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What does success in therapy look like?

Untangling emotional reactions and getting unstuck

by Carol Smith, LMFT

A person came to me beginning to have so many emotional eruptions, getting angry too fast, or crying too fast, or having fear kind of overtake them at different points in their life: in the home, in the workplace. They just couldn’t make sense out of why all this emotional dysregulation was happening in their life. 

They began to unravel their story to me over time about how, where they were at that point, there was a point of a decision of changing their life course. Were they ready for that? They were at that point where the last child in the home was getting older, and they were anticipating they were leaving. So, they were at a life stage transition. They were at a point of, “I’m bored in my work, and it’s not fulfilling anymore.” They were looking at how much life possibly they had and their resources, and thinking, “But I can’t quit!” 

So, they felt stuck. They couldn’t yet get rid of the kid because the child wasn’t grown enough to leave. They couldn’t yet change work because they didn’t have enough resources to go back and get retooled. So, that angst was just bubbling out and coming out in all the different parts of their life. 

As they shared their story and they were able to be met with compassion and understanding and why that makes sense to me, just validation for all of the emotional eruptions, that helped settle them enough for us to look at how they were solving their problem of stuckness by erupting emotionally rather than finding another path. That began the conversation of, “Oh, I could do something other than that. What else could I do?” It just opened up the idea to explore. 

Week after week, they began to find different resources that the client had thought they didn’t have in their scope of the community and began to find ways to resolve and listen to the angst to find their new path, to find the corner that they needed to turn. 

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