The power of “AND”

By Kate Ketchum, MA, LPC

            When you think of the word “And”, what comes to mind…? On the flip side, when you think of the word “But”, what comes up for you…?

These small, three letter words may seem menial and unimportant, but the truth is their impact is weighty and holds great significance. “And” breeds a sense of “both” and gives an air of inclusion; whereas “But” says “one or the other” and hints at an exclusion or seclusion of things. Think about a sentence as simple as “I went to the store and to the movies.” In this way, I went to both things and included both with the time I had. Now, if I said: “I went to the store but not the movies”, here I excluded one of my options.

            When it comes to emotions, it is important to have a “Power of And” perspective. Emotions are complex, integrated things. Many times multiple emotions are working together to tell us how we are feeling and giving us insight into how we are behaving, relating and conceptualizing what is going on within us and around us. Brene Brown says, “When you numb your pain you also numb your joy.” The two actually go together, which seems both ironic and counter-intuitive. However, there is actually deep, profound beauty and hope that lies in this truth. The reality is, if we accept emotions as more integrated and less polar, we are better able to accept all parts of ourselves. This “AND” mentality invites us into a more compassionate and inclusive acceptance of self.

I am anxious and intelligent.

I am depressed and resilient.

I am not okay and honest.

I am struggling in school and I am a hard worker.

I am not there yet and I have hope that I will be someday.


As well as



Here are a few ways you could begin thinking with an “AND” perspective:

  1. Write out how you are feeling (both the welcome and unwelcome emotions) and allow yourself to hold both of them. See them on the page together and maybe even say the sentence out loud.
  2. Talk to someone close to you about the emotions you are experiencing and connect with them about their feelings. Connection and vulnerability are necessary for acceptance!
  3. If you are a visual learner/processor… picture your emotions as a mosaic. Sadness, happiness, exhaustion, excitement, depression, joyfulness, etc. Each broken piece is essential to bringing together the wholeness of the mosaic, and the same is true of your emotions. Each emotion (piece) is important for self-acceptance, understanding and compassion (the mosaic). As Hemingway says, “We are all broken, AND that is how the light gets in.”

If you or your teen are struggling with self-acceptance or expressing your emotions, reach out to connect with us. We would love to help!

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