Counsellor Kelly Gelder discusses how to move through difficult emotions.
Over 100 wellbeing professionals have been contributing to the Thinkladder app during Covid-19 pandemic. Elly Strang catches up with some of these contributors. Here’s United Kingdom based counsellor Kelly Gelder.
If there’s been no rhyme or reason to the origins of your emotions recently, it’s not cause to be alarmed. Kelly Gelder says not having a sense of what’s causing certain feelings to spike is a completely normal reaction to what’s going on globally right now.
“The common theme that I’ve seen with clients is them saying, ‘Is this normal? Why am I confused and angry and sad?’ With any change that comes, you have to experience grief on some level,” Gelder says.
“I’ve really felt a sense of the whole nation grieving over something that they weren’t quite sure what they were grieving about. I think a lot of people associate grief with death, like losing a loved one, particularly if you’re not used to experiencing it. But you still go through those stages of grief, even if say, you lose your keys.”
Kelly Gelder runs a therapy practice called Emerging Together in Grimsby, a coastal town in the United Kingdom a few hours north of London. She has been shielding (not leaving home) for the past three months to protect her son, who has a rare form of muscular dystrophy, making him vulnerable to Covid-19.
“We’ve been quite reliant upon people to get us food, and initially that was hard because people were panic buying. But my son has managed it amazingly, and that’s where I got a lot of my inspiration from because he’s the most patient person I know,” she says.
Kelly is trained in person-centred therapy, which is based on American psychologist Carl Rogers’ theories. Rogers believed that in order for people’s conditions to improve, therapists need to be warm, genuine and understanding. This approach has three core values: empathy, unconditional positive regard and congruence.
“These core values help the client to be seen, heard and understood. Once somebody else has seen them, then they can actually see themselves and begin that journey to self-acceptance and self-love,” Kelly says.
Her own experiences have also shaped her approach to her work. When Kelly’s parents divorced when she was 13, she had her first experience with the practice as a client and says it really helped her. She also experienced burn-out when she finished studying at university while juggling raising her two children, which has helped her empathise with clients going through similar experiences.
“I was moving at ten thousand miles an hour, but there was also there was a piece of me that wasn’t quite fulfilled in life. And so that was like a big slap around the face to wake me up and go, ‘Listen.’ And I did. And I still do.”
Kelly also works within schools to help children learn to regulate their emotions and improve their relationships. It’s believed that on average, three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health issue.
“We should empower our children to understand how their emotions work, why we have them and what happens to our bodies and our minds when we worry or we’re sad or we’re happy from a really, really young age,” Kelly says. “These are life skills that we’re teaching these children so that the next time they have a difficult or challenging situation, that they can pull on these strategies they’ve learned.”
Recently on the Thinkladder app, people in the United Kingdom have been exploring many specific limiting beliefs and the negative symptoms associated with those beliefs.
The top three beliefs occurring in the United Kingdom during this time are ‘If I get ill, I’m going to die’, ‘I have to pretend to be someone else’ and ‘Anxiety is a feeling to be feared’.
To those that believe that if they get sick they’re going to die, Kelly says, “When you think about the pandemic from your emotions, then it feels almost certain that’s going to happen. But actually, when you think about it with your logical part of the brain, you think, that’s not true. Statistically, that’s not true. To have that thought is normal as it’s a scary time, but it’s really important to remember that it is just a thought.”
For those who believe they have to pretend to be someone else, she says, “We believe this when we’re feeling scared, vulnerable or like we might be judged, so we mask our emotions. But you always can choose to be a more authentic version of yourself, and then you can begin to build up your own self-worth, self-respect and self-confidence, which helps you become who you really want to be.”
And for those who believe anxiety is a feeling to be feared, Kelly says, “If you fear anxiety, you continue to be stuck in the anxiety cycle and become fearful of fear. The best thing to do is to accept that it is just an emotion, because that’s all that it is.
“Anxiety can’t hurt you. Even a panic attack can’t kill you. You know, even though it feels like it will, it can’t. And the only power it has over you is how you think about it. It’s an emotion, and like other emotions, it flows and comes and goes.”
Looking ahead to the future, Kelly says she hopes this period shows everyone that the world’s not going to end if everyone slows down a little.
“I think it’s a time for reflection and for change, even though that may be scary for some. But life is all about change – it changes constantly and never stops,” she says. “It’s also a time when people really need to realise that we’re all in it together, we’re all connected and we’re all quite similar – more than we realise.
“If people understood that more, there’d be a lot more empathy and compassion and understanding for others.”