Too Much Of A Good Thing?

strategies for living better brightonOver the years, we will all develop strategies for being in the world. Most of the time these personal guides for decision-making are useful to us. Sometimes, however, we might have become over-reliant on one particular strategy and not noticed that it is no longer serving us well. How can counselling and psychotherapy help?
Common Strategies For Dealing With The World
In my view it is important to have robust and varied ways of approaching the world; effective personal plans of action protect us from emotional and physical harm, help us make good decisions, enable us to acquire skills in the workplace and allow us to get along with other people. Common strategies for being in the world include:

  • act first, ask questions later
  • wait and see
  • push the limits
  • take advice
  • delegate whenever possible
  • do it (all) yourself
  • don’t interfere
  • it’s got to be perfect
  • obey the rules
  • stick to what you know

Trouble often comes, however, when we rely too heavily on one particular strategy and are unable to see that at times it might actually be working against, rather than for, our own best interests and/or the needs of significant others.
Every Strategy Has A Dark Side…
Most strategies for dealing with the world will have both advantages and disadvantages. For example, an ‘act first, ask questions later’ kind of strategy might be really effective in a situation where the risks are manageable and a complete disaster in another where mistakes are difficult to repair. Likewise, an over-used ‘wait and see’ strategy might lead to missed opportunities in some situations whereas in others caution and patience might prove to be invaluable. The context in which a strategy is used can also be significant. For instance, an action strategy such as ‘delegate whenever possible’ might serve us well in the workplace but less good in our private lives where we run the risk of distancing our partner or those close to us. See my post ‘Logic Versus Emotion’ for an example.
How Can Counselling And Psychotherapy Help?
People often arrive in counselling or psychotherapy when one or other of their favourite ways of approaching the world has failed to deliver the goods. Often, our own strategies (and the assumptions that underpin them) will be just out of awareness. The first task might involve identifying what these strategies are as well as when and how we use them. Usually, the strategies we adopt will have worked well for us in the past, for at least some of the time. And even if they haven’t, we might cling to them because in our experience they are familiar, survivable and we don’t know where to start in terms of looking for other, better ways of doing things. Strategies can also be handed down to us from our families or society in general when we are very young and we might never have thought to question them or consider times when they might not be appropriate.
Counselling and psychotherapy can help us identify new possibilities for dealing with the world, thus creating a more diverse set of strategies on which to draw on, especially when faced with major life decisions and at times of emotional upheaval.
If you live or work within reach of Brighton and Hove and my approach to psychotherapy and counselling interests you, please contact me via email or telephone 07585 910742 for more information and to arrange an initial consultation. Emailing in the first instance seems to work best.
Copyright Caroline Clarke, Counselling and Psychotherapy in Brighton and Hove, Sussex.
Image courtesy of thawats at

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