Person Centred Counselling

Not one for social media, here's where I share some things that strike me or strike a chord with me.

August 2019

Youer Than You

One of my clients told me it was amazing what you could read on a lamp-post in Easter Road! There, less than 500 yards from where we meet for counselling, someone had posted the words of Dr Seuss:-

Today you are you

It is truer than true,

There is no one alive

Who is youer than you.

I first heard the words when I conducted a funeral. The son of the man who had died told me his dad used to tell him Dr Seuss quotes when he was a wee boy. And he wanted the “youer than you” quote included in the ceremony. He told me it had always encouraged him to be himself. The words made me smile then and they do now. So clear, so simple, and so true. And, to me, so celebratory, so full of possibility.

Which seems so at odds with how we often feel – that who we are is not enough. Or that we’re different, flawed, getting something wrong. But one of the themes of my work is seeing people who used to say “I don’t know who I am” becoming more and more who they are. Regaining who they’d lost or who they weren’t allowed to be. Like Dr Seuss in action. That is one of the joys and privileges of being a counsellor. Which, by the way, is me being me-er than me.

July 2019

The Quiet of the Beautiful Game

I’m a bit of a tennis fan. I played myself, from the age of nine when I got my first racket from the aisles of Woolworths. Sadly, a shoulder injury at 35 ended my playing days. But there is, at least, still Wimbledon which I look forward to every year. I remember watching Arthur Ashe beat Jimmy Connors – he seemed so calm and stylish the way he stroked the ball in the face of Connors’ power. People talked about McEnroe’s temper but I saw the way he swung his leftie serve and caressed his forehands over the net. Then there was Stefan Edberg’s volleys, carved out of sliced angles and spins. Plus his smile! And I wanted to have Hana Mandlikova’s flowing backhand and Evonne Goolagong’s grace.

I also love the sound of tennis on grass. It’s all so much softer. The players seem to pad about, even when they’re charging around, straining every sinew. The ball sounds less harsh off strings, less hard as it hits the court. I love the green of the courts at the start of the fortnight, before all those dragging feet during serve and slides along the baseline take their toll. Nothing you can do about them.

But, if it was up to me, I would ban players grunting as they hit shots. Not the stretching “effort” variety but those “intimidatory” ones that cut through everything. People might say, how could you differentiate? But you can, I can. There’s no doubting the difference – in pitch (pardon the pun), tenor and timing. They interrupt my senses, and the soft geometry of the game. As the saying goes, “Quiet, please”.

June 2019

Root In The Garden

One day I was working in the garden. Trying to clear out a bed for fresh planting. I had done most of it, but there was one stubborn root, unmoving despite my best efforts. I worried away at it – a substantial root, with about four inches still showing above ground. I pulled it this way and that. The soil loosened around it, but it simply rocked and held firm.

I started to think it was there forever. I slowed down and rocked it more gently. But I let go of the idea of getting it out. Or at least putting so much effort into it. And, strangely, it seemed to respond differently to the change in me. After a time, I could feel it shifting more deeply in the ground. And, suddenly, I felt something give. The root – which had been hard to grip – became like a handle in my hand. And the rest of it emerged like a skipping rope, ripping softly through the soil along its length. It came out, clean as a whistle, about four feet away. What was visible had been in front of me, but the root itself came out behind and to the side.

It felt like a metaphor for counselling, for both counsellor and client. Don’t try to force things, it won't help. It'll just cause frustration and resistance. Change doesn't happen just because you’d like it to. It's a process and takes time. Just because there’s no visible movement doesn’t mean nothing’s happening. The root is often nowhere near where you started or expected. It will emerge when it’s ready. Then you can see its shape and how it connected all along. Understanding can replace struggle. And you have earned a rest!

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