Growing up, I always remember my father’s eyes lighting up when he heard that soft-shell crabs were on the menu at a restaurant. I never developed a taste for them myself, but I have found an excellent use for them metaphorically in session: Soft-Shell Crab Days.

While crustaceans with soft shells might not at first blush seem like great therapeutic fodder, I have found they get my point across beautifully. From time to time, I will have gals describe to me having suffered an emotional wound, a disappointment, or just having one of those days that leaves them feeling tender, blue, and perhaps just a touch crabby—everything just hits with more sting and bites a bit deeper than it might usually. I call these Soft-Shell Crab Days because our emotional shells, like Elvis, have left the building. We are feeling more vulnerable and as a result we might have a compromised ability to manage not only how we express our feelings, but also how other’s feelings, and their expression of those feelings, impact us.

Frequent culprits for triggering a Soft-Shell Crab Day can be H.A.L.T.S.S., especially if they happen to come in combination: Hungry Angry Lonely Tired Sick Shame. It is often the case that I will have a girl let me know she’s had a bad day (or week even) and can’t quite put her finger on what is going on. I will encourage her to get curious about if one (or more) of the H.A.L.T.S.S. might have been present as these states can act as powerful amplifiers for our feelings.

It’s also important to acknowledge that all the unknowns, changes, and challenges of 2020 have made for more Soft-Shell Crab Days than might be typical for lots of girls and their family members, in no small part due to exacerbation of the loneliness and isolation we all can feel at times as we navigate this year.

Stay tuned for Part II, in which I’ll give some suggestions for things both girls and their parents can do once they recognize they are having a Soft-Shell Crab Day.