Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Three things have struck me during today’s session. Although I know that I am progressing, that I have developed and found understanding, I listen to the other members of the group occasionally mentioning how they have used counselling in their home or work life and wonder why I haven’t managed to develop to that level. Reading through my reflective logs I can see that I have used counselling skills in some situations at home, but these are few and I haven’t managed to do so at work at all. I appreciate that it is all dependent upon people learning at different speeds and that situations need to arise or exist in order to be able to use the skills, but I still feel as if I’m being held back, that I’m not quite getting it. I wish to be presented with similar scenarios to the others, but I fear that I don’t because of my problem of not always being able to engage with other people. I often turn inward, thinking about my own life, problems, book idea and therefore don’t express enough interest to engage others. I need to be more open, less self interested, but I fear I won’t be able to consolidate ideas, or move ahead with myself, my life or my book if I don’t think about them.

After undertaking the mock exam I had a twinge of sadness, possibly desolation, at the thought of the course coming toward an end (despite still being three months away). By the time the course ends the group will have spent seven months getting to know one another. When I worked at the school, at the end of every school year I was sad that I would lose contact with the students I had got to meet, to know, and to share a friendship with. I think that because I have a fear of death and loss I am always looking “nostalgically” to the past. I am always thinking back to the things that I have done, the people that I have met and the times that mean most to me. I think what makes me sad is the loss of friendships and times that I can never get back. My friendships will never be the same and with a change in the type of relationship: I will have nothing in common with these friends on the course once it is over, and I cannot stretch myself to keep up the relationship after that because it becomes a tie preventing me from spending time on moving forward. Meeting these people again in the future will, as I have often found with meeting other friends, never be the same. The built friendship will have deteriorated too far to be the same.

I have realised in myself that most of my arguments, and the arguments of others centres around a feeling of being misunderstood or not listened to. This annoyance, or developing anger means that often the argument escalates. At the moment I am asking myself why it is necessary for me to make myself understood! Whilst I acknowledge that it is rude for me to interrupt others and to not allow them to express themselves, their thoughts and emotions, and whilst I myself understand that I need the positive strokes of expressing myself et al, I also see that it isn’t necessary.

Despite the fact that I should never discount myself, I realise that I do not ever have to make myself understood. I have every right to walk away from a conversation, an argument, a discussion. I don’t need to be the last word, I do not need to be perceived as right or wrong, and I don’t have to think of myself as the loser or the culprit if I apologise.

People need to be understood and feel that they need to be able to say their piece solely because they feel that they are being suppressed otherwise, and I recognise that. I also recognise that it is ultimately irrelevant in a usual day-to-day environment. For example, religious debating rarely changes either side’s point of view. Often, as in this example, animosity and self righteousness can build up on both sides, which is like banging heads against a wall. Ultimately what each side is doing by asserting themselves and wanting to be heard or to be allowed to speak last is simply because they want their point of view to be put across and because they believe that their view is more important than anyone else’s.
I don’t feel that I need to do this anymore, I don’t need to play this game any more. It will be interesting to investigate whether I can do this, and what the outcomes are. Will I be unburdening myself or will I be discrediting the possibility of personal strokes.

Monday, March 20, 2006

I spent the weekend with school friends. As there were seven of us, there were times when I felt like a spare person. Everybody else had someone to talk to and although I had managed to sit in the middle I rarely had anything to say to any of the others. This wasn’t simply a case of being excluded from the conversation, just that I had nothing to add to any of them – was left out because I didn’t know how to enter the conversations. It feels ludicrous to even admit that in regards to my close friends, but I have to acknowledge that it isn’t only confined to this scenario.

With strangers or in strange environments I find it difficult and sometimes become anxious during long silences. I need to fill the gaps and yet I have nothing to say, can’t think of anything that will bridge whatever the gap is between me and the other person, or people. I believe it is a similar fear to the one in which I have if I need to ask a stranger for help or directions – an inevitability that I attempt to put off and put off.

This problem isn’t as bad as that of my wife’s cousins, who were so shy as to almost curl up and die whenever they were engaged in situation, but I guess it’s something I should address in counselling skills triads.

On the topic of people who do shy away from conversation, it seemed that my wife’s cousins found it emotionally painful to engage with other people, as if the ‘strokes’ provided to them by others hurt them. A session in which a person like this is a helpee/client would be exceptionally difficult to sit through.

Also, a friend with whom I am developing a strained relationship finally had some self realisation – she had told her boss that she didn’t want the extra workload and responsibility that was on offer, despite his insistence that it was the wrong decision and that she should do the extra work. Normally this friend is a workaholic with a very specific mindset that states her life ethic is the only one with any credibility.

With her self realisation that she was better off without the added responsibility was a major stepping stone in her personality, and I was able to provide her with positive encouragement that it was good for her to give herself permission about what she felt was right for her. Regardless of the needs or wants of others, she needed to step back and have some “me” time. She admitted that it made her feel empowered and a bit more adult to be able to give herself permission in that manner, as previously she would have taken on the extra work and become increasingly stressed because of it. My counselling skills enabled me to give her nothing more than the encouragement that validated her decision.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Saturday's workshop on difficult clients, issues and situations was a real eye opener for me. I managed to correctly identify my own weak areas in which I felt I'd found it difficult to help: transexuals and people who have been cruel, or raped others. I even suggested that I might be able to try in both circumstances. However, I didn't realise that I would have the reaction I did as I related a story in which I felt partly reponsible for a situation that led to girl's rape and her attempted suicide. My naievity and the fact that I had little control aside, I was not prepared to have to fight my emotions in order to explain the story. I had thought it related to helping a rapist. It seems now that I would feel too emotionally attached to a rape victim to maintain my distance and keep my agenda to myself.

I felt embarrased, caught in the middle of my story, on the verge of tears and not feeling as if I could just stop. I was shocked by my own outpouring, and felt at my most naked before the whole group: this issue seems core to my regrets. Although I didn't feel comfortable to let go of my emotions completely, I felt accepted and empathised with by the group.

I guess that personal disclosures as a counsellor or helper doesn't come without its obstacles. Were I to have been in a helping situation and I had recounted the story to a distraught helpee, my sudden burst of emotion and memory would have offbalanced the session, removed focus from the helpee, turned about the session and could be potentially disasterous for the helpee to feel that they will be listened to by someone who doesn't have their own issues to think about or deal with. If this were to happen, I would be completely vulnerable as I wouldn't have protected myself in my personal disclosures.

The tasks relating to dealing with a difficult client: a patient left to wait for 45 minutes and the homeowner with the leak; covered two points, firstly the need for the helper to proactive, guide and offer the client/helpee choices, options and the such like, but also to redirect them to a better and more helpful person/company for their situation. To this end the key is to show interest to the helpee, to make give them your full attention and provide them with ideas and solutions that are practical and give them a sense that things are or will happen, and not to try a fob off approach or go round and round in a circular argument. Sometimes other options may not be appropriate and there is only one choice to be made, but with empathy and confidence on the part of the helper, the helpee shouldn't be left feeling as if they're on their own.