This post has been a long time coming. It’s a topic that I’ve caught myself ruminating over as I see it popping up more and more regularly. To be honest, it’s like a chip on my shoulder at the moment, so I’ll keep it short as I know this one can easily turn into a rant!
The idea or notion that “mindset is everything”. I’ve seen it floating around social media more and more frequently as of late. The idea that we simply need to change our mindset and therefore our emotions, and we have no excuses for our current circumstances. The idea that our reactions to circumstances and situations are our choice, because it all comes down to mindset. That it’s all a CHOICE.
I call bullshit. It’s victim-blaming, dismissive and unhelpful.
You feel what you feel as a result of a myriad of factors, and ‘deciding’ to feel anything else (which I question is even possible) is simply denying or ignoring a truer emotion, hindering the ways the body processes situations and events. Emotions need to be felt for what they are in order to process them.
When is mindset not enough?
When it comes down to raw difficult emotions that many women face through fertility issues, pregnancy, birth and postpartum, telling them that they should be choosing to be positive and simply reframe their mindset can bring with it feelings of self-blame that they can’t seem to bring themselves to a happy space, shame that they aren’t happier and inadequacy that they aren’t feeling what others are. It can prevent many from speaking up and reaching out for support as the constant talk of positive and mindset can make many feel as though they should be able to cope alone.
Try reframing these experiences…
The pain of years of trying to conceive a deeply desired child… “chin up, mindset is everything. Think positively and it will happen!”.
The experience of an emotionally and physically traumatic birth… “be positive, it was months ago anyway and baby is healthy”. How can someone who has their fight/flight/freeze response continuously activated through trauma simply decide to ignore it?
The pure exhaustion, helplessness and loneliness of early parenting… “focus on the good parts, it won’t last forever”.
It simply doesn’t work to ignore what we truly feel by boxing it away and deciding that we need to feel something else. We can’t simply choose to feel positive about these experiences. And we can’t ask others to merely change their attitude and all will be ok. It’s just not that simple and insinuating that it is is dangerous.
Positive mindset has its place
Positive mindset does have its place, for sure. It can help re-frame a situation and can help you to see the facts in a different light. And from there, can help inform your decisions in new ways. When we have tools and strategies for working through our emotions, understanding them and how they manifest, we can use mindset to assist us in overcoming these emotions. Mindset work brings hope, confidence and optimism, which we all need.
But it’s not always possible to choose our emotions or our reactions to situations. Emotions allow us to find balance after a trying experience. Unprocessed emotional energy is stored in the body, not only the brain, and these emotions need to be worked through, processed and released in order for us to move forward. As humans we need to be heard and our emotions felt and acknowledged before we can heal.
Mindset is only a part of the equation. It may take positive thinking to aid you in making the decision to seek support, or finding a positive mindset may come later. But feeling into your anger, sadness, pain, fear, grief and the realities of an experience needs to be a part of the process.
My name is Fiona Rogerson and I am an ACA accredited perinatal Perth counsellor and Hypnobirthing (Mongan Method) Practitioner. I work with women and men to overcome emotional and psychological hurdles surrounding conception, pregnancy, postpartum, parenting and identity. I am also available to provide professional development training and workshops to various organisations. I am based south of the river in Perth. To work with me, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0402 017 425 or message via my contact page.