This is a really short blog post about the impact my clients have on me. Today I have really been struck by the beauty of my clients, in their struggle to be kind, real and true to themselves. And whilst I often feel this, today it’s taught me about how to be be kind to myself in my own struggles. I am so grateful of what my clients share with me. And today, seeing the beauty in others, has helped me to re-find it in myself.
The existentialists view of happiness centres on the idea of pursuit and purpose as activity. Happiness is about the progression towards a goal, about living, not about achieving that goal. The idea of ‘once I have x I will be happy’ existentially speaking, misses the whole point of living. Yet we seemingly programmed to chase what we want, because like a greyhound, without the rabbit we wouldn’t run, and without running we would have no purpose. The only true goal of life, according to Freud is death. This makes sense in terms of an existentialist standpoint because we choose our purpose, there is no preordained purpose for living, but the only thing we can be sure of is our march towards death, the only certainty.
I am often aware of this when I’m really frustrated at all the clothes to be washed. I’ve just done all this washing and it’s piling up AGAIN. Living dirties these clothes, living piles up the stuff to do. “When will it end?” I say to myself; “when you are dead” I answer. I am working to get all this stuff done, and it will only be done when I am gone. My husband does the washing now.
Therapy can be really hard, isn’t quick and often clients may wonder ‘how will I know if it’s working?’. It’s really important to find the right counsellor for you, someone who can make you feel comfortable enough and you feel ‘gets’ you. There’s a great blog post here about how to review the progress and various other factors about how to know if counselling is working for you. Feel free to come and see me to work out if counselling with me is the best thing for you right now.
Some of my clients will have never been to therapy before and, for some, it can be scary stuff: the first time they intend to share the feelings that troubles them. Relieving for others because they’ve decided, right now, they need some support and having made the decision and they’ve taken the first step.
For each of my clients there’ll be a whole host of feelings about meeting me for the first time, and I am aware of this and what a big step it can be. I feel a little nervous too because I want to make the first session a welcoming space where clients feel comfortable and are safe enough to talk, at their pace and be upfront about what therapy with me might be like.
So I want to share a little of what might happen during an initial session. I’ll meet you downstairs and we’ll walk up quite a few stairs to my office. We might talk a little about how it feels to come to therapy and hopefully you’ll begin to get a sense for me. I will let you know about my contract, confidentiality and then probably ask you about what has brought you here.
This is where I invite you to talk about whatever you’d like to, and how much you share is in your hands, just what you feel comfortable sharing with me. I will try to understand what it may have been like to be you, perhaps offering my feelings in relation to your situation.
I’ll be trying my best to understand what life is like for you now, and I do this by being genuine and immediate with my feelings. I will not be analysing what you say to me, but will hope to understand, and as we both develop understanding you will begin to offer yourself more understanding. I believe that given the right environment, one of empathy, warmth and a person being genuinely and wholly with you; you will begin to find any answers, if there are any, yourself.
Whilst I am an expert in the process of counselling, I do not believe I am the expert of you, you are. I believe in equality and I feel this is present in the sort of counselling I offer. During the session, we might talk about other types of therapy and think if therapy with me feels ok for both of us. You can go away and think about that too. Working with someone you feel comfortable with is really important, and I genuinely want you to find the right counsellor for you.
So if you’d like to try a session with me please get in touch and if you have any concerns please do ask any questions.
There’s a bit of a guide here if you want to find out more about first sessions…
Recently I’ve been reading and reflecting on the concept of vulnerability. That moment when we feel we are being seen and can no longer hide; as though you are risking everything you have, and it’s terrifying. But I also know this, ‘being willing to be known’ is the only way to gain real connection with others. For me, it’s an essential experience to really feeling alive.
Often it can be sharing the ‘negative’ thoughts and feelings with others that can make me feel really vulnerable. However, if I didn’t share those parts of myself with trusted* others, how can I ever really be known? How will I know if the love I feel from another is really mine to keep? I have felt like a fraud when not true to myself, and life felt emptier.
These ‘negative’ thoughts or feelings can feel almost poisonous. I would feel trapped under a darkness which I couldn’t shift or share. I would judge these thoughts and feelings with such cruelty. But things are different now, most of the time – sharing my real thoughts and difficulties allowed me to be seen and I can feel love. It was hard, mind. It involved lots of therapy and somewhere safe to return to.
I guess I hope to offer clients the space to be vulnerable when they feel ready. It will be a risk and being seen might be a relief of such magnitude you’ll feel the darkness lift.
* sometimes some of us have been vulnerable for too long, and it’s important to feel ‘safe enough’ too. You are the only one who can really work out when to take risks and when to recover; I’m pretty sure you’re doing the best you can right now.
I really need to sit and stare for a while.
I need to walk slowly and just have the space to think.
I need to lie in and look at the sky.
I need some space.
I need to be able to cry when I feel great joy and when I feel the deep dark.
I need my sleep.
I need to watch stuff that’s predictable and silly because sometimes I am overwhelmed.
I need comfort.
I need the comfort of trees.
I need to play.
I need friendship.
I need to remind myself it’s ok to be me.
I need to remember that all I have is now.
These are just somethings I need in my life to not be overwhelmed. This is just me, but I feel it’s also linked to being highly sensitive. Reflecting on things deeply and being really aware of everything around me is my favourite part of me, and it does mean I can easily be overwhelmed, so I have to be honest with myself about what I need to stay sane(ish). Some of those parts I’m ok with, some not so much; but I continue to realise my real needs, and stop pretending that I don’t have them.
We all do.
What do you need?
I’ve recently been reading about something which has helped me to accept the way I am just that little bit more. It made me cry a bit, and realise yet again, ‘oh it’s ok to be me’. Even though I think I am pretty accepting of myself, along something comes and it helps be to go that little bit deeper.
So what is it? Well, it’s the research by a woman called Elaine Aron who has focused on being Sensory-Processing Sensitive or a Highly Sensitive Person. It describes an innate trait in a minority of people (around 15% of the population) who take in more information than most in ‘ordinary’ situations and reflect on this information at a deep level, are emotionally intense, aware of subtleties (such as lighting, changes, colour, tastes, smells, others’ emotions) and can sometimes often feel overwhelmed.
In practicality this often means that highly sensitive people are aware of dynamics and subtleties in communications. It also means that it can be easy to become overwhelmed in situations where it feels like there is much to comprehend. Although I’m not so keen on labels, what the descriptor ‘Highly Sensitive Person’ has helped many people to do is reflect on society’s perception of being ‘too sensitive’, including me.
A particular useful part of this for me was the connection between reflecting deeply on things, which is something I kind of like about myself; and finding certain bits of life overwhelming, such as parties, new places or groups of people. In parties I can find it really difficult not to be aware of everything that’s going on around me, and I hate not being able to give the person I’m with my full attention. That’s because being sensitive is a innate trait, and I can’t pick and choose which elements I have – I reflect deeply because I take in lots of information, it has its disadvantages and advantages; but it is part of me.
Do you think this might describe you? There a test you can take to see if it might apply to you here. Let me know your thoughts on it.
This is the first in a series of blogs about being sensory processing sensitivity.
I found this an interesting and inspiring article so I thought I’d share it with you. About the dichotomy between the present and the thought of the future. Check it out here.
Sometimes we can all feel we shouldn’t feel the way we do. You might feel deeply sad, angry or terrified but feel as though you these feeling are not allowed or not right. It might take various forms:
- You might be aware that from the outside it seems as though everything is fine, you have a nice home, a good job etc. nothing is ‘wrong’, but really it feels as though everything is wrong.
- You might think that you have no right to feel the way you do, as other people have suffered far worse. They are the ones who have the right to feel depressed or anxious – not you.
- You might feel that you are wallowing or indulging in self pity, that again you have no right to feel negative. Other people seem to manage, you might think; and a scary thought might emerge that perhaps you are broken or no good and that’s why you feel the way you do.
Thinking you are broken or bad for feeling as you do can be painful. It adds more suffering and can lead to an experience of amassing misery on misery, compounding feelings of worthlessness.
I believe the very act of being alive involves for every single one of us, terror, anguish, pain. There are no exceptions. I don’t say this to bear bad news, but to say, you are not wrong or bad for feeling the way you do, simply human. What you feel is as real as you are – there is a depth and a complexity to all that you feel.
Lots of people are frightened that accepting the existence of pain in life will cloud everything else out and all that is left will be pain. We can all fear that the act of ‘giving into’ the feeling will annihilate us. For me when I am able to accept how I really feel I have felt freer amongst the pain and have somehow been more able to feel my joy and happiness too.
Everything is fleeting, and the eventual aim of accepting how you really feel can create space in yourself to feel more than your sadness, anxiety or anger. You are not wrong or bad, but you feel deeply, and there is beauty in that.
What does the word acceptance mean to you? Does it call to mind someone who is really chilled, saying something like ‘hey man, you just got to accept it’ ? It did for me: acceptance seemed kind of wishy-washy.
When Person-Centred Counsellors talk of acceptance, they mean something far deeper and stronger; acceptance can forcefully help you to realise it’s ok to be you, just as you are. Actually as you are, not you if you were a bit calmer, a bit nicer: right now. It means coming to terms too with what you are feeling whether it’s rage, hate or happiness. Therapist’s talk of sitting with a feeling, and that’s what acceptance can feel like for some, for me I almost inhabit that feeling, get right to the heart of it, surround myself with it.
Acceptance can be painful too, accepting that you feel a deep sorrow or any difficult feeling is hard. We all tend to run away from these feelings rather than accept them, and no wonder as they can hurt. But what really is the alternative? Running will mean these feelings remain, perhaps locked away, but they don’t go: the strange thing with unacknowledged feelings is they tend to grow, like they are fighting to be seen and heard.
For me, whenever I have accepted a new part of myself, even a part I’m not so keen on, I have opened myself up to be a whole person, lived a little more honestly and been able to connect with other people a little bit better. Counselling is often a process to help you to express those things you don’t feel you should feel, and hearing acceptance from another can be a catalyst to accept yourself, a little bit more.