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  • quinnwhiting

Don't Just Feel Better, Do Better


A black and white photo shows a city street down at street level. A teal-colored arrow points toward the horizon with the words "better days ahead" in black inside the arrow.

Something said in one of my first counseling classes has always stuck with me and continues to inform my work with clients. The professor of my very first counseling class, a gentle fellow who looked as much like Yoda as anyone humanly can said, "Counseling isn't about feeling better, it's about doing better." He went on to explain as he looked at the room full of confused faces that people often come to counseling in the hopes of feeling better, but focusing on that can miss the point of the real work. That's natural! Who wouldn't want to feel better when they're struggling with anxiety, depression, intrusive thoughts, or struggling to cope with some big change in their life?


But often it's the desire to feel better that leads us into unhelpful coping behaviors. We avoid social situations because it feels better to not worry about being awkward or judged.


We turn to substances because it feels better to numb ourselves and forget our worries rather than changing the ways we are dealing with something.


We continue with a job, degree program, or relationship because it feels better to stay stuck in the way of living that is familiar to us than struggle with the uncertainty of going in a new direction.


The problem comes that what often feels better in the short term can cost us in the long run. We become disconnected from who we are and the values that are important to us. Avoiding social situations denies us the relationships we want to have with others. Using substances takes a toll on our mind and body and spills over into other areas of our life like our work, recreation, and relationships. Staying with what is familiar can bring us misery because we know we're not being true to ourselves or good to ourselves.


Doing better, on the other hand, often means short-term discomfort in exchange for long-term gains. It can be uncomfortable to admit we want to change and scary when we don't even know how to change. Learning to coexist with and manage our thoughts and feelings can be challenging at first. Connecting with our past traumas or the feelings that come with change or loss is hard. It hurts. But in doing the hard work, we learn to "do better."


Instead of avoiding social situations, we can learn to manage our anxiety so that it doesn't rule us. We can choose to do better and walk into a room full of people we want to meet and connect with.


We can learn to do better when troubling thoughts and feelings arise and address them with life-affirming management tools to be the person we want to be in the moment rather than turning to substances or distractions like social media and binge-watching shows.


We can learn to do better and take small steps toward changes we want or need to make to claim the life we can create rather than staying stuck in something because it's familiar.


We can move closer to the life we want for ourselves when we accept that sometimes what feels better isn't always what is best for us and commit to making changes that lead us to what we want, even if it's uncomfortable.


We can make the changes that help us do better. And in doing so, we can step into a rich and rewarding life.


You can make that change.


I believe in you,

Quinn




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