Today, it seems to be more common to talk about mental illnesses, diagnoses and symptoms than to talk about what one actually feel and experience in ones life. A patient of ours once said, “I feel it is completely ok to tell my girlfriends that I am struggling with anxiety, but I dare not show them how much I miss my mother.” It is good that there is greater openness around mental health, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of talking about the very normal emotional responses and human experiences.
In Emotion-Focused Therapy, we see mental health difficulties as something that stems from difficult life experiences that have not been sufficiently processed. For example, if you are depressed or have anxiety, we believe that it is because you have some important emotional needs in life that you don’t get covered, such as the need for comfort, care, appreciation, acceptance, safety, closeness or even asserting yourself against threats to your well being.
If you’re emotional needs are not being met, emotions can continue to affect you long after the incident that aroused them.
Thus, in Emotion-Focused Therapy, we see symptoms of mental illness as a sign that something emotionally important is happening and is not being sufficiently being dealt with. And then you try to deal with your feelings in other ways, such as ruminating, worrying, using drugs, excessive eating, excessive exercise, avoidance, or the like.
Thus, in our view, mental difficulties are not like a bacterial disease that resides in you — they are the result of a lived life with experiences, avoidance strategies, and rules for what can and cannot be expressed. It’s about feeling despair because you can’t get important emotional needs met. These emotional needs are what you can work on within this site.