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Winter

Today the temperature is supposed to be in the 50’s, and many people are happy about this.  A lot of people don’t like winter–particularly this winter, since it’s been unseasonably cold.  But I don’t mind it.
 
I’m not that good at small talk, so it’s nice to have something to say if I’m forced to talk to someone I don’t know that well.  I know this is true for a lot of those winter haters, too, even if they don’t admit it.  And I’ve worn all the sweaters that I bought while I lived in Ohio and Pennsylvania, so I’ve had more wardrobe options.
 
Winter is usually a time when people feel more depressed because of the cold and lack of sunlight.  Even though I was depressed in December, I’ve been surprisingly cheerful since the beginning of the year.  I really like living alone.  I like sleeping alone.  So much so that I wonder if I will ever invite someone over again.  I like knitting, making jewelry, watching sports, or writing a blog post without distractions.
 
Adapting to changes in the weather is a good example of how we can get used to just about anything.  Before the first cold spell, I thought I was going to freeze to death when the temperature dropped to 24 degrees.  Now it takes single digits before I think it’s unbearably cold.  The other day one of my friends commented on how last week, when we had a day in the 40’s, it felt so warm she could have played tennis outside.
 
The same is true about living alone.  When you live with someone, they may annoy you, but it seems like it would be worse if you had to come home to an empty house every day.  That’s what I said not too long ago in my post on solitude.  And when you’re used to living alone, you think it would be unbearable to have to deal with all the annoying things about another person, which is how I feel now.  But I’m sure if I started dating again, I’d get used to having someone in my space and it would seem worth it.  Hopefully.
 
In therapy, I often use the weather as a metaphor for feelings.  I tell them to observe what they’re feeling at any particular moment, like Weather on the 8’s.  Sadness with a chance of happiness later in the late afternoon.  Fifty percent chance of an anger outburst tomorrow.   Maybe we don’t like the weather when it’s 7 degrees outside, but it will change eventually.  Maybe even later that day.
 
Ordinarily this is not the way we think about feelings.  We dread when the other shoe will drop and our good mood will be ripped away from us unceremoniously.  But when we’re in a bad mood, we fear that we will be stuck in depression or anxiety for the rest of our lives.  The reality is, you can count on your mood changing, positive or negative, just like the weather.
 
We can also look at the weather in a more impersonal manner.  We don’t blame ourselves if the weather is cold; we didn’t do anything wrong.  And we don’t really have to understand the reason why it is unseasonably cold.  I don’t particularly care about understanding the polar vortex.  But if we feel sad for no reason and we can’t make it go away, we must be weak.  Irrational.  Crazy.
 
The other message I give to clients is that even when we feel sad or anxious, there is still something positive about that moment.  And I don’t mean this in a think happy thoughts kind of way.  When I feel depressed and can’t motivate myself to do anything, I have more compassion when a client says they spent the whole weekend in bed, feeling crappy about themselves.  I have a better understanding of how much pain they are in.  And it helps me to be a better therapist.
 
There is beauty in everything, even in the things we don’t like, but sometimes we have to look for it.
 
 
Photo Courtesy of Allison Szuba

 

About Christy Barongan

I didn't know it at the time, but I wanted to be a psychologist so that I could figure out how to be normal. I think many people come to counseling for the same reason. What I've come to learn is that feeling good about myself is not about trying to be normal. It's about trying to be me. But it's a constant struggle for me, just like it is for everyone else. So I thought I would approach this task with openness and honesty and use myself as an example for how to practice self-acceptance.

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  1. Pingback: Everyday Mircales | Normal in Training

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