5 Comforting, Useful Phrases My Therapist Said To Me
I love my therapist. She’s bold without being obnoxious, kind without being sickly sweet. I respect her, and I try to emulate her. During our sessions, sometimes she will say a phrase that stays with me.
In my list of five phrases, she says number three a lot: Nice breath. I think about my therapist during difficult moments, and I wonder, how would she handle this situation?
If I take in a deep breath, I often hear my therapist’s voice in my head say, “Nice breath.”
Other voices in my head are less compassionate: echoes from people telling me to stay quiet, stay small. I’m glad I have a new voice in there, giving me a different perspective.
I’m being treated for depression and anxiety, but I think the messages here are beneficial for everyone.
1. “The important thing is, you survived”
It’s easy to get caught up in the past. You can find a million things to feel bad about, if you let yourself. In most situations, especially when we’re young and learning, we act on instinct.
Fear causes us to behave in erratic and irrational ways, but fear also keeps us from getting run over by a bus.
When you find yourself ruminating about the past, remember that whatever you did, those actions brought you here, now.
I cried when my therapist said the word “survived” — because I immediately thought about my two brothers who died. They were not as lucky as me.
Sometimes, it’s challenging to feel grateful for the life we’ve been given. My brothers struggled with drug addiction, and they suffered in ways that I never had to endure.
Losing my brothers hurt me deeply, but grief also teaches me to appreciate being alive.
2. “Nothing you say is final”
Just because you made a bold claim, it doesn’t mean you have to die by your word. Language helps us navigate our understanding.
It’s okay to speak your mind, and it’s totally fine to change your mind. As humans, we should expect to evolve, not chastise ourselves for inconsistency.
You can’t edit yourself before you have some raw material to mold. If you’re always holding back, you’re keeping yourself in the dark, along with everyone else.
After months of therapy, I once cried out, “No one ever loved me!” As soon as I said it, I wanted to take it back. I judged myself.
“That can’t be true,” I said. My therapist offered this suggestion: “Maybe it feels true.”
My feelings may not match up perfectly with the narrative in my mind, but vocalizing them helps me grapple with the subtext, and hopefully, investigate them more fully.
3. “Nice breath”
Noticing your breath is a great way to pull yourself into the present moment.
When you’re aware of your body, you’re taking in sensory information. That data can be invaluable for grounding yourself.
Our minds often take us away from the physical world, into an imaginary one. Although cognition helps us plan and create meaning, without the embodiment to balance us out, we lose context.
Meditation and yoga helped me cultivate deeper breathing, but I still catch myself sipping shallow breaths. In therapy, I let out deep sighs to release tension.
My therapist comments on my breath because she wants to bring my attention back to my body. Also, focusing on my breath helps me calm down.
When I let myself take fuller breaths, it’s as if I’m giving myself more room — to think, feel, be. This practice came in handy when I recalled a painful memory about my father. My body began to shake, and I was able to process the trauma in a mindful way.
4. “Take as much time as you need”
In today’s fast-paced society, we sometimes forget that we have the option to slow down.
We can’t accurately measure an individual’s progress by comparing them to someone else. And yet, that’s exactly what we do. We think age indicates milestones.
Whatever goal you have in mind, when you achieve it, there will always be more goals lined up. Why rush to the finish line? You can’t appreciate the details if your speed makes everything look blurry.
Like most people, I want things to move faster, too. I want therapy to catapult me forward, closer to the person I would rather be.
I sometimes try to zip through a memory that surfaces during therapy, in an attempt to get it out of my system. I’m learning that tactic does not work.
Unless I engage with my emotions — inspecting them from different angles — I won’t gain the insight I need to transform. My father comes up a lot in therapy, and I find myself peeling back layers to get at the core issue. With time, I feel lighter, less anxious.
5. “If you don’t let yourself feel the lows, you can’t feel the highs”
The universe operates on the principle of expansion and contraction. Like our breath, everything ebbs and flows.
Pain is uncomfortable. Unfortunately, it’s also unavoidable.
You can choose to get curious about your pain, or you can try evasive maneuvers. Whatever you do, the more you’re willing to face what comes your way, the more chances you’ll have to experience wonder.
I used to think depression was all about being sad. I didn’t realize that I was actually training myself not to feel anything at all.
Daydreaming helped me escape when I was a kid. As I got older, my tendency to “check out” translated as disconnection. I lost touch with my desire. And without desire, I had no direction.
Therapy hurts. I feel like I could choke on the pain I’ve tried so hard to hide. But after every good cry, I feel better. I laugh more, and I test out my resilience. It’s hard work, but it’s so worth it.
We all have voices in our heads, whether or not we struggle with mental health issues. It’s not as simple as an angel or devil on your shoulders.
More than likely, it’s your parent’s voice or your best friend’s voice, blending with your inner monologue.
You can easily hear the loudest voice, but it’s harder to pick up the quieter ones.
To know yourself better, you may need to take your time, breathe deeply, let your belly expand, and listen.