New Beginnings Therapy

Managing emotions: Strategies - October 2019

 Disclosure statement: the following events are imaginary and any real life associations are by chance and chance alone. This exercise was created for the purpose of suggesting creativity on alleviating and processing difficult emotional content. In psychotherapeutic terms such strategies are employed during sessions and processed in sessions with your therapist. 

 It is never going to be easy to form a composite case of several clients and present a meaningful story. What I had in mind is more than one instance, more than one encounter, more than one story and yet, somehow, it all forms part of a whole that can only be named as a form of “care” system.

Few years back, on my return from one of my long days servicing a psychotherapeutic service centre in East London, it was realised that my sessions’ recorder remained on On mode in my handbag. After a training session with a client, I simply turned it off and placed it safely inside my handbag, but for some reason it continued recording my journey back home. Safely, this instance was singular and only realised as being an event about 12 months later when I was going through some recordings of my son’s piano lessons from early on in his primary school years. I was also able to retrieve a digital recording of a session where under my consultancy space, explorations on various aspects of child development were present with thoughts concluding that children at around 13 years of age can misinterpret verbal communication. It was and still is all on digitally recorded notes and yet, it is conceived that even after many moons and multiple months or so, my emotional response to recorded words have a similar content response on my part in terms of therapeutic reflections. I still wonder how and why that may be possible. Positively and categorically potential that may be the case because this encounter could be classified as significant in terms of what I regard necessary in practice actions.

A wise man told me once, not long ago, that:

“You need to stop, you will never going to win against the system!” - Never disagreed with him and or his statement, not then and not now, I do, however, disagree that I have ever or I shall ever work against a system, human made or otherwise. I have never considered myself an outsider, or an insider for that matter, and in psychotherapeutic terms, insider could be analogue with systemic, but at a closer read, it is all about strategy and freedom – both humanly and naturally educated, choice based human right or freedom of thought and speech – what is that called again?

On some of my son’s piano playing recordings, my son is also telling me that he loves me and he misses me – probably moments of growth and understanding where mum is not around and children need to be able to manage separation and self-soothe but also equal to being quite emotionally open in being able to talk about feelings and express/articulate them in age appropriate language.

Listening to my son’s piano practice on voice rec 1 2 3 4 5 6 and then to some of my recordings  played on same handset, it made me quite upset. What is it that a social care system provides to those most in need? And then again, I need to balance my response, and suspend judgment one more time, nevertheless, what it cannot be said as elicited were an absolute empathic understanding. And that is fair enough given that that specific therapeutic encounter was in process. Vividly recalled as it happened yesterday, my photographic memory is a great disadvantage in such moments.

Managing emotions is exactly about an agility and ability of detaching and a non-engagement in what already can be assessed as a misfortunate life event and, as it is in this case, part of a reflective practice exercise. The truth is that such encounters exists and need to be interpreted within their practice context and at no point sought changes should come from an advice, but therapeutic guidance.

Managing emotions story is about reliving an encounter many months after its existence and discover that passage of time did little to alter an understanding on its initial emotional content lived/experiences – it is also fair to note, that upon revisiting the audio files, I was rather successful in self/prompting new revelations and also  reinforcing the accuracy of my initial analysis.

Managing emotions script it’s about experiences that are left in the therapy room and experiences that are carried away to be processed - clinical work is like a pyramid of phantom feelings that are carefully and expertly managed. In being able to listen to my journey back and last minutes of one day in my therapy room, I was able to diligently recall each and every moment and re-live experiences and process its content to what are merited to discussion; sessions for training purpose were absolved of such questions, however all such moments are about captured life, a journey and a return home.

 My son’s piano practice recordings are moments of happiness, with his insistence in pleasantly surprising me and making a statement of both his self-soothing strategies and growing up stage, my son reminded me of what truly matters. The parallel here is that, my recording continued into my personal journey home after a challenging day at work, and even if quite unaware and unintentional, I offered myself an after the event warning that clearly says: “Leave work at work when you return home”! Quite the statement of a well/known self/care strategy that in my line of work really isn’t a straight forward way to address it,  and that sometimes. 

My son’s piano practice recordings made it all clear as to why that may be the case. But, it did something more essential than a gentle reminder on self-care strategies, it reminded me of ingrained ways of humanly managing difficult emotional states - make a record of them! Be it that you are doing so in a digital format, in writing, verbally talking to someone or drawing, painting, there is never too late to articulate and express whatever it is that it’s felt as a need/want to be said, explored, examined – the passage of time alone it's not necessarily going to offer relief on a distress or a challenge, my 8/9 year old made that choice for himself. I had 13 recordings in one recorder – all types of voices, sounds, noises, dialogues, conversations, London streets, therapeutic moments, a child’s voice, music and background of a piano playing practice, nevertheless, my son’s voice/messages and my recorded steps - symbolic rhythmic journey home - mattered most to me. It is what I hold dear and what stays with me, it is what it's personal, I hear it, I see it and I feel it with every fiber of my being – for that I need not developing new techniques.

The other day, a mentee asked me if I could suggest any strategy that can be successfully applied as a form of prioritizing and completing a task at its initial deadline. My answer were: Yes and No, as it really depends from case to case.

Managing emotions script is not about offering a strategy, it is about offering an understanding, in that sometimes we can be surprised by how and what we feel and a good start in managing such emotional states it is being able to recognise it and trace it back to its provenience.