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Forge
A publication from Medium on personal development.

Emotions

In Forge. More on Medium.

A therapist explains how to stop trying to be a mind reader and focus on being a ‘mind knower’

Woman talking to her friend.
Woman talking to her friend.
Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

One thing I’ve observed with my therapy clients over the course of the pandemic is that many of us have become anxious mind readers, constantly certain that our friends think we’re terrible or our co-workers think we’re lazy. A tiff between siblings suddenly feels irreparable. A Zoom session with a grumpy boss feels like a guarantee that a firing is on the horizon. In isolation, we read every sign as pointing to the same conclusion: Someone is probably upset with us.

Being able to predict how other people are feeling is a useful skill to have. But when we’re cut…


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Remember what it was like to feel? To experience the full spectrum of human emotion in sensible proportion to the rhythms of daily life? To respond to good news with a rush of joy instead of just a sad, half-assed unclenching?

If you’re nodding knowingly as you read, from the emotional equivalent of a soundproofed closet, rest assured that you’re not alone. This numbness—and apathy, alienation, and unbridled irritation with everything and everyone—is emotional exhaustion. It’s one of the pillars of burnout as defined in the Maslach Burnout Inventory, and a byproduct of prolonged stress. …


To lesson your anxiety, ground your emotions in reality

A person wearing a face mask, using their phone. They seem to have an optimistic expression.
A person wearing a face mask, using their phone. They seem to have an optimistic expression.
Photo: hsyncoban/E+/Getty Images

As a therapist, I can’t tell you how much I dislike the platitude, “Your emotions are valid.” Sometimes, they aren’t. When rioters stormed the Capitol this month, they demonstrated how dangerous emotions can be when they aren’t rooted in reality.

The relationship between conspiracy-fueled narratives and emotions is a two-way street. As I tell my clients, when you feel anxious or angry, you’re more likely to believe statements that confirm those feelings. And the greater your exposure to emotion-filled propaganda, the more likely you are to absorb those emotions.

So what do you do when it feels like a significant…


Photo: Leonardo Laschera / Getty Images

I’ve recently developed a new laugh and it’s hideous. So hideous, in fact, that if a normal laugh knew I’d just evoked its good name to describe the emission, it’d spite-block me on social media and start an internet rumor about my mother. To avoid any such drama, I will rebrand it The Cackle.

I should note that I still have my non-hideous regular laugh, which comes out in the rare event that I experience pure, unfettered joy. Lately, though, most laugh-like vocalizations emerge in the form of The Cackle, and exclusively at moments where most people would consider laughter…


No, you’re not ‘too much’

Woman looking out the window.
Woman looking out the window.
Photo: NickyLloyd/Getty Images

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been described as being “too much” or “over-sensitive” or “touchy.” Actually, no, don’t raise your hand. You probably don’t want the extra attention.

I get it. Writer Terri Huggins Hart does, too. She writes in Elemental, “My sensitivity got me teased as a child, and sometimes my sensitivity gets me taken advantage of. Being sensitive often means that I’m viewed as dramatic, weak, overreacting, and too much to handle.”

Hart notes that being sensitive is often seen as a nuisance in relationships, a liability in leaders, and a weakness in the workplace. And yet…


Maintaining holiday cheer shouldn’t be your burden

Photo: Sisoje/Getty Images

“Do you even like turkey?” I asked my husband last night over our dinner of pad thai as we mused out loud about what we’d make for Thanksgiving. The truth is, I don’t. I’m not really a fan of most parts of the traditional Thanksgiving spread. But until that point, it hadn’t occurred to me that this year, we could skip it all: the bird, the stuffing, the sweet potato casserole.

And almost as soon as the thought popped into my brain, I felt guilty. This Thanksgiving will look different than most, sure, but it’s still Thanksgiving.

You, like me…


A therapist’s advice for regaining your focus after an emotional roller coaster

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Last week was an emotional roller coaster for everyone. And as we rode the highs and lows of the election results, many of us abandoned our usual habits: We left the TV on all day. We reached for the leftover Halloween candy for dinner. We racked up double-digit hours on our screen usage reports. Now, in the aftermath, we’re struggling to morph back into responsible humans.

I’ve told my therapy clients before that it’s normal to experience some dip in mood and functioning after a period of high emotion. …


Optimism has inherent value. Yes, even now.

Photo: d3sign/Getty Images

“Hope is the thing with feathers,” Emily Dickinson once wrote, perhaps to confuse us or else to acknowledge what a fluttery fleeting creature it can be. And hope can be hard to come by these days. I don’t know about you, but I look at my phone first thing in the morning (I know! Forge even reminds us all not to!), check the news, view the day’s smorgasbord of panic-producers — from news about the election to the pandemic to climate change to the daily update from my kids’ Google classrooms — and feel my natural inborn optimism squawk in…


A therapist’s advice for fighting anxiety in the midst of chaos

Photo: Witthaya Prasongsin/Getty Images

People vary in their ability to adapt in times of stress and uncertainty — from not knowing if we’ll see our families this holiday to not knowing if election results will be definitive.

Some might shut down, isolating and disengaging from the world’s problems. Others tend to lash out or become controlling, trying to force the world around them and the people in it to behave a certain way. But look at almost any group, and you’ll find a few people who seem to be able to hold onto their thinking when others are letting their anxiety run the show…


Everyone is grieving something. A loved one. A job. A sense of normalcy. Even in more typical times, Carvel Wallace writes on his Medium blog, everyday life is a process of accumulating griefs large and small. For him: “Influencers, gaining weight, stubbing my toe, cancer, homeless trans kids, TERFS, my homophobic uncle, an Ocean Vuong poem, Nina Simone.”

Sadness is inescapable, and that fact itself isn’t sad. Sadness has a purpose. It’s a contrast that defines and amplifies the good, but it’s also more than a pathway back to joy. Sadness is purpose.

“Brute strength tells you to fight,” Wallace…

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