Tina Gilbertson, Expert Therapist Discusses Her Book & Specialty
Tina Gilbertson was living the dream. She resided in New York and had inched her way up the corporate ladder to finally arrive at a successful position in television. The only problem was; it wasn’t her dream--it was everyone else’s. Eventually Gilbertson’s dissatisfaction led to the therapy couch; she had decided to find her answers in therapy. This time of self-examination came with a surprise; Gilbertson uncovered her true passion— she wanted to help people as a professional counselor. After going back to college and becoming licensed, Gilbertson found herself specializing in feelings and how people actually sabotage themselves by trying to feel emotions for which they’ve built no foundation. Her new book, Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Allowing Yourself to Have Them is the result of years of hard work (on herself) as well as helping others.
What motivated you to write your book?
I found myself having similar conversations with different clients. More than one person used the word “wallow” in a derogatory way. “I don’t want to wallow in this despair (or anger or jealousy or insecurity, etc.),” they would say with a sour face. I tried to convince them that it was actually more constructive to wallow in their authentic feelings than to try to ignore them and move forward anyway. I knew that immersing yourself in your feelings helps the emotions to resolve, and it gets you in touch with yourself so you feel more whole than before. I learned this as a therapy client myself, and I shared the information with enthusiasm.
How did your clients respond?
Some of my clients were intrigued by the idea of just allowing themselves to be “negative” instead of putting on a happy face. They asked if there was a book I could recommend, and while I knew of many good books that touched on the topic, none of them said everything I wanted my clients to know.
Did you dig right in or was it a process?
Right around that time, one of my colleagues started writing a book. She made it seem do-able, and it made me think about writing one on how and why to embrace difficult feelings.
One day in the shower I came up with the title, “Constructive Wallowing,” and I thought it was catchy. I asked my partner, Mike, to write it down because I didn’t want to forget it. When I got out of the shower, I sat down and started writing the book.
Please tell me all about your book!
Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them is about how to truly let go of painful feelings using self-compassion, rather than forcing yourself to think positive thoughts.
When you feel upset or down about something, and you force yourself to try to be grateful, or to forgive someone, you’re saying “No” to what’s actually true. You end up abandoning your authentic self in search of an ideal happy, good self. And then you feel empty inside, because you don’t feel happy or good right now. You’re looking for a false self that doesn’t exist in this moment. In effect what you do when you try to ignore bad feelings is to shut yourself out in the cold.
So is this is the crux of your book?
I wrote Constructive Wallowing to explain a different way to deal with painful feelings. I started writing it for my counseling clients who were feeling bad, but I soon came to learn that many people who are not in therapy were interested in learning a better way to manage their feelings effectively without kicking themselves when they’re down.
Too often, books that are supposed to help you end up making you feel like it’s your fault you’re unhappy. Constructive Wallowing is a self-help book that makes people feel better about themselves instead of worse. I want readers to stop blaming themselves for their bad feelings, and to offer them some of what they might need in order to heal. In many cases, it’s simply a dollop of compassion and understanding.
How have you changed as a professional after writing your book?
I have more confidence professionally. I’ve put myself and my thinking out there, and although not everybody likes what I have to say, some people very much do. I’m ready to value my own work, because putting it out there has shown me that it is valuable.
My ability and willingness to choose has expanded. These days I’m selective about the opportunities I embrace. My professional life as a counselor, teacher, speaker and author started relatively late and there’s not enough time to do lots of things I’m not excited about. My life today includes more radio and magazine interviews than before (i.e., there used to be none), but otherwise it hasn’t changed very much. The book’s publicity led me to create a media page on my website, and that lends credibility to everything I do. I’m seen as more of an expert in my field, and am receiving some interesting speaking and training requests.