• A
  • A
  • A
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
Regular version of the site

‘It Is Important for Us to Learn to Talk about Feelings’

Answers to questions submitted by HSE University students to the psychologists of the CPC (Centre for Psychological Counselling)


In anticipation of World Mental Health Day, we compiled questions submitted by HSE University students to the specialists of the Centre for Psychological Counselling. Here are the counsellors’ answers.

Having time for life

Ekaterina Solovieva

Psychologist, Centre for Psychological Counselling

I feel like I should constantly be studying, rushing somewhere, and learning something new. It seems like if you walk rather than run, then you are already behind. You can’t allow yourself any indulgences: there is just sleep, work, fitness, going to the beautician/doctor, home, work, and sleep. You can’t stop. You make breakfast – you have your ear buds in your ears and you are already listening to an audiobook. In the car you hook up Bluetooth and continue listening. In the office there is work, work, work, no time to answer a call from Dad, or to answer your friend on WhatsApp. How do you take a moment to slow down, give yourself a breather for at least 30 minutes?

You say that you do not have time to live and, perhaps, behind these words there is some need that is not being satisfied. It seems there is something missing in your life that an interesting job, wonderful colleagues, fitness, and so on cannot give. I wonder why it is so difficult to stop, take a breath, and give yourself more than 30 minutes. Could it be that such a pace, the constant desire to do more at work, might be a kind of haven from some of the emotions and experiences that are lacking? It is important to consider what exactly is missing, why you feel an emptiness that you wish to fill, as well as those fears and anxieties that may arise if you want to achieve it.

Anna Kayerova for STUDLIFE HSE

How can one maintain one’s mental health while at HSE University, a highly competitive university? How does one stop comparing oneself with other successful students? How can one hear oneself, one’s own desires, and not what is imposed by society, their environment, and the university?

Comparing ourselves with others is an understandable and normal human activity; we live in a society and thus better understand ourselves, our desires and needs, and also the limitations that any of us has. It is therefore quite difficult to stop comparing yourself with others, but you can do so in different ways. Try to view these comparisons not as indicators that you are inadequate or in some way lacking, but as guidelines and opportunities. Do not punish yourself using unfavourable comparisons. Instead, use them as points of growth. After all, if there is no sense of dissatisfaction, there will be no motivation to change things, to try and look for something new. Of course, in the modern world of social networking, it can be difficult to hear and feel your real desires. It is therefore vitally important to be able to listen to yourself, understand your values, recognize where you are uncomfortable, and where you can find inspiration and pleasure.

How can I deal with the stress of information overload and the number of things to do?

It understandable that you want to know everything, to be able to do everything, to have time for everything, and also to be held in high regard. But it is also important not to lose touch with reality. Understand the limitations of your resources, learn how to prioritise and forgo something. It is difficult to do this, because in this way we deprive ourselves of something under our own control which we value. But it seems even harder to be determined to do everything and read all possible information when it is beyond our capabilities.

Communication and relationships

Sergei Ishanov

Psychologist, Centre for Psychological Counselling

A portion of the questions we received were related to communication and relationships with other people – friends, partners, and family.

Many questions relate to how to cope with your own and other people’s emotions and feelings within a relationship. Emotions and feelings are always associated with something, e.g. behaviour or deeds (real or imaginary). In order to understand your own feelings in this or that interaction, it is important to remember the situations in which they arise and try to understand exactly what causes such feelings.

For example, what is the other person doing, why are you sensing resentment or starting to feel like a victim? Can you try to talk about it, express your feelings and ask them not to do this again? It is important for us to learn how to talk about our feelings, choose the right words and situations to articulate them, show our inner reality, and also recognise the other person’s inner reality. Inside each of us there are sensitive areas that are important for us to value and protect, and, for example, if we face constant depreciation and neglect in a certain relationship, we should leave that relationship. It might be advisable to adopt the position held by the other person, to maintain a good relationship in one’s life. How can I meet the other person halfway? This technique can also help when we want to support someone and find the appropriate words.

A number of questions related to family relationships:

What do I do if my family and I have completely opposing views on raising children (moral and ethical aspects, labour activity, punishment/restrictions, daily routine, and so on)? At the same time our family is happy; our children have not yet reached adolescence. 

This situation may rely on your ability to negotiate with each other and calmly talk about what you don’t like or cannot accept. It can also be important to understand your partner’s point of view: what is he/she defending? Why does he/she consider this particular approach to be valid and the other not? It can take a while to find a mutually acceptable point of view on every issue where there are differences of opinion. Is there a single underlying issue or is it really about different topics in each case? In general, a willingness to discuss these opposing points of views and to strive to understand each other’s position can signify an opportunity for action.

Anna Kayerova for STUDLIFE HSE

How do I become an adult and stop being dependent on my family? It’s a very painful process, so how do I get through it losing as little as possible?

How do you feel dependent (emotionally, financially)? It is worthwhile to identify an area where you find difficulty in being independent, and then outline possible steps that can be taken to strengthen your independence. It may be something minor, but it is important that you clearly feel that this is what you can do now. It can also be advantageous to find something you value about yourself in this process. Yes, it is painful and, perhaps, it cannot be survived at all without costs, but what are you willing to risk to continue this process?

Other questions were related to loss:

After my father’s death I have been having an existential crisis for two years: I am scared of death and old age; when I look at elderly people, I am seized with panic and almost always cry. What can I do?

How do I deal with the sudden death of a loved one?

In this case we can discuss surviving loss and grief. It takes time. The challenge can be living with these feelings and talking about them. That is, this process itself takes time (by way of acknowledging memorable dates about a deceased person, for example) and, besides this, it is not always possible in a family setting to talk about individuals’ experiences, which can complicate family relations, so a psychologist can help here. Unspoken and misunderstood experiences can make the process of surviving a loss difficult and be a source of fear and difficulty.

In addition, there were questions regarding loneliness, a topic which is closely related to that of relationships:

How do I deal with loneliness?

I have a very strange relationship with people: for some reason I get very upset when I’m not invited somewhere. I am very worried about this and wonder what is wrong with me. How do I get rid of the feeling of loneliness and disconnection from society, and stop trying to please everyone?

How do you not go mad from online learning, when all your friends are in another country?

Loneliness is a relationship disorder (internal with yourself or external with other people). Thus, it is important for us to nurture our relationships so we can cope more effectively with loneliness. It is very important to develop one’s focus on internal relationships: to be able to speak with oneself in a supportive voice, to admit that in some situations it might feel difficult and painful, and thanks to this, to understand that these feelings can be tolerated. Experiencing acceptance and care from others can help in developing internal relationships; it is important for us to learn to practise this kind of attitude towards ourselves in difficult moments (remembering words, touching, etc.).

Supportive inner relationships can help you cope with loneliness in connection with other people. However, in this case, it is also about feeling a real connection with others and feeling understood and noticed. This is something that can be learned through verbal communication, for example, through questions: ‘How is this for you? I see it like this, how about you?’, ‘Have I understood you correctly...?’. Thanks to this, communication can become productive and there will be room for everyone in the conversation.

Students can sign up for free one-to-one consultations with CPC psychologists, and HSE University staff can receive psychological support on preferential terms at the Centre for Systemic Family Therapy and other partner organisations.

October 16, 2020