Anchor Your Day ~ a mental health blog by Counselwise ~

Why Do We Suppress Our Feelings?

I often speak about our emotional system and how it is wired to work for us. With every experience we go through, there is a feeling attached to it. And so why the tendency to suppress? Why do we push them down, set them aside, ignore them completely? Suppressing our feelings catches up to us at some point – by way of a build up – or perhaps we will experience them physically, with pains in our tummies and tightness in our chest.

For those who would say that they generally suppress their emotions, it has most likely come from childhood emotional neglect. We can’t come to understand our emotions or sense validation for feeling something, if we didn’t have a parent that was attuned to our emotional needs. Very often, clients will remark that they “went to no one” when they were upset, or have memories of being dismissed or chastised for their outward display of emotion. Lesson learned? “It is safer to suppress.”

Sometimes we suppress our feelings because of learned behaviour. Clients have often noted to me that they have no memories of their parents crying – not at funerals (even of significant family members), not out of frustration, not out of empathy. Lesson learned? “It is not safe to cry in front of others.”

And sometimes an experience can shut down a particular emotion. A client once spoke about her mother’s anger management issue; as a result, there was no room for anyone else to express anger as it was shut down immediately by the mother’s need to ‘out anger’ everyone. As a result, this young woman under-reacted to her feelings of anger, she would dismiss it to the point where her own needs suffered. Lesson learned? “There is no space for my anger.”

The first step in allowing our feelings to have some space is to recognize the suppression. When we can explore where we feel the suppression started, we can begin to give ourselves permission to give those feelings a little bit of space; to recognize that they are okay, that they are meant to help us process experience, that we can feel comfortable with them in their rightful place.

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A Little Reminder That We Have the Power to Choose

I came across this poem by Walk the Earth:


When you fill your mind with thoughts of kindness, love, faith, hope, & joy, your reality will become all of these things. You will start to see kindness in the world. You will start to feel love as you go about your day. You will notice more of the little joys of life. You’ve tried listening to your fears and doubts and they’ve never brought you happiness. It’s time to start choosing love. It’s time you start choosing faith.

– Walk the Earth

It isn’t difficult to worry about the state of things in the world. When we focus on it too much, it can become heavy and tends to stand in the way of our every day goal of creating moments of joy; of being kind. When we feel the weight of our challenges, we can begin to lose faith that things will eventually be lighter. This isn’t just about ‘positive thinking,’ for we must align with process – rather it is about keeping our balance. It is about making sure that we are choosing to lean into hope over fear, and faith over doubt. We can also be reminded that we also have the power within us to act:

“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change.

Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” – Howard Zinn

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5 Signs of Interdependence in Relationship

We know that we have achieved a healthy place in relationship when we have interdependence; a secure sense of self is present, while also recognizing the importance of human connection. Being able to maintain a sense of high self-esteem while in relationship includes:

  1. Space. When two people are in a healthy relationship, they recognize the need for time apart to pursue personal interests. There is the knowledge that self-care activities are important and that it is okay to create space for them.
  2. Common Ground. Just as our own needs are important, a healthy relationship also looks at time spent together. How do we spend our downtime as a couple? What activities do we enjoy doing together? Do we have common goals for the future? Interdependence in relationship requires striking a balance between space and common ground.
  3. Consistency. Healthy relationships tend to be stable and predictable. When we have high self-esteem in relationship, we recognize the importance of secure attachment and the elements that create a sense of unconditional positive regard – not only for our partners, but also for ourselves.
  4. Responsiveness. This includes being open to feedback; it also requires a sense of knowing when times in the relationship require us to be there for our partners.
  5. Honesty. Healthy relationships will support interdependence by valuing honesty as a foundational part of growth. When we have high self-esteem in relationship, we are able to openly communicate our needs and are curious about our partner’s experience as well.

When we feel secure as to who we are, we create space for someone to compliment our life. We can recognize the importance of give and take, while also honouring our own needs and interests. Interdependence is a safe place to be 🙂

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Advice From a Tree

I came across this lovely poem by Ilan Shamir that reminds us about the healing experience of nature:

Advice From a Tree

Dear Friend

Stand Tall and Proud

Sink your roots deeply into the Earth

Reflect the light of your true nature

Think long term.

Go out on a limb

Remember your place among all living beings

Embrace with joy the changing seasons

For each yields its own abundance

The energy and birth of spring

The growth and contentment of summer

The wisdom to let go, like leaves in the fall

The rest and quiet renewal of winter.

Feel the wind and the sun

And delight in their presence

Look up at the moon that shines down upon you

And the mystery of the stars at night

Seek nourishment from the good things in life

Simple pleasures

Earth, fresh air, light.

Be content with your natural beauty

Drink plenty of water

Let your limbs sway and dance in the breezes

Be flexible

Remember your roots

Enjoy the view!


– Ilan Shamir

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What Does Validation Look Like?

In yesterday’s post, we explored invalidation and how some commonly used statements are actually not helpful in the moment. Our goal is validation: When we simply allow another person their feelings, when we listen with the intent of trying to understand, we are creating space for their experience:

“Would it help to talk about it?” or “Tell me what happened.”

“Okay,” “I see,” “Yes,”  – these are verbal prompts that simply let a person know that you are listening.

“How are you feeling about it?”

“What do you think about that?”

“That must have been (hard, frustrating, sad, upsetting)”by listing the emotion, we validate the feeling.

“I imagine you are feeling pretty (hurt, dismissed, scared)” 

“It’s completely understandable that you feel that way.”this type of statement normalizes the experience, making the person feel less alone. 

“I can see why this is so upsetting for you.”a way to align with someone. 

“What is your gut feeling about this?”a good way to move towards solution, but not intrusively.

“How can I help?”another good way to ask someone what they need from you.

A common theme from all of these statements is curiosity. By simply being curious, we are opening up the space to not only listen, but to understand. We can gauge from the answers if someone is looking to simply vent, or if they have come to you for advice. When we actively attempt to recognize another person’s experience, we validate their feelings; with that comes appreciation, comfort and a sense of being heard.

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What Does Invalidation Look Like?

We have all experienced the dismissive feeling of  invalidation. When we are vulnerable in telling someone how we feel, and their remarks somehow negate or disregard those feelings, we automatically experience a sinking of spirit. This often leads to shutting down and zipping up as we have felt brushed off, denied and rejected.

Although a person’s remarks may come with good intentions, it is important to understand that these types of remarks skip over the feeling and miss the mark:


“Calm down.” (I always get a chuckle out of the meme that says ‘Never in this history of calming down has anyone calmed down by being told to calm down.’ Tee hee)

“You shouldn’t feel that way.”  Ouch!

“I know how you feel,” or “I hear ya.” Maybe my experience is different.

“That’s nothing to get upset about.” Well now I have two things to be upset about. 

“This happened to my (aunt, sister, friend, brother) once.” And in telling you their story, they have just jumped over your experience. 

“It could be worse.”

“That is nothing to get worked up about.” Well, I am worked up about it, that’s the point!

“I’m sorry you feel that way.” GRRRR….

“You should feel lucky.”

“Just don’t think about it.”

“Don’t be so sensitive.” Wow, is there something wrong with me too?

These types of statements are invalidating because they aren’t helpful in the moment. Perhaps your intention is to align with how someone else is feeling, or you are drawn to fix it for them; maybe someone else being in pain reminds you of your own pain and you are trying to avoid it. In any case, when we use these types of statements, we deny someone their subjective reality and their process.

Tomorrow’s post will explore validation and what it looks like.

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A Little Acronym About Boundaries

This acronym about boundaries comes to us from Nila Conzen, a holistic psychologist from Germany:

B – Be true to yourself.

O – Only say yes when you mean it.

U – Understand that not everyone will be pleased to hear them.

N – Never feel guilty for speaking your truth.

D – Do not adjust your needs to please others.

A – Ask for what you want. (I don’t know any mind readers out there.)

R – Remember why you set them in the first place.

I – Investigate your own needs.

E – Encourage others to accept your needs.

S – Say no without apologizing. 

A good reminder that when we put boundaries into place, we are honouring our own needs, learning that we can say no politely, and moving from the position of “I am important and so are you.” 

To visit Nila Conzen’s website:

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Be Careful When Looking Back

As a therapist, I am always reluctant to agree with the line of thought that encourages anyone to “forget about the past.”

Looking back is an important element in better understanding our story – we often need to understand how something developed, what patterns were created and why we are often governed by certain dynamics or core beliefs as this helps us to accept. It is an important step in giving ourselves permission to move to change.

The amount of “aha moments” that I have been privy to witness as a therapist, has almost always come from exploring the past; it is often how the path to structural change is opened to us.

One word of caution that I will often mention comes when a client begins to blame themselves for “not having known better.” Putting on our hindsight glasses is important, but we must do it with the knowledge of who we were back then, and the circumstances of our lives at the time. When looking back, it is important to enlarge our insight to include these elements, or we run the risk of allowing tunnel vision and self-blame to push objectivity out of the way.

Our goal in looking back isn’t to blame – it is to understand. That’s all. We can’t fix what happened, we can’t change the past, we can’t undo choices. But we can take that information and how it made us feel to move towards changing how we go forward today; to make healthier choices, make repairs if necessary, unlearn old habits, reinforce better ones.

Look back; when we enlarge our insight when doing so, we are being fair to ourselves and others and the process of forgiveness begins. 🙂

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Curiosity Quotes

Following our post from yesterday, here are some quotes about curiosity:

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” – Albert Einstein

“Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.” – James Stephens

“Curiosity is the engine of achievement.” – Ken Robinson

“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” E.E. Cummings

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5 Facts about Curiosity

You know I am going to like this post as I often speak about the importance of curiosity:

  1. Curiosity tempers fear. Most of our fears are perceived – curiosity can help to work away at our worries. Asking ourselves “Does it have to be this way?” is a great start to moving past an engrained fear. So is asking ourselves “Is there another way I can approach this?” Sometimes just giving ourselves permission to imagine a different outcome can begin to work away at our fear – curiosity is our number one tool for this type of approach.
  2. Curiosity helps increase our self-esteem. When we are curious about something, it almost always lends itself to learning something new, and we all know how empowering knowledge can be.
  3. Curiosity can enhance creativity. Working along the same lines as increased knowledge, when we are curious, we tend to be more creative. Creativity feeds our comfort system.
  4. Curiosity promotes an active mind. When our mind is active, it also tends to be more open, flexible and self-reflective – which are all important components to our emotional health.
  5. Curiosity helps to connect cause and effect. When we understand where and why our issues developed, we move to acceptance and structural change.

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