The Compound Effect

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As I have shared before, when my child came out as transgender, I did not handle it well. Not with him and certainly not emotionally. I was scared, sad, and confused. I didn’t know where to turn and decided the great world wide web was most certainly the answer. So I joined some online support groups.

Wouldn’t you know- someone had posted a story similar to mine in one of the groups, sharing their fear and pain. And the other parents immediately jumped on her, saying she wasn’t being accepting if she had these negative emotions. “NO!” I thought, “I accept my child but I need support.”

Enter shame. I chose to believe these people that I was doing something wrong and not being fully accepting of my child.

This is the compound effect- layering one feeling on top of another only to heighten the experience of the first one. It’s essentially feeling awful about feeling awful and now feeling exponentially awful.

The human experience is 50-50, 50% positive and 50% negative. So often we try to run and hide from the negative emotions, using food, alcohol, Facebook, Netflix and so on to numb the human experience. But when we do this, we only compound the effect of the negative feelings.

Instead, we could just be in acceptance that some experiences don’t feel good, accept ourselves for the human we are. I am not saying we should wallow in self pity, sadness and fear but that we can choose to allow these emotions to be part of our human experience without numbing them or making them worse by creating bigger emotions like shame.

The goal isn’t to pretend things are okay and put out an unreal version of ourselves but to be at peace with not being okay. To experience fear, sadness and confusion without trying to fix it. To accept that these are going to be part of big moments in our lives and be willing to work through them instead of around them. And in doing so we learn to demonstrate self compassion as well as greater compassion for others sharing our experience.

Nothing was wrong with me being scared, sad and confused. I was processing a big change in my thinking and knowing. I had learning to do, growth to make happen. I needed support.

Of course I was scared. Of course I was confused. My brain was having to learn new pathways and our brains naturally resist change.

Rather than to battle the negative emotions, I now try to name them and describe how they feel in my body, allowing them to be part of me. As I practice, I am more tolerant of the negative emotions and able to greet the human experience with love and compassion rather than compound feeling pain about the pain.

Try it out and let me know what you think. And if you’re someone in the fear, sadness and confusion, know you are not alone and you are okay. You can accept your child and be having your own human experience. If you’d like additional support, please reach out to me at You don’t have to navigate this alone.

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