or triggered in some way, take a moment to step back. Notice it, name it, and begin to reclaim the power you've lost to emotion.

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