One of the big goals I have for my clients is for them to have a kick ass life. Most people who come to therapy feel less than kick ass when they walk through the door to their first appointment. Their life and/or relationships feel stuck, constricting, rigid, limited, boring, unsafe. The goal is to feel free, fluid, expansive, exciting, empowered, open, and thriving.
One way we create a kick ass life is by creating space for it. It needs room to breathe and move and grow.
One tool that is helpful is a small but mighty word: AND. "And" creates space and allows for complexity of experience and opens up greater options. Instead of one OR the other, it’s this AND that. Instead of me OR you, it’s me AND you AND us.
Here are some places to use AND:
1. Creating space for my experience AND yours in relationships. Both experiences are valid. Arguing about who is right often leaves both people feeling hurt.
2. Creating space for conflicting emotions. It’s OK (and normal) that, for example, part of you is hopeful AND part of you is sad AND another part is scared. The "and" helps us validate our own experience and also communicate that experience more fully to our loved ones so we can feel safe and seen by them.
3. Creating space for acknowledging what I think AND what I feel AND what I know to be true, even when they don't line up. For example, instead of just acting on fear, you could say "I think I have to go to the party but I don't want to AND I'm feeling anxious AND I know that it usually isn't as bad once I get there AND I also know that it’s important to show up." Or "I'm thinking my partner is a jerk AND I am feeling hurt AND I know when I'm feeling hurt I jump to conclusions and say things I don't mean AND I know that it might not be personal." If it was just thinking OR feeling, we tend to make rigid or impulsive choices that keep us stuck.
4. Creating space for intention AND impact. I may not intend to hurt someone, but that doesn't mean I don't mess up. If there's not space for my intention, I feel shame and unfairly blamed and not seen as a good person. But if I ignore the impact, I can't apologize or make amends or rebuild trust. We need both to repair an injury and move forward. We may be doing the best we can AND we often need to do better.
Enjoy the extra space that comes with practicing your "and", AND don't hesitate to reach out for more help.