Oct 11th, 2009 by admin
In the previous post of our discussion on women’s increasing unhappiness trends, we discussed how women’s anger gets neither acknowledged nor expressed, because we have internalized societal expectations of what our responsibilities are. When we cannot meet our/society’s expectations, therefore, we feel inadequate and unhappy rather than angry.
As a psychotherapist, I see this situation often when women come to me for help with their emotional problems. Most of them come to psychotherapy and counseling not because they are angry at a system that may demand too much of them, but because they want help to become strong, so they can, once again, fill their care-giving roles. These roles are, for most of us, our identity, and we are willing to do whatever we can to preserve who we are.
Another reason why often women come to counseling is to have a place where they don’t need to be “on’ at all times; where they can verbalize their feelings without being judged. In real life, women have to be strong for the people who depend on them; they have to be reliable, consistent, empathic, understanding and compassionate. In the counseling room, on the other hand, they can be themselves. They can voice their frustrations, their exhaustion, their insecurities and the negative feelings they harbor about themselves. They don’t have to please me. They don’t have to worry about my opinion of them.
Being in psychotherapy creates a safe haven where women can look at their own needs. From struggling with different parts of themselves that pull them in opposite directions, they often come to a place where they accept these parts and are sensitive to all of them. It takes time and work, and listening to themselves, and be empathic with how they feel. When I talk to them about the need to be a good parent to themselves, at first they admit this is a foreign concept, even though they spend a good part of their lives parenting others.
In conclusion, I don’t believe, as Buckingham states, that choice itself is inherently stressful and thus the cause of women’s increasing unhappiness. If this were the case men, who had many choices open to them all along, would be much more unhappy than they actually report feeling. Rather, I claim it is still largely lack of support together with the multiple responsibilities placed on women, now as in the past, which keeps us from developing the self confidence that comes from a job well done, and prevents us from feeling happy about ourselves and our lives.
My perspective is based on my clinical work with women, my understanding of feminine psychology and being a woman myself.
What do you believe? I would love to hear your perspective based on your particular experiences. Please share your thoughts with us by making a comment. Simply click on the “comment” button.