Most mothers instinctively scoop up their children when they fall down and shower them with kisses and comforting sentiments that might include, “You’re OK!” or “Everything’s Fine” or “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Yes, parents just want to make things better. But as a mom and a doctor, I know that people need to have their feelings, in any given moment, validated. When someone is hurt, it’s important that they are allowed to feel the full gamut of feelings associated with an unexpected blow. You might be frightened, in pain, confused or sad. If you’re a parent, your job is to sit close by and in the most comforting tone say, “I hear you. That was very scary and painful. I know how that feels. I’m right here to help.”
If you’re hurt—physically or emotionally—it’s important to allow yourself to feel the appropriate feelings as they happen. Why? Because so much of the time we simply don’t know what or how to feel. Because we have been hyperconditioned not feel the experience of the moment, so many of us are ill-equipped to face our feelings head on in a healthy and honest way. We need to be gentle with ourselves and ask for the space to process a hurtful situation in real time. With children, it is very clear that if they are allowed to express their anxieties as the experience unfolds, they typically move through the situation much more quickly and do not act out frustrated and out-of-control emotions later that leave them confused and detached from their true feelings. So many of us fail to feel our feelings. Instead, we avoid them, mask them or deny them altogether and later exhibit self-destructive avoidance behaviors like overeating, spending too much time working, drinking heavily or over-shopping. We can not cope. But once we build support systems, seek help, develop healthy habits, surround ourselves with positive and loving influences, we can all develop the necessary skills to feel those all important feelings, and take good care of ourselves in the process.