I was wondering what to write here, on this blank canvas, something that would interest people and perhaps get them thinking.
So what do we see in a blank canvas? Is it a chance to do something without limitation or boundary, nothing to get in the way or restrict how we go about things? Would winning the lottery present us with a blank canvas? Being able to remove all financial limitations and fulfil our financial dreams.
But what if a blank canvas scares us? No familiar landmarks or secure boundaries to keep us safe, in place, on track. How perhaps, might winning the lottery undermine a way of life, and place immense new pressures on someone?
I like the programmes where people have the chance to relocate to far-away places, and seeing them realise the things, people and relationships that actually matter to them. The chance to have their dream but without the people that matter to them being close. And those who see the opportunity offered and are able to reconcile the feelings and relationships in their lives.
So this part of the canvas is no longer blank. It has been coloured with thoughts and reflections. But other parts remain…
Over time, I have wondered what it takes for people to contact counselling services, make appointments and come along for that first session. The encouragement or re-assurance needed to feel that counselling could help them, that the counsellor can see and appreciate who the client really is, and that the counsellor is not as weird as some portrayed on TV.
I often find that counselling begins in the initial contact, whether it’s the call, the text or an email. It’s the beginning of a working relationship.
Some clients charge in with a phone call, saying “I want to do this and I want to do it with you!”
Others prefer texting or email, as I guess it allows things to go at a slower speed, for them to get a feel for things and be sure before they proceed.
However, there are others that don’t seem to make it to that first session. And I can only try and put myself into their shoes to see things from their perspective. Perhaps they were told to get counselling and they’re not convinced by the process. Perhaps they don’t like talking about things, especially personal things. They may be embarrassed or ashamed, or one of many other issues.
Something in that opening relationship may strike me that as a potential client you are unsure of the process, what you would get out of it, and how it would help you in the future. I have worked with many clients and many issues, but the one thing that I always offer, and clients say they feel, is my respect for them and their process. My process is to explore and understand and help, not to judge.
I hope these words can help you decide whether counselling could help you or not. I respect your choice in this, but would guarantee that you would leave our sessions knowing more about yourself, and why you think, feel, and act out, the things you do.
Relationships on Holiday
Having come back from a week away with my wife, I have been thinking about the interaction between a relationship and a holiday and the expectations therein.
While away, I smiled at the interactions between couples that seemed comfortable and real, likely a representation of how they are at home. It shows that whatever our nationality or culture, we just want to feel connected and loved.
Other couples, unfortunately, seemed to be recreating their home patterns on holiday. The responsible one continues to be responsible while the avoider never offers to help or share. The bickerers continue to bicker and find fault with each other. The shout and storms off-er does so, leaving friends to pick up the pieces, and console and commiserate with the abandoned partner.
But these are also real relationships, and displays different ways of communicating and expressing feelings. And while it’s not the best way, perhaps it’s the best they can do.
We hope for a lot from our holidays, spending a big amount of time with partners we may only see at the start and end of the day.
But how is it we can be different on holiday, close, connected, appreciative, and it all stops when we arrive home. Why do we re-value things differently? Why do we stop making the efforts and slip back into old ways. Money and work are important, but so are relationships, families, working together, and friends.
So make time for both!
So at this point you are most probably wondering where my relationship fits into the above. I’ll leave you to decide while I go out the back to see if I can find where my wife has thrown my halo!
A recurring theme with clients over the past weeks has been a loss of trust in someone. Trust is very personal, so here are a few thoughts to get the old grey cells turning
So what is trust? Something we give or have in somebody or something. It’s very subconscious, as we are often only aware of it when it is threatened or broken. Trust is something that grows within me and is about what I do to nurture that trust. We rarely say to another ‘I trust you’, but it’s there. It’s rarely put on paper, but it’s there.
So what do we trust in?
Trains and buses that arrive on time, the car starting; friends taking our kids to school, or our own kids taking themselves to school. Husbands and wives, partners, fidelity in relationships, pilots and counsellors, all people we trust.
So what happens when a trust gets broken?
The starting point is often that you did that to me! How could you? I have been hurt! But what is actually broken is part of me, and the journey to repair the trust has to start within me.
Trust is like looking down a telescope after 20 or 30 years of a relationship. ‘I never doubted him/her; they have never let me down’. But how do we look up the telescope after the affair? How do I repair my hurt, and how can the ‘other’ help me repair myself?
Trust is huge and fundamental for all of us. People don’t fly because they don’t trust. They never get into another relationship because they don’t trust. They miss out on life because they don’t trust.
Ever seen a blind person crossing a busy road; that takes trust!
So, this latest update feels a bit like the Queen’s Christmas message, which may be what’s going through my mind.
Christmas is too big to explore or dissect in a few paragraphs. Is it about faith and spirituality, shopping and presents, family, or a ten day party?
So I wonder what Christmas says about each of us? For me, it’s about family, sharing and connections. Family usually come to us for Christmas, but over the years the shape of Christmas has changed. There are some new people around the table, welcomed and loved; and some gaps left by loved ones who are no longer with us. Work causes some to arrive late or go early, unable to put aside duty or responsibility at this special time.
For some, Christmas will be a difficult time. It may be the first one without someone special; having to cope with the loss of that person in the space they leave at the table. For others, it may be a family going through an upheaval that over-shadows the joy of Christmas. A relationship may have broken down, but the jagged edge can be painful and difficult, and the loss portrayed on young faces may be difficult to deal with.
Others make sacrifices to allow loved ones their opportunities or dreams. I just hope he ordered the turkey before he took off in that rocket, there’s no escape from Skype!
So what does Christmas offer us?
I think it offers us hope. It’s about how we use the occasion to strive to be different, whether through spirituality, principles, resolutions or something else. I am an optimist, and it’s about how I can change something small to make it better, and that can generate bigger, better things. I know it’s not easy for everyone, but it is that simple
Enjoy Christmas. It’s not about it being perfect, it’s about having it!
This update coincides with going on holiday to Canada, the first time for my wife and me. We are going with our son and daughter in law who asked us to join them on their trip. We feel privileged, honoured that they want us to be part of their adventure.
We are very much not going as parents or children, but as friends. Our relationships with our children have always been based on guidance rather than orders or direction, helping them to explore options, to find their own path, towards what they want to achieve.
I watch various programs on tv, where people want family or others to be proud of them, possibly because they are not proud of themselves, or they do not see their value or what they give to others. It can be devastating to feel that you have not lived up to the expectations of others. I feel sad for them because they do not have a sense of what they have achieved or what they mean to others.
We are not the product of what others give us, but of what is inside us and what we give to others. How we connect to that, understand it, can be challenging. It can be difficult to overcome negative patterns and to visualise and live positive ones, but it can be done with small changes in mind set and self-belief.
A reoccurring theme while working with clients over the past months has been the need and the benefit of good communication and understanding in a relationship.
It can be hard to see a point in coming to counselling when a relationship is in difficulty and high emotions set the scene, but many couples comment that the sessions allowed them to talk in a calmer, different setting that reduced the intensity of the situation so that both parties felt heard and understood.
Sessions can still be fiery, and some relationships still fail. But those couples may have a better understanding of what was going on and perhaps why their relationship failed, and hopefully not get stuck in the same situation in future relationships.
But sometimes miracles do happen in the counselling room, and a relationship can be rebuilt and become healthy again. It is about two people that are willing to leave entrenched positions and begin to listen to each other. To listen to how the other feels as well as having their own feelings heard. Communication and understanding are vital parts in that process.
Forgiveness is a theme that frequently arises in therapy, with individuals as well as couples. Forgiveness is about seeing and experiencing the whole of the relationship, rather than just one aspect that’s currently in focus. In the pain and anger caused by one aspect of someone’s behaviour, it’s easy to forget their other qualities that matter in the relationship. It may also be difficult to let go of past instances that have shaped and damaged a relationship for years, or a partner’s relationship with addiction or other damaging behaviour.
Forgiveness can exist on several levels. ‘I’m sorry babe, it won’t happen again’ is something we have all heard and experienced. It may be genuine and sincere in the moment but do we end up feeling like doormats? I wonder how many times we go for the nuclear response when we are carried away on a wave of emotion, such as anger, disrespect, or rejection.
Forgiveness is about we manage a complex three way relationship. How we forgive ourselves, how we want to be forgiven by others, and how we forgive others. We often need forgiveness, from ourselves or from others, in order to be able to live with ourselves. We often need to forgive others so we are not trapped in the past.
Forgiveness is huge and complex, bigger than these few paragraphs. Often in relationships, we need to step back and see the whole person, not just the incident, and consider, ‘This is what we do and this is what it causes, how can we can be different to stop this from happening again?’
Resistance is futile, or is it?
Over the recent weeks, one of the recurring issues has been working with resistance, and how it can appear in different forms.
Resistance can be conscious or unconscious. We put off going to the dentist as our fear of the dentist is greater than the toothache. We don’t make any effort to lose weight when it is suggested to us because we don’t like hearing the truth or perhaps it’s the person we are hearing it from.
Resistance can be positive or negative. A balanced level of resistance can keep us safe from manipulation or coercion, whereas an unbalanced level can cause us to dig our heels in until a situation becomes extreme.
A degree of resistance is also a reflection of our own state of self. ‘I know what’s best for me; no one is going to make me do anything I don’t want to!’ That basic statement could be based on stubbornness, a fear of change, or not being fully aware of the seriousness of a situation. Resistance can also protect the ‘negative’ pleasures we enjoy, such as food, sugar, alcohol, drugs, gambling or porn
In our sessions, I try to look at what we get from the positions we take. We get something otherwise we wouldn’t do it. I also explore where it goes back to. Did we see it in mum and dad, was it something that we developed to deal with feelings that were too overwhelming, or a game that we enjoyed playing. I also explore what it costs to maintain the position. How long do we live with the toothache before it becomes greater than the fear? Or how long we remain resistant to change or compromise, pushing a relationship to the edge. An ominous statement that’s frequently heard is ‘we should have been here a year ago, but you dug your heals in and it’s too late now.’
Resistance is powerful stuff; it connects to our sense of survival, protecting how we want to be. But it can be a powerful obstacle when it gets in the way of things that need to change, around health issues, becoming a better person, or making compromises in important relationships.