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  • Writer's pictureAnnie Rife, LMSW

Do you have control over your emotions? Or do your emotions have control over you?

Can a disappointment completely ruin your day or throw you into a panicked crisis mode? If someone in your household forgets a chore - say, taking out the garbage - are you filled with overwhelming anger? Can a disagreement or negative feedback send you into uncontrollable sobbing and anguish?

Some therapists use the phrase, “If it is hysterical, it is historical.” If you find yourself experiencing exhausting reactions to situations that are not life threatening, there might be historical roots present. Perhaps you were harmed or belittled as a kid when chores were not perfectly completed and the forgotten garbage in adulthood - while certainly non-life-threatening in and of itself - may continue to represent a threat of harm to you. Maybe you were humiliated growing up and seeking perfection is a path to safety. It could be that a minor setback would send a beloved caregiver spiraling into despair or chaos; thus, any disappointment in your own adulthood activates those old dreadful feelings.

The biggest, most powerful step we can take is realizing that we may need help in healing. All of us, no matter our age, are a “Work in Progress.” We are not residing within a video game; we cannot “Level Up” to a faultless and complete Level 100, and that is okay! Part of being human is recognizing that we all have potential for growth, and we all have areas of needed improvement. No one is perfect and no life is perfect, but we can improve our quality of life to allow us to feel content, safe, and hopeful.

Therapy can help people who have experienced stressors, trauma, loss, setbacks, and major life changes by allowing them to process through negative life experiences in a safe space, to heal and to grow, learn and implement emotional regulation skills and relaxation techniques, and build a positive life for themselves in the aftermath of suffering. We can never rewrite history, but we can heal and we do have influence over our future.

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