Ask The Therapist: Inappropriate Smiling, Managing Divorce Trauma, And Figuring Out Failure

In 2016, the number of people estimated to be suffering from mental health issues like depression and anxiety amounted to roughly 1.1 billion. Since then, numbers have likely continued to rise. Moreover, studies have also shown women especially on average are a) more likely to suffer from mental health issues, and b) less likely to talk about them. The taboo in Pakistan surrounding depression and anxiety disorders only serve to aggravate the individuals suffering even more. For the women who cannot seek out full time therapy, or simply need advice about their problems, we’ve enlisted the help of a trained counsellor. You sent us in your questions – here are the answers!

“Hello. I want to know about smiling.. my condition is that I can’t stop smiling, and for no reason. I’m neither happy or sad, but when someone asks me something, I’ll start smiling or even laughing. Is this a medical condition? Do I need a psychologist or a psychiatrist? Is smiling a sign of depression or am I just weak at  expressing my emotions?”

Haya’s Response

Hi there! No, this is not a medical condition. Smiling is one of the many defence mechanisms we unconsciously adopt in order to protect / avoid fully knowing or understanding the depth of our emotions. It is a facade that prevents you from knowing your truest self. It might be something so natural to you that you no longer even realize you’re doing it. For you, the work will lie in recognizing your emotions, your patterns, and understanding your feelings. It’s all about getting to know your core SELF. Therapy is something that will be able to help you with this, and you can take this work deeper with your therapist. This might feel obvious, but perhaps the next time you’re smiling, check in with yourself for what you’re really feeling in the present moment and respond accordingly. You may find it difficult to change something about yourself that feels so natural to you, but it’s important if you want to understand yourself and be understood.

“What would you recommend to someone who has suffered years of emotional and mental abuse at the hands of a narcissist? I’ve filed for divorce, but he and his family are still behaving badly by causing financial abuse too. What can I do to cope with the long divorce proceeding? I’m getting counselling, but it’s not helping much if I’m being honest with you.”

Haya’s Response

I’m sorry to hear what you’re going through. To be able to cope during this difficult time, make sure to surround yourself with a strong support system. In addition to seeking counselling which you’re already doing, ensure you are able to turn to trustworthy friends and family who you know will be there for you. Speak with a lawyer in case you haven’t already to investigate every possible way you can secure yourself financially. As for the ongoing abusive behaviour, try to keep yourself as far as possible from toxic environments and cut down interaction with those with negative energies. Interact only when deemed necessary. Last but not least, stay strong and visualize an end goal in mind. How will it look after this is all over?Goodluck!

“There are many failures in life, how do you stay motivated to try again and not give up?”

Haya’s Response

Every failure is an opportunity to find a lesson to be learnt. You need to be able to reflect on your failures, see the learning they contain for you, and keep in mind your end goals. It’ll help you assess how you can handle similar situations better next time.

Haya Malik is a certified Humanistic Integrative Counsellor, and psychotherapist. She will be answering mental health questions weekly on Mashion, to send in your questions, email All questions will remain anonymous. 

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