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A View From the Other Side of the Couch: Pay Attention to the Pink Flags Too

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

(Albert Einstein)

No Therapist, you may NOT have a life.

I met Tiffany Sankofa seven years ago when she was working in a group practice in Columbia. I was in my mid-30s and had seen a therapist or two (…or ten) by then. A few years prior, I’d found one that I really liked. She helped me through six of the worst months of my life before deciding to pick up and move to Florida to be closer to her aging mother. (The nerve, right?!) 

As I’m sure some of you can relate, it’s never easy starting over with a new therapist. No one wakes up thinking, “Yay! Today, I get to tell another stranger about my dysfunctional relationship with my parents, my hella poor executive functioning skills, (thanks, ADHD,) and my screwed-up marriage! Let’s DO this!” Nevertheless, I knew I needed help, so I sucked it up and made an appointment. That’s when I met Tiffany.

What da wha?

If you’ve worked with Tiffany, you know. She’s different. Non-judgmental, warm, truly supportive, and refreshingly willing to challenge you when you’re cycling through old, harmful, unproductive patterns. (Damn neuropaths.) After our very first visit, I left feeling lighter, relieved, and surprisingly optimistic about coming back.

Then, I got the call.

Apparently, my visit with Tiffany was merely an “intake” appointment, and I’d actually been assigned to another practitioner.

SERIOUSLY?!

I hung up the phone feeling totally defeated. I’d accepted the appointment with the other therapist (who was probably fine, maybe even great,) but it weighed on me. At the time, I wasn’t sure why. Outside of having to rehash my story to another stranger, yet again, I had no real reasons to be concerned. On paper, the other therapist had the same qualifications as Tiffany. I didn’t find any scathing reviews of them online. (Yes, I check. I would for a hairstylist, so best believe I’m checking out the person who will hear my deepest, darkest secrets. Which, for some people is their hairstylist, but I digress…) Still, I kept getting this nagging feeling.

Flashing pink

No, there weren’t any red flags, but there was a teeny tiny little pink one waving ever so gently in the corner of my subconscious. Kind of like the shy kid in class who only raises their hand halfway when they know an answer. They have something valuable to contribute, but they are easy to overlook in a sea of “Ooh! Ooh! Pick MEs!”

Red flags are in your face. They’re like “CAUTION!” signs, bright red lipstick, or the headline on cover of the Sunday paper. They are overt, bold, and pretty hard to miss. A Little League coach calls your 5-year-old an idiot over a dropped catch. Red flag. Your neighbor pours bleach onto your garden bed. Red flag. Your dog likes everyone except your new boyfriend. Red flag. (Drop him like a hot potato, girl! The dogs, they know!)

Pink flags are less obvious. They’re easier to overlook, make excuses for, or ignore, despite your inner voice whispering, “This doesn’t feel right.” A friend’s husband “jokingly” belittles her at a party. Your boss “forgets” to invite you to an important meeting. You’re told that the therapist of your dreams is not available, and you’re assigned to someone else…

Gut brain data, front and center!

Ok, so not all pink flags are created equally. Would I have been fine seeing another therapist? Most likely, yes. But, while my rational brain was telling me to suck it up and take the other appointment, my gut was telling me to not let it go. So, I emailed Tiffany and all but begged her (and Dante) to take me on as a client. I explained that I “just knew” she was the right fit for me and that I really, REALLY didn’t want to start over with someone else.

Thankfully, Tiffany made the time in her schedule for me. Seven years later and I’m proud to say that I’ve been fairly consistent in making time for my mental health. I’ve learned and grown so much and become even more attuned with listening to and honoring my inner voice. I’m also setting boundaries like a boss and really slaying those “shoulds, have to’s, and musts.”

There go those 3 brains again

I’m at a point now where I only do periodic check-ins with Tiffany. It’s weird; She told me when we started that she was “always trying to work herself out of a job.” Apparently, she meant it! I’ve learned that those pink flags aren’t as mushy and confusing as they used to be. The gut brain is an actual thing. I’m learning to use it as a superpower.

Tiffany does this thing she calls “bio-location.” It’s annoying, but it really works. When I get that “pink flag” feeling, I scan my body and notice the physical feelings: Is my stomach churning? Is my throat tight? It’s raw data from my gut brain. Then, I use the brain between my ears to think through what those sensations are telling me. Listening to that data is a much healthier option than ignoring it the way we are often conditioned to do.

Grateful for the pink

Looking back, had I not paid attention to that little pink flag urging me to take a chance and ask for what I knew was right for me, there was a pretty good chance that I would have talked myself out of that other appointment. And, if so, who knows how much time might have gone by before I mustered up the courage to try again? I might not have learned how to hone-in and use that pink flag data to make better decisions and to trust myself.

Things won’t always work out how we want them to, but it’s always good practice to assert what you want!

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Having trouble understanding what your gut brain is saying? Contact Tiffany here today!

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