I recently read something online (sorry, I can’t remember the source). It involved two people discussing relationships and one said something along the lines of “don’t bother arguing, just say ‘you’re right'”. The other person was unconvinced and protested that stating an opinion and arguing until the other person accepted, or at least acknowledged it, was the right approach. The first person carried on walking and simply said “you’re right”. It still makes me laugh.
Several years ago I read a story which I found quite lovely because it was so simple and said so much about how we connect with other people. It was about a young man who decided to bake a cake for his grandma for her birthday. He did his best and put it in a transparent container and set off to see her by travelling on the underground. He was amazed at how many people commented on the cake sitting on his lap. “Oh for me. You shouldn’t have!” or “It’s my birthday…..how did you know?” People spoke to him who would usually ignore him. All because of the cake. When he said that he had made it for his grandma it seemed as though these people thought he was really special. And of course he was. Let’s face it how many young men do you know who go to the trouble of baking a cake for their grandma?
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.
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.
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.
Glimpses of Problems with Relationships
I never really feel good about myself. I find it hard to make friends. I can never really figure out the right balance between being needy and being stand offish. Being needy is a really bad place to be. I watch others and try and figure out what they’re doing. It looks like everyone else has got this relationship business figured out. Except me. The annoying thing is that when someone starts to get close to me I push them away. And then I feel lonely. I’m not surprised that people find me confusing. I’m pretty confused myself.
What kind of thoughts do you have about relationships?
Do you find yourself repeating the same old patterns in your relationships with others? Do you feel stuck and unclear about how to improve you relationships? Do you ever have the following thoughts:
‘I feel trapped in my relationship.’
‘It’s always about them and never about me.’
‘I feel that other people don’t like me.’
‘I crave close relationships, but I push people away if they get too close.’
‘I feel inferior to others and stay in the background.’
‘I’m a people pleaser.’
‘I don’t feel heard.’
‘If something goes wrong others always turn it around and make it my fault.’
‘I can’t say no to others.’
Our relationships can nourish us and help us to feel that we belong. Connecting with others is important for our emotional wellbeing and can help to make us feel safe and secure.
If we find it hard to be in a relationship with others then we can end up feeling lonely and misunderstood. We can start to think that we are the only ones who are not good at creating successful relationships. This can lead to problems in our families and at work.
How Can Counselling Help?
It can be hard to admit that we find relationships difficult. We can make assumptions about other people and believe that they have all the answers when it comes to relationships. Counselling offers you a confidential and non-judgmental environment to explore what is troubling you. It can help you to understand yourself better and to identify the patterns of behaviour in your relationships. It can give you an understanding of the importance of appropriate boundaries in relationships and the confidence to say what your needs are.
Copyright 2010 Christine Bonsmann. All rights reserved.