Okay okay, so by now it's cliche for a therapist to ask about feelings. But seriously. Feelings are important! And I can't tell you the number of times I hear "okay", "fine", or "good" to this question. Since fine is not a feeling, I'm guessing that underneath this short response is a lot more than meets the eye. I'm a big believer that when we can name and understand our emotional experience, there's room to transform through it. And I know that "fine" is a bit of a social mannerism, but you can usually trust that when it's your therapist that's asking, it's okay to move beyond the surface.
I found this feelings wheel online, and one of the neat things I've found when I use it is this: In any given moment, we experience more than just one feeling. And when we pay attention to our emotional landscape, we also notice that the combination of feelings change, sometimes from one moment to the next.
So the implication of all this is that when we feel lost in grief, fear, and despair, we can remind ourselves that there's more to our experience than this. And, as impossible as it is to believe sometimes, our feelings are also constantly moving. What we feel in this moment is not what we feel for the rest of our lives, even when it seems we're so deep in something we won't be able to climb back out. We can, and do. From one moment to the next.
So next time you're tempted to answer "fine" to the typical "how are you feeling?", remind yourself that fine is not a feeling, and get familiar with the following list! :)
I'm currently reading Peter Levine's "Healing Trauma" and feeling SO GRATEFUL that he's written out a handy list of words to describe bodily sensations. When I work with clients, I often ask them to describe thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations of any given experience - and a lot of folks struggle with this! Most of us live in our heads and have a difficult time finding words for these other, equally important, parts of ourselves. So the next time your therapist asks how you are, instead of "okay" or "not so good", try asking yourself what sensation in your body tells you you're feeling that way.
Now here's that handy list of words I promised! Thanks Peter Levine!
Working in the area of sexual violence has taught me that for many folks, understanding our experience and having a name for it can help us heal from it. Knowing the definitions of sexual assault and consent and being able to claim the word "survivor" can be extremely powerful.
I'm incredibly grateful to be part of a collective called ConsentEd, and through our advocacy work we've created a website with (among a ton of other resources and info!) basic definitions to help both the general public and survivors themselves understand this issue better. Since I do a lot of work with sexual violence, and so many of us have experienced it, I decided this was a good place to start. So, from the ConsentEd website, I'll offer a definition of sexual violence:
"Sexual violence is a broad term which includes sexual assault, sexual harassment, street harassment, relationship violence, child sexual abuse and stalking. While each of these types of violence may look different, they all involve an attack on a person’s sense of self, their sexuality, their body and/or their feeling of safety. It can happen to anyone of any gender and of any sexual orientation.
It is important to remember that all forms of sexual violence are interconnected and equally important. All types of sexual violence can have a profound impact on an individual, and they all contribute to a rape-prone world."
For more definitions, please check out the pages on sexual violence and on consent.
Words are important. They have the power to shape how we think about the world, each other, and ourselves. Words have a huge role in our view of mental health – the use of diagnostic labels being just one example. Words also have a huge role to play in how we view others – those separated from us in terms of race, class, sexual orientation, ableness, gender, and a thousand other ways we categorize “otherness”. The words we use in that dreaded self-talk can also be a lot more impactful than we realize. This blog is a place to slow down and examine the words we use and how they impact us in both our personal and collective mental health. I believe that words are powerful, but I also believe that we have the power to change our language to shape the kind of world we want to live in.
Nicole Perry is a Registered Psychologist and writer with a private practice in Edmonton. Her approach is collaborative and feminist at its heart. She specializes in healing
About the Blog
This space will provide information, stories, and answers to big questions about some of my favorite topics - boundaries, burnout, trauma, self compassion, and shame resilience - all from a feminist counselling perspective. It's also a space I'm exploring and refining new ideas.