Both/and thinking is acknowledging that you can and almost certainly will at times feel more than one thing at a time.
For example as a Mum, you can be both grateful and resentful of the pressures of motherhood. You can feel both appreciative that you have time to spend with your kids, and trapped by its monotony. You can love your work and also wish you had more time with family. You can love what you’ve got and also be ambitious. So often when Mums share a difficult experience or feeling with me, they immediately talk themselves out of it. They say things like “I really don’t have anything to complain about, other women have it much harder”, “I’m so lucky to be able to stay home with my kids, I should be more grateful”, “My kids are actually great kids, I shouldn’t be finding it this difficult”
But guess what? There is actually room for two different women’s experiences. They can both be true and can coexist without one lessening the other.
And there is room for us to each feel one thing AND another, at exactly the same time.
This is the magic of both/and thinking.
When I was thinking about this recently, I was really focused on the power of this concept in motherhood. I hadn’t even considered the potential benefits for our kids as well, until I took my son to his Art Therapy appointment that very same day.
He had been appearing super tired and flat all week, and so the therapist planned to work through some of this with him in the session.
They did an activity together which looked like this:
Basically, they drew a big heart together and then he shaded in an area of the heart to represent each feeling he had and the amount of the feeling. They used feeling cards to help with the language around feelings.
And honestly, his whole demeanor was different when I picked him up. It was like just knowing the names of what he was feeling and allowing them to all be present at the same time, made him lighter.
So, maybe next time you’re feeling the need to shut down a difficult feeling with a “I shouldn’t complain” you can acknowledge and sit with both feelings?
Or maybe the Heart activity is something you could do with one of your kids?
I’d love to hear what you think 🙂