What Doesn’t Kill You
A student confided in my boss and I about some really serious personal pain last week. One of the first things my boss said was, “this will make you a better therapist and help you empathize with your clients more.” That well-intentioned remark instantly brought up a slew of memories for me.
Has anyone ever responded to your pain by saying that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? I’ve heard it time and time again, and I don’t buy it. Soon after I left my ex-husband that saying came at me constantly. People insisted I was a stronger person because of what I had gone through.
His awfulness is not what makes me wonderful. My wonderfulness is despite him and in no way because of him or any action he ever chose to make. It’s me, who I’ve chosen to be and every action I’ve chosen to take, that makes me strong. That’s what makes me great, and he doesn’t get any of the credit for it.
I worried our student would get the impression that she didn't deserve to feel her awful feelings, that she should look on some made-up bright side. I feel sick with myself when I hear people use the “what doesn’t kill you” mentality and I don’t say anything about my view of it. Keeping quiet makes me feel complicit in perpetuating that point of view.
What I Said
This will not make you a better therapist. You are going to come through this by making yourself stronger. It’s not this pain that is doing it; it’s how you as a good, caring person are choosing to respond to it.
What are some of the well-meaning remarks you’ve received that made you feel invalidated? Do you ever say them to yourself?
Rebecca encourages survivors of domestic to speak about their experiences and to lean on each other for support.