empathy vs problem solving

August 9, 2013Karen Courcy

3883148-outline-of-loving-woman-putting-her-head-onto-shoulder-of-man-sitting-next-to-herI don’t know how to accept sympathy, empathy, love and support when I am going through a hard time.

I desperately look for a resolve and how to fix it, and when I can’t figure it out, it’s extremely difficult for me because empathy just isn’t good enough or safe.

I got frustrated with my therapist in session yesterday, he was trying to be empathetic to what I was going through; the trigger that hit me out of nowhere Monday.

He wanted to hear me, be there for me, hug me, console me, and I kept asking him, “what do we do? what do I do?” and sometimes when things seem so hard for me, he tends to lose his objectivity to being my therapist and instead ends up being more of a person who wants to desperately find a result for me and to get me out of it.

We later talked on the phone yesterday about it and we both realized, his strength is being empathetic to what I am going through and then working on finding a result, and I am the type of person who wants a result, and then find comfort in moving through the problem, and when we both realized that, we have to meet halfway in the middle.

I need to accept support, empathy, love and care and realize that in that comfort and empathy IS the healing, not just the result of the problem.

I think when we try so hard to find the problem, we put so much pressure on ourselves that is exacerbates the feelings and emotions. Anytime we feel bad we want something to change right now.

(can you see how hard I am trying to convince myself of this theory?)

I grew up knowing only how to move from one moment to the next. I didn’t have sympathy, comfort, love, and care when I was going through something hard, I had me and only me. I had me and my fight.

I am a fighter, all I know is how to get through one moment to the next and when I explained that to my therapist, he stopped and realized more of why whenever he gives me a hug in a hard moment, I always say “so what do we do?” and he always says “this is it, right here in this hug, accept this hug and support” and I said “no, what do we do”? not realizing sometimes THIS IS ALL YOU CAN DO.

It’s foreign to me, and I have to work on accepting the care in front of me knowing that if I just allow someone to be here for me, that also allows the both of us to work together on a solve. I don’t know how to find comfort in comfort. comfort wasn’t safe as a child. comfort lead to touching in places that were abusive and malicious and I never could find it in me to come close enough to a person to receive any kind of empathy.

When my therapist hugs me, I freeze up, my body gets tight (yes even after 6 years) and I say right away “what do we do?” .. When my husband gives me a hug and comforts me I say to him “so, how do I get through this?” .. I don’t know, it’s hard to find the solve in a hug, or care, or leaning in, or a hand. I want action to feel better and I need to find a middle ground, however that looks I need to find a middle ground.

I go to session in about an hour. I am still struggling with this trigger hangover. My husband is flying back home tonight as he has been gone all week (which hasn’t helped).. but I hope today in session after my therapist and I had a good talk on the phone after session yesterday that maybe I can meet him halfway, and he can meet me halfway.

Maybe the key to this is to not find the result and let it takes it course, almost like a virus.. we feel like shit for days, but eventually the body heals itself. Yes we can take medicine, but for the most part it’s a process and I need to realize that this trigger that hit me Monday was strong enough to throw cortisol through my whole body, and I need to let it find it’s settling place, and the key is maybe just accepting the support, being heard, and let it find its way out through the support.

We will see how today’s session goes. A part of me is still hoping that when I walk in, my therapist will have this magic potion and answer and I will walk out feeling on top of the world, but realistically deep inside I know that is not the answer – that is a setup and one that could lead to feeling worse.

I know this trigger that hit me Monday will settle, and maybe just being heard and cared for is enough.. lets see if I allow myself that today.


  • Gel

    August 9, 2013 at 2:03 PM

    Hi Karen,
    It’s sounds like you are really grappling with this issue. And it sounds tough. I sure hope you can find moments of rest and pleasure in between. I really admire your perseverance.

    It makes sense that this might be a time and a process where your usual strength of moving forward with determination and strength is not what is called for. I can relate to how difficult that might be. Not focusing on a goal but instead being willing to endure the present feelings.

    Actually it sounds like you are having TWO difficult lessons to work on here. That of letting your support in and accepting empathy. That part isn’t as hard for me. There are times when I share difficult stuff with my husband and when he really listens and understands, even tho we have not found a solution, if he just really gets it, there is a huge relief for me. I feel like I can tolerate the difficulty a bit better.

    I wish you a better day.

    1. KarenBeth

      August 10, 2013 at 1:14 PM

      THANK YOU gel … I am FINALLY moving out of it.. you know me well that if I dont answer a comment right away, something is wrong! I have been so depressed that I couldn’t even move.. I am finally moving out of it and feel much better…. I am accepting support and it feels better.

Please take a moment to comment! I love connecting with others!

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