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The Value of Being on the Cliff

Image of pagoda on high mountain cliff. Raleigh Psychotherapy, counseling, Katherine Broadway, Cliff

“You have to talk me off this cliff. I am so upset, I am going to do or say something I will regret. I made this terrible mistake and I feel so bad. I deserve to be punished.”

Gary said these words to his friend after a therapy session where he came to the realization of one of the ways he had failed as a parent. He felt sad because of the losses both he and his children suffered as a result of his shortcomings. His Harsh Inner Critic was telling him the he was a bad person and that he had done everything wrong concerning his children. His friend was able to remind him of the ways he had done well raising his children in many areas of their lives.

Not As Bad As It Appeared

After a relatively short conversation, they agreed that Gary had done the best he could do, and that he was a “good enough” parent, which is the best we can expect of ourselves. Gary felt relieved. He thanked his friend and remarked that he could now climb off the proverbial cliff. His friend responded with, “No need to climb down, enjoy the view.”

“Talk me off the cliff” means, “I am having difficult feelings and I want to do something to make these bad feelings go away.” Usually, it means that the person wants to do something that will be harmful to themselves, either physically or emotionally. They realize that the action will take the feelings away, but it will not do anything to help with the situation that is causing the feelings. That's why they want to be brought back from the cliff.

It Can Happen to Anyone

I believe that almost everyone has had a “talk me off the cliff” moment in life. Perhaps you experienced a disappointment, a loss, or a rejection. Did you fail yourself, or did someone fail you? Maybe it was an unusually stressful day and you wanted to jump into something that would take the pain, anxiety, anger or stress away. If you are one of the fortunate people like Gary, you were able to call a friend, a family member, a therapist or a help line; someone who would be there to listen to you as you talk through the situation, process the feelings and get a different perspective.

What is the value of such difficult experiences?

1. When we are pushed to our limits, we have an opportunity to grow and heal. It is in these moments we are given a window into what lurks in the shadows of our mind and memory.

These moments do not come because we are weak or ill-prepared, they come because the experience has connected us to the past in such a way that the old unprocessed feelings join with the present feelings to overwhelm us.

2. Our feelings are tremendously important to us. They are messengers and guides to parts of ourselves we need to listen to and get to know.

Through therapy, Gary had come to realize he had painful experiences stored inside. Once he unpacked them, they contained feelings and thoughts that made him feel and believe he was a bad person. He was not a bad person. He was a man who had been parented poorly as a child, and who had few resources when he became a parent.

Hidden Beliefs

These hidden beliefs about himself caused him to feel depressed and anxious. How could he have a good life when he was so bad? By having this moment on the cliff, he was able to learn more about one of the causes of his bad feelings and to see that those negative messages were not true.

When we have experiences in life where we are at the breaking point, if we take the time to reflect on our experiences, figure out how we got there and what needs to change, we can use these moments to improve our lives. "Do you often need someone to bring you back from the edge? Let's start a relationship now so I can be on your short list of people to call, (919)881-2001.

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