Discussion Questions for Lori Gottlieb: Does My Pain Count?
1. Loss happens to everyone, says Lori Gottlieb, bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. And, yet, often we don’t talk about our losses. We feel like our loss is not as important as someone else’s loss. We feel like sharing our loss would just be complaining. We feel like our loss is not really a loss at all. What is one loss—however seemingly small or significant—that you’re carrying today?
2. As a therapist, Lori listens for the struggle behind someone’s words. In other words, she says, she listens for “the music behind the lyrics.” Pause for a moment to reflect on something—a complaint, perhaps—you’ve heard yourself say recently. What were the actual words that came out of your mouth? What was the deeper struggle you were trying to communicate? What insight, if any, comes to you when you’re able to distinguish one from the other?
3. Lori introduces Kate to the phrase “feeling felt.” We don’t have to agree with someone else’s version of the story or feel exactly what they’re feeling but we do have to be able to imagine the world through their eyes. When have you felt “felt”? Describe where you were, who you were with, and what happened that validated your viewpoint.
4. Often we try to dismiss or distract from our feelings when really what we most need to know is that it’s okay to feel. What’s one emotion that feels not okay for you to feel right now? How could a both/and approach to your feelings—I feel this way AND I acknowledge I also feel this way—create more freedom in you?
5. Lori describes a relationship she had with a patient who had terminal cancer. What made their sessions so full of vitality was the fact that her patient had the ability to live with a full range of emotions, no sugarcoating. Have you ever watched someone live this way up close? What did it inspire in you? What is about living with limits that brings things into focus?
6. A lot of people feel too full of reality these days. But Lori wants to broaden the definition of reality to not just what we see on the news but also to what we experience every day, like cooking a meal or reading a book or taking a bath. List three realities you’re currently holding. Does expanding the scope of what counts as reality change things for you and your anxiety?
7. Kate has gotten hooked on absurdity as an anecdote to tragedy. A Taylor Swift bracket. An online choir. A woman who screams out of her window every morning. What are you doing to celebrate the absurd these days? What’s one idea to invite more folly in to your future?
8. Lori lost her dad recently. As he was preparing to die, he told her that he couldn’t take away her pain but that her pain was an indication of how much love existed between them. Tell a story or draw a picture of how pain has imprinted on your heart.
9. One of the hardest things about the world we’re living in is the loss of physical touch. After Lori’s dad died, her family wasn’t able to grieve with the familiar ritual of sitting Shiva: shared space, food, and face-to-face storytelling. How are you feeling the loss of physical presence? Where in your body do you feel it? Why does it feel so vital?
10. Lori says one of the best ways we can take care of ourselves right now is to commit to a basic routine and to identify only one or two things a day to tackle. How will you start to sink back into your humanity?
Bonus: After listening to this week’s podcast, what part of Kate and Lori’s conversation resonated with you most? What insight will you carry with you?
Discussion Questions written by author, editor, and facilitator Erin S. Lane.