Vulnerability is Tiring
December 4, 2012 by
Categories: Miscellaneous

As I sat, watching my husband lug big sheets of drywall and durock back and forth from the bathroom, I started wondering – why in the world isn’t he collapsing with exhaustion. It’s 8:00pm, and he has been working on our bathroom remodel since before he went to work (where he works on other people’s homes). And yet, he is still going strong! And here I am, tired after just one round of helping him load the old tile and plaster into his truck.

Then it hit me. I have a different kind of strength. Overtime, he has built up the muscle, endurance, and motivation for physical work. Haven’t I done the same thing for emotional work?

Vulnerability can be tiring and exhausting. Being mindful, authentic, and present take emotional and mental endurance to maintain. Now I’ll be honest. I still need to lift some “emotional-dumbells” in order to sit longer with my own emotions, but I know that I have gained strength in sitting with other people as they experience, interpret, and understand their own feelings.

I can still remember, in the beginning of my clinical training, how uncomfortable and downright “squirmy” I would feel when clients would begin telling me their story. As much as I wanted to help and be compassionate, my internal self was screaming, “Oh my gosh, I have no idea what to do with all of this information!”  I immediately felt uncomfortable because I thought I needed to morph their experiences into a pretty package to store in their attic labeled “old stuff that no longer bothers me anymore.”  These days would end with exhaustion, mainly because I was not prepared or mentally fit to listen to other people’s pain for any length of time.

Slowly, with the help of great colleagues and amazing supervisors, my emotional muscles grew, and I no longer leave sessions feeling drained. Instead, I feel content with my work, excited to meet new people and hear their stories. So, if you are new to therapy or beginning to work through a painful experience, don’t be alarmed if you feel tired more quickly or more often than you usually do.

It’s hard to experience the uncomfortable emotions – sadness, disappointment, shame, and so on. And this tiredness is never a sign that you are “doing it wrong” or that you are weak. Never.  It’s the equivalent of trying to lift the 200 lb. weights on the first day at the gym. It takes practice and time for your body and mind to work up to the heavy weights. And that’s okay – you’ll get there.

Even I still have days where I feel drained, usually when my own issues have come up throughout the day. But I’m getting better at that, too. Maybe someday, I’ll even sign up for an emotional marathon. Speed therapy anyone?

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