Through all my counselling work, I am familiar with the process of either one to one counselling or that of self help groups and feel that they are a helpful part of society. It is often the case however that society sees them as a waste of time. A waste of resources and the pandering and pampering of individuals who are not able to deal with the real world. There of course is a danger of this, but in understanding the human mind and the complexities of human needs and emotions, we as fellow human beings are more able to address issues, that have long term effects on individuals and society.
Not long after I became a ‘bereaved mother’, I read an article where the author felt that counselling was a complete waste of time and ‘one would be better off getting on their hands and knees and washing the kitchen floor’. That in itself was funny to me as anyone who knows me would fall about laughing at just the suggestion of me being a domestic Goddess!!! However my lack of that tidy and domestic gene aside (much to my mums frustration!), the point the author was making way that you need to work through your problems and you feel better for getting on with normal every day life jobs, that we all have to do, opposed to ‘sitting in a room and getting sympathy’. She had a point, in the sense that we can’t change bad things that have happen to us and nor can we always prevent further bad things from occurring. Therefore one could take the attitude – accept your lot and deal with it….help yourself.
What troubled me about this view point was, in ‘dealing’ with ones life, often means addressing those very issues that are causing you to need help in the first place. No matter how much I wished it to be different, the death of a much loved 15 year old daughter was now my ‘normal every day’ life. Coping with it was in fact my new ‘normal every day job’.
I am nothing if not open and transparent about my emotions, so the following is an extract from my diary the day before I read this particular article.
7pm 15 August 2003: Having a terrible evening. I keep looking at her last photo and watching videos and thinking, she looks so happy. Imagine if someone had said to her in 5 weeks ‘ you will be dead’. How terrified she would be. What if she is feeling that fear now and is all alone and scared. I can’t stop crying and feel so physically in pain with grief, it is so hard writing this. Everyone else in the house is are either out or asleep and I don’t know what to do or how to cope. I don’t know who to ring. I feel desperate and lonely, like I have lost my way. I have my days and some nights filled, but nothing seems to have much point any more. Why do I keep watching these videos, it is like torture, yet it is all I have of her and I can’t stop.
10pm: In desperation I have phoned the child bereavement helpline and spoke to a lady. She just listened, listened to all those awful feelings and she also shared the loss of her child as well. Nothing has changed but I felt calmer when I came off the phone. I felt understood. I think I can sleep now. Maybe I will make it through to another day.
My reason for sharing that is to ask the question…Was the fact that I called for help that evening, which came in the form of talking, listening and empathising (her for me and me for her). would be classed by that particular author that I was not accepting my lot or dealing with it? Is it more expected that I should in fact go and wash my kitchen floor and get on with life?
Now, I know, my experience was probably extreme, but when I went through this I was 33. I was not a child at a fundamental stage of development. This event has undoubtedly shaped who I have become, my attitudes, my beliefs, my education, life choices, business and my contribution to society. However there are people who face as children many difficult emotions. There are many young, middle aged and older adults that carry with them their own life story to date and we don’t know what it is. This is why I believe in empathy. It gives you power to understand another. That is exactly what I got from that phone call. Not sympathy, not fixing. In fact what I got, was the basis of Humanistic (Rogerian) counselling. and the Core Conditions that founding father Carl Rogers stated as necessary to enable someone in a therapeutic setting to reach the best outcome. These Core Conditions formed the basis of my counselling training when I was in my early 20’s and were instrumental in seeing the world of the clinicians who I felt had let my girl down. So today, I wish to share them, in their simplest form, with you
Core Condition #1 – Empathy
Refereed to sometimes frame of reference. Understand thoughts and the feelings as the other person experiences them. This is a powerful attribute when used effectively and sets the scene for good communication. What is that other person really experiencing? And knowing this, how should that affect my response?
Core Condition #2 – Congurance
This is being genuine and real. This condition is important as it allows another person to build a trusting relationship. People know when you a false and will affect how and what they share and how they perceive you.
Core Condition #3 – Unconditional Positive Regard
This allows the someone to open up and speak about their difficulties without a fear of being criticised or judged. Emotions are present in us all and some are difficult and often we need just acceptance. It can be a relief , liberating and refreshing to talk about how you feel without someone saying, ‘Why on earth did you do that?’ or ‘Do you think you should be still feeling that? Listening with empathy, enables this to occur.
If maybe we, as individuals can practice these skills, rather than thinking of communication as a set of magic words. If Leaders and Managers used these Core Conditions in there communication and attitudes to the workforce. If society viewed it as more mandatory from school education onwards and within business schools and organisations. Maybe the compassionate care, that is so wished for, would have a better basis to enable all those compassionate people already to thrive. Nowhere is this more important than looking after our doctors and nurses and enabling them to thrive, to be able to look after us and help us thrive.
Have a great day and thanks for reading.