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.
Isn’t it funny how we can go through life being told what to do by other people. Parents, teachers, bosses, partners and even people who claim to be our friends. At some point most of us decide that we can make our own decisions and stop deferring to others. We learn to say what we need. We stop believing that other people have all the answers. We start to believe in ourselves and realise that even if we get it wrong we can learn from the experience and repair damage if necessary.
Unfortunately not everyone reaches this stage and I often work with clients who have no belief or confidence in themselves. It becomes obvious when they realise that counselling is not about being told what to do and that even though I’m a Counsellor I am not going to make their decisions for them. I love the phrase ‘why don’t you work on your own story.’ It says so much about opportunities, potential, choices and responsibility. It is not about trying to control others or about trying to live your life through others or blaming others. It’s about realising that it’s up to you.
Mind you saying ‘why don’t you work on your own story’ is really assuming that you are able to. That you have an awareness that other people may be pulling the strings in your life. I don’t want to diminish the fact that many people have few choices. Poverty is one of the biggest causes of mental health problems. You may feel oppressed and stuck in a job you hate. You may feel trapped in a bad relationship. You may feel you have to do what your family tells you otherwise you will be rejected. I can’t change any of these things. I can’t change society for you. I can’t make life fairer for you. I can work on my story though and do my bit and maybe that means working with you. Helping you to find a way to cope with the things you cannot change while working on the things you can change.
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.
What do you do if you want someone to be different and you want them to change? How do you do this? This is a common question that clients bring to counselling. And I don’t know the answer. We simply can’t change other people. It’s no good having a relationship with someone based on the idea that you can change them. It never works and often ends in disappointment and resentment. We can only change ourselves and how we deal with something or someone. And when we realise this we may notice that other people start to change how they are with us.
Imagine that you have a friend who always puts you down in front of other people and makes fun of you. You might allow this to continue because you like this person (and maybe some counselling could help you to figure that one out) or because you feel that you have to put up with it because you need to please others and you don’t want other people to think badly of you (again some counselling could help to understand this too). Now imagine that the next time this ‘friend’ put you down that you said in a firm and neutral way ‘I don’t like being made fun of.’ What do you think would happen? We can’t know for sure but it’s likely that your ‘friend’ would be surprised and really hear that they had gone too far. They would recognise that they had hurt your feelings. It’s possible that other people would think ‘good for you to stick up for yourself….I wish I was able to do that.’ A small change can have a big impact. Imagine now what your life would be like if you were able to be assertive in a respectful way. Maybe there would be no more angry outbursts or stored up resentments. Maybe you’d stop putting up with people who didn’t deserve to be in your life.
Have you ever felt that the world is well and truly against you? That no matter what you do you seem to mess up or get things wrong or that you ruin your relationships. Do you beat yourself up about all the times you weren’t perfect? It’s so easy to disregard all the great stuff you do in life if you suffer from underlying low confidence or low self-esteem. Guess what. Most of us have days when we feel like this. I know I do. And I know lots of other people who feel like this sometimes too. The problem is if you feel like this all the time. It’s really important to get a perspective and talking things over can help you to decide on the things that you would like to change in your life. The things which stop you feeling like the world is against you.
In my work as a Counsellor I never fail to be surprised at the extent to which people make assumptions. It is probably one of the most unhelpful and toxic things we can do to ourselves. Imagine if you stopped making assumptions. You could let go of continually worrying what others thought of you. You could learn to trust your own judgment. You could stop beating yourself up about the things which didn’t go well. And you could stop thinking that everyone else has got life figured out and knows all the answers. The only thing I can know is what I think and feel. If I want to know about anyone else then I’d have to ask them. Try it. You might be surprised.