"My Work" | What Does That Even Mean?
We understand we’re in pain and our desire is to do something to get relief. We want it to be quick – we’re human after all and pain is no fun. While this feeling is understandable, it’s helpful to remind ourselves it's in these painful times we are often doing “the work” that brings growth. It’s way slower than we want it to be and it’s often difficult to see. - Susie Smidt, MA, LMFT
In the process of seeking to be emotionally well and find healing in our lives, we often talk about doing our work – and that can often be difficult to define. It can feel like trying to collect water in a colander. I frequently have clients identify they are feeling frustrated and then go on to tell me they are stuck. I always feel a lot of empathy in this conversation because I well remember feeling that very same way.
That feeling of “stuckness” is never fun. Sometimes the main thing we understand is that we’re in pain and the desire is there to do something to make it feel better and get relief from the pain. It goes without saying that we want that something to be quick – we’re human after all and pain is no fun.
Surprised By Growth
While this feeling is understandable, I think it’s helpful to remind ourselves that in these very times we are often doing “the work” that brings growth. It’s way slower than we want it to be. And it’s often difficult to see. I hope this incomplete list of practical examples of what our work can look like will be helpful to you as you define your work in your journey of healing. (Click the drop-down arrow below to view the list!)
What "My Work" Means To Me
I’m learning to identify more of my feelings and let that lead me to things that I need.
I’m seeing how unkind I have been to myself in my internal dialogue and working to extend grace and understanding to myself as I understand my own story.
I’m working to discover why I have such a hard time identifying my needs…. Things I was told in my family of origin (F/O), what were modeled, what I heard at church etc.
I’m learning more about the stages of grieving and how it applies to betrayal and addiction. I’m trying to allow this important work in my journey and not push it away.
I’m listing my losses related to betrayal and letting myself feel them… this process can lead me to decide on things that I need.
I’m working on “clean anger” as Beth Miller writes about in What Loss Can Teach Us.
I’m learning to apply both/and thinking to conflicting realities (Beth writes about this too).
I’m learning to ask, “What can I learn from this?” along with the “Why me?” questions.
I’m discovering false core beliefs that I didn’t realize I had and starting to work on changing them.
I’m working on separating my worth and value from how much I accomplish.
I’m learning that self-care is so much more than massage, manicure, and pedicure.
I’m learning that times of waiting can be very productive as Sue Monk Kidd writes about in When the Heart Waits.
I’m becoming more congruent/authentic in my choices – allowing my decisions to be made based on my feelings and needs and trying to quiet the “shoulds”.
I’m learning about my own hoop and trying to spend more time there instead of coping.
I’m identifying my unhealthy coping habits and trying to do good self-care instead.
I’m trying to stay in my hoop instead of trespassing into other people’s hoops.
I’m learning that I can’t do recovery for another person or do anything to change someone else AND I can express my needs to others.
I’m figuring out when it’s safe for me to spend time in the couples’ hoop and when it isn’t.
I’m identifying healthy ways to take space for myself when I need it.
I’m learning to name my limits – what I can and cannot manage.
I’m learning about trauma (both invasion and abandonment) and committing to a journey of healing.
I’m working on healthy expression of anger – not withdrawing in silence or raging, taking time-outs to be safer when I’m triggered, coming back as it’s safe, asking for “re-do’s” and owning as needed.
I’m regularly taking the time to iceberg triggers to 1) learn more about myself 2) create a script for a healthier conversation.
As I iceberg, I’m beginning to see my false beliefs that surface… ie.. “I’m not important” etc.
I’m becoming aware of things in my F/O that seemed like no big deal but actually caused me pain.
I’m using the 3 Circle Recovery plan (red, yellow, green) to help me stop doing things that lead me to not like myself.
I’m learning to distinguish between nonsexual and sexual touch.
I’m learning that this immense pain can be transformed into post-traumatic growth as Debbie Laaser writes about in From Trauma to Transformation.
I’m learning that “no” can be a complete sentence.
I was thinking of the many women with whom I work when I wrote this list, and I believe most of these points are not gender specific. This list is just a starting point. Feel free to make it your own. At the start of this new year, I hope this helps and encourages you in the important work you are doing in your own journey of healing and being well.
Susie Smidt is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Her work at Faithful & True focuses on women who have been sexually and relationally betrayed by their husbands and on helping couples recover. Along with providing individual counseling to women and couples with her husband Russ who is a Certified Family Life Coach, Susie leads weekly women’s groups, teaches and leads small groups at the Women’s Journey Workshop and participates in leading the Couple’s Journey Workshops with other colleagues at Faithful & True.