Welcome to the next installment of our “More About Me” series. Today’s post is by Jaki Hitzelberger, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Primary Therapist.
Almost every time I leave work to go home, I think to myself, “I have the best job in the world.” As a counselor, I get to go on the most amazing journeys and witness incredible courage and strength. I always wish my clients knew just how inspiring they are to me. Being in counseling, going towards your pain, is really hard… and I know this firsthand.
Growing up, I was definitely more of an introverted observer. I loved watching and listening to people, trying to understand why they did what they did. I enjoyed being a sounding board for my friends and someone they could trust with their problems. The key word here is their problems. When it came to how I felt and what I thought, no one ever really knew, and I made sure to keep it that way. While this approach works in some ways, I experienced a lot of anxiety and insecurities because I was never able to release my feelings and fears.
It was safe to focus on other people’s problems and I really enjoyed it, so it only made sense to study psychology in college. Everything changed when I made the decision to continue on and get my Master’s degree in counseling at Rollins College. The tables turned when I was suddenly asked to share more about myself than ever before. In addition, we were required to attend 10 counseling sessions while in the program. The horror!
I remember my first counseling session, sitting in front of the therapist, silently waiting for her to “do her thing.” Much to my dismay, she just sat silently as well, kindly smiling at me, waiting for me to begin. Little by little I began to do what was very foreign and uncomfortable for me, share about myself. While this was very challenging, I started to feel my anxiety slowly fade. A sense of peace and acceptance took its place with each passing session.
While so beneficial, it can feel counterintuitive to go towards your pain or negative feelings. One of my favorite metaphors to illustrate this is a concept called “running towards the roar.” When lions hunt, it’s actually the lionesses who do most of the dirty work, though the male lions do play an important role. How it works is the male lions creep up onto one side of a watering hole where their prey is gathered, but they don’t attack; they simply roar very loudly. Meanwhile, the lionesses are waiting on the other side, ready to attack when the herd runs away from the loud roar and straight into their path.
In a similar way, people tend to run away from the roar, or their own negative feelings and pain. And can you really blame them? It can be scary and uncomfortable to talk about hurtful experiences. The problem is, running away from these feelings is not a safer option. You end up running straight into something much more harmful such as alcoholism, abusive relationships, over-exercising, or an eating disorder. All of these may provide a momentary distraction from your pain, but clearly cause many more additional problems along the way.
When you run towards the roar by talking to a family member or friend, going to counseling, or writing your feelings in a journal, you can actually begin to heal and address the real issue. This isn’t easy by any means and it’s why I am so inspired by my clients as I witness their strength and courage session after session. It’s why I have the best job in the world. I encourage you to think about what the roar is in your life that you might be running from, and what you might be running towards instead. Consider trying something different… run towards the roar.