Do you know what it’s like to feel safe? If so, you’re very lucky. Feeling safe allows you to be who you are, however that is. It seems that the opportunities to feel safe are incredibly limited. We can work in organisations which expect us to perform. We can believe that it would be frowned on if we said things like, we feel vulnerable, or that we need a bit more support. And who knows, it might be. We can grow up in families which seem to go from one drama to the next. Childhood may have felt like something to be endured rather than enjoyed. Perhaps we never even glimpsed safety. Is it a surprise then, that to be offered safety can feel sometimes feel threatening and unfamiliar? It can make you want to run a mile. No wonder people who have never known safety avoid so much or drop out of therapy.
There is no right way ‘to do’ counselling which sounds unsatisfactory I know. It is really going to depend so much on the relationship which develops between you and your Counsellor. It is also going to depend on the model of therapy your Counsellor draws on. For more on this please read my blog post different approaches to psychological therapy.
Not sleeping well is a bad place to be. It seems so much harder to cope with day to day life when you are tired. It becomes so easy to snap at other people. You can end up worrying about not sleeping and this can create a vicious circle. Lots of clients come to counselling and mention that they are having trouble sleeping. It’s very common, especially if you are experiencing some kind of psychological distress. So what can you do? There is a lot of helpful information available on the internet. Try searching under ‘sleep hygiene’ and you will find lots of common sense articles about how to get a good night’s sleep. Try some of the things suggested in these articles for about 2 weeks and see if things improve. It is amazing how many clients come to counselling and say that if they wake up in the middle of the night they go downstairs and make a cup of coffee. Caffeine is not known for its sleep inducing properties.
So what happens if you are still not sleeping well? It’s really important to try and figure out whether this is a normal response to an abnormal situation. If you are recently bereaved then it is possible that this will interfere with your sleep. If you have recently experienced some kind of loss, for example redundancy, again it is likely to impact on your sleep. Or it may be that you have some regrets about things that have happened in the past. And these keep ticking over in your mind at night. Maybe you feel guilty about something you have done. Or haven’t done. If you are having difficulties sleeping you could go to your GP and ask about medication. Or you could try some counselling and try to process those losses or regrets or feelings of guilt. Sleep well.
Have you ever wondered whether other people are going to declare that you are a fake and simply not up to it….whether it be a job or some studies….or a relationship….or something else that matters to you. If not, that’s great. It sounds like you feel confident about yourself. If on the other hand you go through life feeling like this, then it sounds like you may have low self-esteem. Or a critical voice inside your head which says you are not good enough, never have been and never will. And it’s only a matter of time before everyone else finds out and rejects you.
I don’t want to start trying to analyse why you might have low self-esteem. It’s not really my style. However, I do think it can help to understand where it comes from. Mainly because you can start to challenge some of the assumptions you might be making. If you can remember feeling like this when you were growing up then it’s probably no surprise that you feel like this now. Big people seem to be very good at telling little people about all their shortcomings. Over and over.
Feeling like you are going to be ‘found out’ adds another layer of stress to a situation that might be stressful enough. Imagine what your life would be like if you started to trust in yourself and your abilities. Let go of the beliefs that you are inadequate or not good enough. Who’s voice are you hearing? Who is it that is telling you don’t add up to very much.
I think that counselling can really help if you feel like this. I promise you that if you decide to work with me I won’t ask you to write down a list of all the things you are good at. I can’t imagine anything worse. If someone tried to work with me like that I’d run a mile. After all, if you knew that stuff you wouldn’t need me in the first place.
Can you imagine what it feels like to wake up every day and feel that you’ve made a mess of your life? To look around and wonder exactly why you have made the choices you have made? To beat yourself up because you seem to have made the same mistakes over and over? To feel that you have no control over your life and that what lies ahead just seems too hard to face?
In my counselling practice I work with many people who feel like this. These people seek counselling because they can’t find anyone to understand them. They are fed up with people telling them to ‘get their act together’ or telling them that they are a ‘loser’. They feel distressed and lonely and simply don’t know what to do next. The good news is that the future does not have to be like the past. We can find a new way of being, explore different choices and learn to understand ourselves. If we’re not sure who we are then it’s hard to get to know anyone else…….let alone allow them to get to know us.
Working with a Counsellor can be a very healing process. It can help you to stop beating yourself up. To start to value yourself. To value others. To learn about what it means to be in an authentic relationship with another person. It could change your life.
So you picked up the phone and made the appointment to have some counselling. You have taken the first steps to making some changes in your life. And now you’re sitting in front of the Counsellor and you are wondering what to say.
Does this sound familiar? Maybe not. Some clients are quickly comfortable in counselling and know exactly how they want to use the time and what they want to get out of it. That’s great.
Others, however, are unsure about how counselling might work and wonder how the person sitting opposite them is going to be able to help. I remember feeling like this and I didn’t like it one bit. I felt uncomfortable and exposed and wanted to run for it as far away as possible. Some clients ask me if how they ‘are’ in counselling is normal. That assumes there is a ‘normal’. It’s really hard to write about what to say in counselling because that assumes there is a right answer. And the truth is there isn’t. Your counselling experience is going to depend on you. If you are someone who finds it hard to trust others then it may take some time before you trust your Counsellor. You might even test your Counsellor by telling them some things to see if they are shocked, before moving on to talking about the things that are buried away. The things that keep hurting you.
Based on my experiences (in both chairs) I would say that if you don’t know what to say then tell your Counsellor. Ask for help. That’s why you’re there. If it’s not forthcoming then maybe you’re sitting in front of the wrong person.