When people make the often-difficult decision to come into therapy, they are usually going through an incredibly tough time, and feeling a ton of undesirable feelings.
But sometimes those negative feelings are quite conflicting for them, because they seem to be heading towards feelings they very much want to feel more of.
For example, about a year ago I met with a client who came into therapy because her anxiety had been through the roof, but the cause of that anxiety was something she was doing that she thought she very much needed to do more of. You see, this client was beginning to experiment with the idea that she might be transgender. She was going out into the world as female for the first time in her life, though she was in her 50’s and the world had only ever read her as male up until she started to do this. She told me that she wanted her anxiety to go away, and when I asked what she hoped would replace it, she said happiness. She said that she had, for the first time in her life, gone out as female just a few weeks before our first chat, and she was more anxious doing that than she had ever been before. I asked her how she knew, though she was feeling so anxious, that she was doing something that was right for her, and she said because she also felt incredibly happy, a happiness she described as the first true happiness she thinks she’d ever experienced about who she was. I asked her what difference that happiness was making for her, and she said it was giving her the drive to keep doing this incredibly anxiety provoking thing, going out as her true self, to work through the anxiety and land in a place where that happiness was more prominent. She said she wanted to follow that happiness, wherever it might lead.
So, she did just that. And today she’s fully transitioned, and hasn’t felt that anxiety in months. She followed her happiness through the toughest feeling she ever had, and landed in a place she wouldn’t have ever gotten to if she was just trying to avoid the tough feelings of anxiety to begin with.
Sometimes you must pay more attention to the positive feelings than to the negative ones, because following the positive ones can give you the strength to move through the negative ones, and as a result help you land in the place that is most right for you.
Following happiness through the scary minefield, to the land of our desired outcome.
Rebekka Ouer, LCSW