This summer is full of major life milestones for my family. In a few weeks, my youngest will graduate high school and head off to college 5 hours away, and my daughter says, “I do,” to the man she has captured her heart and future. I feel tremendous pride and anticipation for both children while, at the same time, my heart is breaking slightly because I have to say goodbye to a season in life I’ve loved so much. A good friend of ours just passed away after living for five years with ALS. Hearing that he was no longer with us took my breath away as I realized he would not have the opportunity to celebrate significant milestones or even daily life with his wife and sons. But at the same time, thinking about how brutally difficult these last five years have been, I also felt relief that he was no longer suffering daily because of this horrible disease. Life is complicated, and it is hard to understand how two truths can co-exist at the same time.
Often people in therapy experience this, which can be both painful and healing. Each healing journey is different, but people often experience healing while struggling to feel settled or at peace. We can’t fit our emotions or experiences into neat little boxes, even when that is what we most want to do. Learning to reframe black-and-white thinking is challenging but not impossible. Learning to recognize nuances can help us grow and accept things we cannot change. For example:
-You can focus on improving yourself AND still grieve or have bad days.
-You can resent your parents for a dysfunctional upbringing AND wish them well.
-You can be angry over your childhood AND find healing from it.
-You can seek justice for being harmed AND still move forward.
-You can accept that you were abused AND hold the abuser accountable.
-You can educate yourself, take classes, gain knowledge, AND still not have the answers to everything.
Learning to live with the tension of two things being true at the same time makes space for more freedom. You don’t have to surrender thinking something has to be right or wrong, black or white, up or down. It is possible that life can be both at the same time. Reminding ourselves of this daily allows us to accept difficult situations and emotions.
If you need support and would like to speak to a professional counselor about topics such as the one featured in this blog and are in the Chicago area, please contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000. We are at 6819 West 167th Street in Tinley Park, Illinois 60477.
Written By: Christine B., Masters Level Intern
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