For many clients, the physical manifestation of exhaustion is a symptom of deeper psychological issues. They may report feeling tired, overwhelmed, anxious, or even depressed. On the surface, they may have too many activities, feel responsible for others, reject setting boundaries, strive to look perfect, or be driven to excel. While all of these things contributue to their exhaustion, the underlying reason maybe much deeper.
Here is an example from my personal life:
When my daughter was younger, she came out of her room to go to the first day of school in an outfit that was truly hideous. Purple jeans were paired with an orange top and some leopard print accessories were thrown in for who knows what reason. My facial expression was something similar to having watched someone thrown-up.
“What?” she said.
“You’re not going to school that way, are you?” I asked, hoping she wasn’t done dressing.
“Yeah, what’s the problem? Don’t you like it?” she asked innocently.
My mind raced with thoughts of what would others think of her, what would teachers think of me for letting her go to school that way, how we didn’t have time for this nonsense, etc. I became instantly angry and hyper-protective, which explained the “you’re not going anywhere dressed like that” comment that followed.
But looking back on the incident, my anger was a clue that something deeper was amiss. Sometimes little events can reveal big events forgotten long ago. I, too, had been picked on at her age. Wanting desperately to protect her, I minimized her excitement and ability to handle the inevitable conflict by elevating my fear.
So, the root of your client’s exhaustion could very well be an emotional wound that has yet to heal. For instance, by taking on too much responsibility, they might actually be trying to heal from having an absent parent. Or they may feel the need to prove their worth because of deep rooted insecurity. Or they might be making up for past irresponsible behavior out of feelings of shame or guilt.
Physical wounds are easy to spot as they usually leave visible evidence. However, emotional wounds are much harder to spot because the evidence is not always as apparent. Signs of depression, anxiety, anger, and/or fear can often overlap, and while they are usually a good indication of an emotional wound, identifying the specific wound is not as easy.
Emotional wounds usually have been hidden, forgotten, denied, or repressed for so long that they might not even recognize their existence. Spend some time helping your client becoming more aware of their emotional reactions that are not proportional to the situation and write them down. One woman who did this discovered a strange fear of closets, which led to the memory of her molestation. By addressing her forgotten emotional wound, she greatly reduced her present exhaustion.