AH-HA! Moments and life changing experiences- Joleen

One of my biggest Ah-ha! moments came shortly after graduate school.  In school, we learn about the concept of shame, and how it impacts a person's life (and mental health).  I understood the concept of shame (feeling like you aren't enough, thinking that you always need to "do" more to be "better", difficulty in hearing constructive criticism without hearing you are "bad" or "not good enough", just to name a few), I just didn't understand how it truly manifested in myself.  Discipline in my home growing up promoted quite a bit of perfectionism, therefore it also promoted shame.  A lot was expected out of my sister and I, which I had always seen as a motivator to me-- helping me to become more driven and to achieve in my life, but I still hadn't made the connection to the source of pain it often times caused me.  Shortly following graduation from my Master's program, I was working in a brand new field to me.  There were SO many things to learn about being a therapist besides the client interaction that school wasn't able to teach me... only experience could do that.  I was listening to my supervisor explain paperwork for the second time, while he went through my billing and shared with me the things I wasn't doing correctly.  At the time, I was working long hours and didn't have much balance in my life.  I was stressed out and wasn't taking good care of myself emotionally because of my busy and work driven life.  I was having trouble balancing everything-- taking care of a new home, trying to establish friendships and relationships in a new city, adjusting to a new career out of school, feeling alone and missing my family and support system.  As my supervisor continued to constructively critique my work, I felt this sadness and embarrassment, while tears began to well up. My mind was racing, and all I could hear him say was: "Why can't you do this right?  I've explained it to you more than enough... you are TERRIBLE at this!"... of course, that wasn't what he was SAYING, but that is what I heard.  My own thoughts were telling me: "Your life is a mess... you can't do anything right!  You are doing horrible at this career"!  That was when I burst into tears.  My supervisor looked at me, handed me some tissues, and let me cry it out.  Once I had processed a little, he helped me clarify what I was hearing and what he was saying.  I FINALLY understood and made the connection that this was my SHAME issues!  Realizing this allowed me to begin working on recognizing where some of those "tapes" in my thoughts came from, and to begin changing them into healthier messages in my thinking.  A VERY important and life changing moment for me in my own growth, both as a therapist, and in my personal life.  What is your biggest "AH-HA!" moment?

Check back in next week, where we will be discussing  negative thinking patterns or Cognitive Distortions...

Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling.  Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.