"This May Sting a Bit": Feeling Your Feelings May Suck (AT FIRST) - Justin Lioi, LCSW - Brooklyn, NY

One of the strange things I say to people when they first start working with me is that feeling feelings may not feel so great at first. Things may even feel a bit worse before they get better. And, believe it or not, that means we’re on the right track.

I talk about this, not to scare anyone away, but I want people to be ready and not caught unawares. Of course, they don’t always want to hear the full explanation for this. Which makes sense—they’ve finally found their way into a counselor’s office and they don’t want to waste any more time.

Which is why I’m glad I got to talk about this in my weekly column, Unmasking Masculinity, over at The Good Men Project. What I go into is that at the point when you start your counseling you’ve had a lifetime of building up walls against painful feelings. Take your pick from grief, sadness, shame, fear, anxiety—we could go on and on. Most of the behaviors that people seek out support to change are behaviors that for a long while effectively held these feelings at bay.

Avoiding being assertive, getting angry and aggressive, drinking to excess, binging TV, overdoing porn—all of these can be seen as a way to avoid a more painful reality.

When people start therapy it’s because these “defenses” are no longer working well and they’re ready to try something else.

And that might just mean they’re going to confront those feelings they learned to stuff down a long time ago.

Please check out Becoming Aware of Your Emotions Can Suck! (at first) and let me know what you think!

Justin Lioi, LCSW is a men’s mental health and relationship expert. He is a Brooklyn therapist (as well as also seeing clients online throughout New York State and internationally.) He received his degree from New York University and has been working with men and their families for over 10 years. Justin is on the Board of the National Association of Social Workers and writes a weekly column for the Good Men Project called Unmasking Masculinity. He can be found on local and national podcasts talking about assertiveness, anger, self-compassion, all with the goal of becoming the man you want to be.