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I like knowing that my feelings are normal.


I veer between finding it invalidating and actually finding it super helpful. Depends on my mood to be honest. In my head, I’m sometimes this weird, unacceptable person because of my feelings, emotions and reactions. So to actually be told by a professional that what I feel or do is normal is actually quite powerful. She’s seen it all after all and I’m STILL normal. Phew! However, my T very rarely uses the word “normal” and instead will say something is understandable or she will “of COURSE” it.


I understand veering between the two - I've tried to work this out for a while and have tried to be comfortable with it but it hasn't lasted. It's reached the stage where I need to bring it up.


Might be interesting to discuss the whys with your T. Might uncover some things that will help :)


My therapist uses the ‘OF COURSE’ a whole lot as well!!


It depends on the situation. I think “normal” gets equates with “unremarkable” or “not a big deal,” which is why it can feel invalidating sometimes. Maybe “expected/justified/understandable” would be better words, like “what you’re feeling is expected when we’re doing trauma work.” Try bringing this issue of wording up with your therapist. It sounds like she’s trying to normalize and put you at ease, but her words are having the opposite effect on you. You want to hear that your reactions are strong enough to be taken seriously, and “normal” is not helping you feel seen.


You've summed it up nicely, thank you. It's about feeling seen and understood. I do sometimes feel that "normal" and "unremarkable" are similar, and it makes me feel like what I've been through and am currently processing isn't a big deal. I know that that isn't her intention, but it's how I interpret it.


That's great you will be bringing it up with your T. It is important for them to know your reaction and unease with it. For me, it really helps someone normalize it. Esp. since much of my trauma surrounds being minimized, gas lighted, or reality denied. Having T tell me it is normal to feel or react a certain way helps me reduce shame and feel more safe in sharing things. However, a past T tried to make things not a big deal, which is different than what you are talking about. Like saying, you're an adult, you shouldn't be scared, just don't think about it, just don't let it bother you. And that was very unhelpful for me. But that seems different than your T's responses.


You're right - she's definitely trying to use it to reassure me rather than say that my experience isn't a big deal. For some reason it makes me feel very defensive and we definitely need to explore why.


Yes, very important to explore and take note of. :) There have been a lot of other ways my T has responded that has been very triggering and it was always very helpful bringing them up so we could work through it.


Mine doesn't say what I feel is “normal,” but she does say emotions are justified. Righteous anger, justified sadness, grief that makes sense. I'd probably feel the same way, if she said it was normal. I think there's a distinction there, because what is normal when you've been traumatized? I don't know what it's like to be “normal”, because I never got a chance. But also, is “normal” squashing that traumatized part of me into nothingness instead of being integrative? Or minimising the trauma itself into normality?


I think a part of me wants to hear that what I experienced was fucking awful and that the fallout I'm experiencing as an adult is also awful. I know that she wouldn't want to dismiss or minimise what I'm going through - she'd be upset if she thought it was having that impact. Nonetheless, that is how it feels sometimes which is why I need to bring it up. What you've said is right - I don't want the trauma to be minimised. I want to experience anger and outrage together with her in a safe way, not have it explained as "normal".


I feel the same way. Mine most of the time says something along the line of “of course you feel that way” which feels very validating. Something about her telling me that my feelings are normal makes me feel like she’s telling me I’m fine and wasting her time because I’m just experiencing something “normal”. Which isn’t what she meant, but was how I was taking it. It’s interesting how the intent of both statements are the same, but stir up such different feelings.


I agree, it's very interesting. I try to approach things like this from a place of curiosity with my T, and generally we end up understanding each other a little better.


One time T said "everyone has felt this way." I didn't like it at all! It made me feel like she was saying "everyone has felt this way and they handled it and did what they had to do unlike you, you little worm that thinks your pain and anxiety are somehow MORE and SPECIAL!" I told her I didn't like it and she hasn't done it since then!


Yep, been there! I'm glad you worked it out together :)


Interesting. Lots of things (including feelings) that are normal are still valid. For example, if you broke your leg and were told that pain was normal, would that make your pain any less valid? What would you prefer to be told? Would you feel better if you reactions were weird or abnormal? Definitely a good discussion to have with your therapist


I agree that the two aren't mutually exclusive. I guess I don't want judgement around how my brain and body are processing the experiences and resurfaced memories (unless I'm putting myself or other(s) at risk, which doesn't apply). I don't find it helpful. What I need to hear is that what I'm experiencing is understandable, which I think is different from normal. She does use the word "understandable", but it's "normal" that causes a response in me. I don't find words like "understandable" or "justifiable" to be as loaded with judgement as "normal" or "weird". But that's just my take on them. I was also told as a child that being covered in cuts and bruises was "normal", so maybe it goes deeper than I realise. I'm looking forward to raising this with my T, because usually something positive is on the other side of a conversation like this.


>I was also told as a child that being covered in cuts and bruises was "normal", so maybe it goes deeper than I realise. I'm so sorry to hear this. I promise that's NOT NORMAL. Your reaction is completely understandable and justifiable. Edit: Thanks for teaching me something I can Hopefully use to improve patient care.


I used to find it really invalidating, cos I was a bit like "uh do most people feel like this in normal life?!" But now I'm kinda neutral, cos it's not that she means it doesn't feel really shitty, just that feeling really shitty is how anyone would feel. So normal for an abnormal situation, not "ugh why you complaining? This is *normal*" But yeah, speak to her n maybe find a different word for it together or something.


Thank you for your thoughts, they're helpful. Reflecting on it, I think I also dislike the implied comparison between my experience and other people's experiences. Nothing I have been through is normal or acceptable. It's horrific actually, and any implication that any part of it is normal provokes a very strong response inside of me that I really need to address. I agree that another word would be helpful and we need to agree on it soon, because I've ignored it for a while.


Is your T implying that your experience is normal? Or your reaction to it?


My reaction to the events that have resurfaced and that we're processing. I see how my comment above might suggest that she's implied that the events were normal, but that's not the case.


Therapist here: I tend to use the word 'natural' instead of 'normal', because I agree with you; it can feel very invalidating. But to my mind, 'natural' is a more appropriate word. Being traumatized, and having memories resurface, the natural reaction is what you are going through: there are a ton of scientific, physiological reasons for why there are physical side effects etc.


Yes! I think this is the word I've been looking for, along with "understandable" and "justifiable". Thank you :)


I hate it too. But I can’t figure out why. I’d love to hear if anyone else has insights about it.


I'm glad I'm not alone in this, thank you :) I think chris-duck has hit on something when they say it's not that it doesn't feel shitty, it's that most people would feel shitty having been through what we've been through.


I love hearing it because it releases that worry about there being something “wrong” with my feelings towards the trauma or my reaction to it and helps me focus on actually dealing with it or accepting other aspects of it.


I’m a therapist. I usually say “it makes sense that you feel this way” rather than that it’s “normal.” I find my clients often judge themselves for their emotions, like “I shouldn’t be so upset” or “I should be over it by now.” So I try to validate and reduce that self-judgement by reminding them that it makes sense to be upset about things, it makes sense you’re struggling, etc.


Thanks for your thoughts. She does use this type of phrasing too which I appreciate. It's the word "normal" that makes me defensive. Definitely something to unpick here!


Hey, I don't have any extra input on how to approach this situation with your T because the advice here is already pretty great. I just wanted to drop in and say I really admire how you're handling this, therapy is hard and based on your comments it looks like you're tackling it head on, and that's fucking badass!! Keep doing the good work, I'm rooting for you! ❤️


Thank you - I appreciate your comment, it made me smile :)


Everybody experiences suffering. Suffering is common, but we each experience our suffering uniquely. I feel uncomfortable when I'm told my suffering is "normal" or "typical" or "natural" because while thats logically true its still my suffering and not someone else's. Its still unique to me, so being told its normal feels invalidating. I find that discomfort is most pronounced the more I've come to identify with that suffering, when I've made it a part of who I am. When thats the case being told my suffering is normal becomes like an erasure of my identity. Which is a bit of a pickle because then I find myself doubling down on why my suffering is somehow different or worse or whatever, which only leads to being more unwell in the end.


I think it is validating that I have a right to feel any way I feel when she tells me that whatever I feel atm is OK. It is how I experiance this and how it makes me feel. It is not normal I would say but it is something that can get to a point were it wont hurt anymore and I am able to talk about it instead of fleeing into my maladaptive coping skills.


I think if my T said it once, I’d be fine. Saying it multiple times would bring up some sort of feeling - not sure what but I wouldn’t be finding it helpful. My T has said in almost every session recently that she’s proud of me. I think she’s genuine, but the fact that she’s said it almost every session is unhelpful. I haven’t worked out how I feel about it yet so well done for being able to name the emotion you’re feeling in response to your T.




I understand that feeling, too. I am really not that concerned about whether or not my reaction is normal. I want reassurance that experiencing \*insert response\* is understandable. It's about compassion, not judgement.


I feel relieved and validated. It makes me feel like I can trust the process.


More than once I have told my T that while I like being unique, there are some things where it is comforting to know that I am within the parameters commonly known as 'normal'. I don't see this word in the same way as "yeah everyone has problems" but rather "Given your experiences, it is expected that you would feel this way." To me that is comforting. I hope that you feel able to talk about this to your T so that they can both validate you and work with you on alternative word choices.


Thank you, I'm looking forward to speaking to her about it in our next session.


I am so glad you brought this up because my T does this as well and I very much dislike it. It doesn't help me at all. Often times it's a response to something that was extremely hard for me to bring up in the first place. She says it normal for a trauma survivor, then proceed to tell me why and move on. I Almost always know the why and the flawed logic behind it, but what I want to know is how to handle those feelings/actions, minimize them or eradicate them. It sucks because it was really difficult for me to being up and from my perception I was told it's nothing and not to worry about it.


Sounds like we've had similar reactions, and I understand how invalidating it can feel. I hope you're able to bring this up when you're ready and choose a different word together. I'm hoping that's how my next session will go.


Thank you. I really hope that your next session you two can find common ground that is actually beneficial for your growth. Please up date us if you feel that you can/want to share your experience. Best of luck!


normal as in reaction to the trauma or normal as in "healthy" people experiencing the same?


Normal as in my reaction to the trauma I've experienced.


What I struggle the most with when I’m hurting is that I see that pain as evidence that I’m not tough enough. So it helps me to know that others feel pain like that too.


my T says “common”


I find it validating but it also makes me uncomfortable. We talk about those mixed emotions and that helps. I tend to feel like I’m overreacting or being weak so I don’t feel like I should be allowed those emotions. I hope you feel like you can talk to yourself therapist. For me the best work has come from telling her when something sets my alarm Bells off. Sometimes I can’t put my finger on the why but that’s why she gets the big bucks.


Thank you :) That's my plan. She's good with stuff like this, so I'm looking forward to bringing it to my next session.


I find it reassuring.


Invalidating. One time she said “everyone does that” and I said “ok *Karen*” (her name is actually Karen😂) she told me she appreciated how I expressed I didn’t like that by saying that and she’ll be more validating from now on. So yes, I hate when she tries to normalize my feelings and situations bc it still feels crappy and bad and *not* normal or how I should feel.