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'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.
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.
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 trauma, building shame resilience, and setting boundaries.
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.