Growing Pains

A big promotion. Moving to a new city. A new relationship. The end of a relationship. The birth of a child. A new adventure.

All of these can be incredible milestones in the lives of individuals and families. We may imagine these moments long before they actually occur, and we can almost feel the happiness, excitement, and anticipation. Oftentimes, however, these moments can include other feelings. Anxiety, discomfort, nervousness, uncertainty. This is normal.

Simply put, moments of growth are still moments of change; and while change may be something that you welcome or even actively pursue, the very essence of change means that it is something new and unfamiliar. It is common to feel some degree of discomfort when we find ourselves in a new and unfamiliar place.

The wonderful thing about being human is that we are capable of holding both of these emotional experiences at once. We can feel excited and terrified, happy and anxious, fulfilled and uncertain. Experiencing two (or more) perhaps seemingly mismatched feelings at once is not an indication that something is wrong, but rather that we are individuals capable of experiencing complex emotional responses. However, it can be challenging to attempt and reconcile this emotional spectrum; so, what can we do to help?

1.     Discomfort does not necessarily equate to something being wrong

  • Again, it is very normal to experience a degree of discomfort in the process of change or growth. We see examples of this the physical realm (our muscles experience discomfort in the process of becoming stronger); the mental realm (our brain can feel frazzled or discombobulated as we learn new material for the first time); and we can certainly apply it to the emotional realm. So check in with yourself: Is this discomfort an indication of something unsafe or dangerous, or is it part of the process of growing?

2.     Set realistic expectations

  • Keep in mind that it is common to have mixed emotions, and begin to normalize this as you prepare for a moment of change. Practice supportive self-talk and assure yourself that it is okay if this wonderful experience also includes difficult or challenging moments. If your expectation is that you will only experience happiness or excitement, it may be difficult to understand or accept other feelings that may come up.

3.     Find support

  • Is there someone who is going through this experience with you? Is there a person you know who has gone through this before? Being able to hear “me too” when we are going through a confusing or difficult time is incredibly powerful. It is reassuring to know that we are not the only ones grappling with an experience or emotion. This may also be a time when therapy can be a great resource; I often work with clients on navigating or processing an event or series of events that, while positive in most aspects, have brought up a degree of uncertainty or confusion.

To learn more or to book an appointment, contact me via telephone or email.

Brenna Burke, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Santa Clarita, CA. She provides individual psychotherapy and couples counseling. Information provided through this website is for informational purposes only. It does not create a therapist-client relationship and does not replace clinical assessment or professional consultation.