Oh bollocks, what the hell have I done?!?!
In the last couple of days I’ve been hit by doubts. My two most recent posts were written a few weeks ago with the original intent not to post them for a little while. Until I thought ‘what the hell’, and hit ‘publish’ (https://lovelaughtertruthblog.com/2017/06/08/letting-the-light-in-adventures-in-counselling/)
And then the doubts crept in…. I actually nearly deleted the posts. The things I write about are subjects that can be tough and uncomfortable and despite having written for a year and a half now, it can still be difficult.
Believe it or not I don’t have a wish to reveal too much of myself and, strange as it may seem to anybody that follows my musings, I don’t really feel that I do. I consider the things that I write about to be pretty universal, situations and circumstances that many (most?) of us find ourselves in at some point in our lives. Viewed in this way a more detached perspective on personal circumstances is afforded.
That said, the experience of counselling – my most recent topic for discussion – is an intensely personal experience that delves into the core of who we are. Of who I am. This isn’t something I’m looking to spew out into the world in forensic detail (you may breathe a sigh of relief!). To reiterate, I like to deal with the universal rather than the intensely personal and specific.
What I do hope to do is reveal something of the process and its value and to reduce any fears that others may have about seeking counselling for themselves.
Admitting that you’re receiving counselling, or are ‘in therapy’, inevitably brings with it the weight of others’ perceived judgements of you. To which I would say, most politely, f**k that. Because ultimately it is your life and the reality is that we all need help from others at some time in our lives, whether that be from family, friends or a professional counsellor.
Nobody can disagree with that, yet I expect most of us would feel some level of fear, or at the very least trepidation, about admitting it. And while we all have friends and family around us, relatively few of us will ever seek professional help despite the good that it could do us.
It’s struck me that when I’ve discussed my experiences with others, many, many people have said to me that they have considered counselling at some point in their lives and most express the view that it is something that they believe would be beneficial to them right now.
I expect that for most people that do seek counselling it’s only when the wheels begin to fall off pretty spectacularly that help is sought. Being in the position of ‘needing’ help. That was certainly true of me and even then I resisted for far too long. Yet, like many things in life, once we have taken that step once it becomes much easier to do so again. Now I am prepared to seek counselling not just because I feel that I need it, but rather because I know that I will benefit from it.
Seeing a counsellor doesn’t mean that you are broken or that you are weak or that you can’t cope, it means that you are human. This seems to be much more accepted in the US than it does here in the UK; indeed over there the reputation of one’s therapist can compete with that of the personal trainer as a status symbol (I do hope the President finds a good one…). Counselling features in a number of top TV shows including The Sopranos and The Affair, and one of the most popular TV characters of recent decades is a therapist.Counselling is difficult and it can be very uncomfortable, but then nothing worthwhile comes without difficulty. Achieving greater self awareness and laying the foundations for a better, happier future is a benefit that outweighs any cost.
That said, counselling is also very interesting and can even be fun; and moments of genuine insight offer great fulfilment.
Something that I am really learning about is the gap between intellect and emotion. I’ve always been interested in people and fascinated by psychology and as such have always been keen to learn about what makes people tick and why we do the things we do. I’ve read avidly on many subjects including psychology, philosophy, religion and biography and I have developed a pretty good intellectual knowledge of such things.
However, as I’ve found to my cost on more than one occasion, there is a big difference between knowing something at an intellectual level and applying things in your own life once messy emotions get involved. Like many, I seem to be good at offering my advice but much less so at taking my advice.
While we can question and add to our intellectual knowledge relatively easily, understanding our emotional responses – particularly intense emotions – can be much more difficult. After all, if we feel something we feel it right? Our emotions aren’t right or wrong, they just are, and they are a big part of us. But we can learn to understand our emotional responses, to recognise the things that shaped our emotional development and to understand why we feel and think the way we do.Looking back into our developing years we can begin to see how and why our patterns have developed, providing us with an emotional A to Z to enable us to seek alternative routes when interpreting and dealing with events. Knowing something at an intellectual level is one thing, examining and dealing with it at an emotional level is something else entirely, something that I know I would not be able to do without the help of a professional.
Much of what we think and feel about ourselves and the world has been ingrained since we were a child, a time at which we didn’t have the intellect or experience to question or understand the events in our life in the way that we do as an adult. The beliefs and emotional responses that develop through these experiences run deep and carry through into adulthood, resulting in behaviours and emotions that repeat patterns long-since established and rarely questioned. Responses that can be out of kilter with the reality of what our intellect tells us.
We all have our issues and challenges and this isn’t about assigning blame to anybody for feeling the way we do, rather it’s about understanding it. We are responsible for our lives and the choices that we make and greater self-awareness can only help us to make choices that are better for us and the people that we care for.In counselling we can also come to appreciate all of those things that make us uniquely us, the many great things that far outweigh the issues we might be facing in the present moment. In the words of my counsellor, I need to realise how pretty epic I am.
(Well, she actually said epic but I’m not yet able to say it with the same conviction so I’ll stick with pretty epic for now).
And if this sounds arrogant or conceited – something us Brits aren’t overly comfortable with – it isn’t meant to be. But one thing I’ve really learned over the last few years is that ultimately while it’s wonderful to have people around us that will love and support us – and I’m very fortunate in that regard – there’s only one person that we can guarantee will be with us until the very last. Ourselves. You don’t want him or her to be getting on your case, giving you grief and telling you how useless you are when things are tough do you?
Best to make sure that you know he / she is epic don’t you think?
So, from my doubts I emerge and here I am again, writing about counselling. I hope that in some small way this may help others to seek the help that could benefit them so much.
Epic – Faith No More