Would you enjoy life more if you were encouraged to talk about your feelings?
Every week I join a circle of men and women, mostly women, to talk about feelings. It’s a course in counselling and counselling skills. I’ve been doing it for a year, and if I want to qualify it’ll be a few more years yet. But the main reason I go back every week is because it feeds my nosey obsession with why people are the way they are.
Counselling has a number of ‘themes’. Openness and empathy are two. So when I was offered the job at Nursing Times I was delighted because in my mind these themes are central to nursing too. But now I think I might have got it wrong.
There’s a woman in my counselling group who works as a hospice nurse. When I asked her what her nurse colleagues thought about the course I was surprised to hear that they didn’t encourage, but rebuked her for attending. Apparently phrases like “why are you bothering?” and “what’s the point?” were bandied around. I was completely shocked. Especially in a hospice, when patient deaths and interactions with bereaved relatives are the norm, surely talking about your feelings is helpful. No, essential!
Are nurses encouraged to talk about their feelings at work? I asked the Nursing Times’ Facebook page when their superior at work last asked them how they were feeling …
“When? Never happened!”
“Sometimes it’s asked, but it’s expected of you to say ‘oo fine peachy,’ even when it’s not okay.”
“Every time I see her :)”
“Lol, that’s a good one.”
So most nurses realise that setting aside time to talk about feelings is a rarity. But if it wasn’t, would it help? One theory I have is that patients project a lot of their anger, frustration and feelings of helplessness onto nurses. Nurses absorb these feelings like sponges. And if they don’t do something about them, these feelings will stay inside, swirl around, and won’t ever completely disappear. They’ll just be projected onto other areas of their lives. Perhaps onto their relationship with their partner and family or perhaps onto their nursing colleagues.
So do you think that you, as a nurse, would enjoy life more if you were encouraged to talk about the way you felt? What do you think? Do you want to, but you don’t have the time or encouragement?
Let me know! Feed my nosey obsession.