Nobody wants to stay feeling stuck, sad, angry or confused. All we want is for these feelings to be magicked away – hopefully never to return. Rather than banish troublesome feelings, good counselling or psychotherapy helps us to understand where these feelings are coming from and sheds light on new possibilities for responding to them.
Disentangling the Past from the Present
Generally, we respond in current relationships and to here-and-now situations based on our previous experiences of being in the world. And to a certain extent we need to do this – it helps us to assess what is going on, enables us to take our place in the world and allows us to learn from our mistakes. Sometimes, however, what has happened to us in the past and the decisions we made to keep ourselves feeling emotionally safe at that time get tangled up in the present in unhelpful ways. For example, we might make assumptions about how other people will respond to us based on our experiences as a child. Childhood is a time when we are dependent on our caregivers and many of us had very little say over our lives. These assumptions (e.g. “I must not express my anger at those I love or I will be abandoned”) may be so familiar and so deeply embedded that we don’t even realise that they are there. Now, however, the goalposts have moved; we are adults and abandonment, should it happen, will not be as catastrophic as it would have been when we were children.
How can Counselling or Psychotherapy Help?
A good counsellor or psychotherapist will help you identify the assumptions you are making about how to respond to your own feelings, to other people and to the circumstances in which you find yourself. I do this by talking with you about your world – what is happening now, what your childhood was like, the major events in your life and how you relate to other people. I will also share what it is like for me to be with you and, where appropriate, challenge your thinking or offer up alternative possibilities. Such conversations are a collaboration between the two of us, searching together for different ways of being which might better fit your current circumstances. Also, as I have said in previous posts, I place much more importance on how I am with you, rather than what I do; I aim to be supportive, kind, challenging and as honest as I can with you.
The Benefits of Successful Counselling or Psychotherapy
At the end of a successful course of counselling or psychotherapy, people often describe a sensation of feeling lighter or more grounded, more accepting of their own and others’ emotions and more able to deal with their feelings in constructive ways. Sometimes, they will refer to giving themselves more time to respond to a situation, rather than simply reacting in a knee-jerk fashion which might be based on an old dynamic. In short, perhaps, people for whom counselling and psychotherapy has been successful become more resilient. A good therapist will be able to help you get to such a place, but they cannot do it on their own. The process usually involves hard work, commitment, and a willingness to be open to different ways of being in the world.
If you live or work within reach of Brighton and Hove and my approach to counselling and psychotherapy interests you, please contact me via email or telephone 07585 910742 for more information and to arrange an initial consultation.
Copyright: Caroline Clarke, help with anxiety in Brighton and Hove
Image courtesy of cbenjasuwan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net