The Parent Trap

Recently I had a lengthy phone conversation with a friend who wanted some help with cooking a particular dish. He’s had a few health problems recently and has decided to do a bit more home cooking with fresh ingredients instead of picking a ready-meal to microwave, but he really hasn’t cooked very much for himself at all. I talked him through all the instructions and we had a good chat about it.

After I had put down the phone, I paused for a moment and then decided to send all the instructions in a text as well. I wasn’t sure he was writing down my instructions as we spoke on the phone.

Almost immediately he sent back a text saying “I knew you would do that – just like my mother!”


On the phone we had had an “adult to adult” fun conversation about cooking and lots of other things. But the “parent” in me surfaced, and I sent him all the written instructions afterwards – just like his mother, my mother…and everyone’s mother!

So our exchange turned from “adult to adult” into “parent to child”.

How many times does that happen for each of us in our relationships?

There’s parent, adult and child in all of us. And Transactional Analysis recognises those different lines of communication, and the “scripts” that we live our lives and relationships by.

They can get very negative at times if we adopt a “critical parent” mode and the other person engages and responds from an “adapted child” mode as well.

But how much do we really recognise that for ourselves and the others we relate to?

Starting to recognise the processes can be the start of addressing relationship difficulties and recognising our own part in those exchanges.

I rang my friend back and we had another good conversation about the processes for both of us – adult to adult!

Just take a moment to review some of your recent conversations and exchanges with those around you. You might be surprised!

The Nearly Jigsaw Piece

My father-in-law said he thought jigsaws were a waste of time.

Whenever we invited him to join in the family fun, he would pick up a random piece, ram it into the nearest available space ignoring any attempt to match colour or shape, and exclaim loudly and with satisfaction “Oh …nearly!”

Therapy seems a bit like a jigsaw puzzle to me at times too. All the pieces of someone’s life are thrown up in the air, and the work in hand is about putting them back together to fit and create a new picture of life for that person.

Sometimes we get a “nearly” fit with the right shape but wrong colours; sometimes the colours are right but the shape doesn’t quite make it.

Sometimes the “nearly” piece stays in place for a while until other pieces start to fall into place and the picture can be re-arranged again.

And sometimes, the pieces of the puzzle are still littered around when the client leaves the therapy or coaching process. We don’t always see the final picture.

That can be really difficult at times – not seeing that beautiful final picture.

But that’s the client’s work.

That’s part of the work about accepting the process and “what is”. That re-arranging might happen within the process or afterwards.

But the important thing about the process for the client is seeing the final picture for themselves and starting the long process towards it.

It might be a 500-piece jigsaw. Or 1,000-piece. Or even 5,000-piece. And anything in between.

Our role as therapist or coach is to be part of building that final picture even when we don’t see it.

Can you be a picture-builder with all the “nearly” pieces? Can you accept your part in the process without seeing the final picture? Can you trust the client to realise the picture they want?

The number of pieces don’t matter. The final picture matters to the client.

My father-in-law usually felt very satisfied that he was contributing to the jigsaw building at his own level and when all was re-arranged, his delight at the final outcome was just as great as ours.

The process matters to the therapist/coach.

The “nearly” piece is just as an important part of that process as any other piece.

The Door, The Ladder, The Wasp and Two Chairs

……Or “How to deal with interruptions in a therapy session”!

As therapists, we can hold boundaries such as confidentiality and privacy as much as possible for ourselves and our clients, but we cannot legislate for every occurrence, and indeed there are those occurrences which “just happen” that we have little or no control over.

One day the door suddenly opened and into my therapy session walked A N Other person…. This person came in despite the notice on the door “Session in Progress”.

A counsellor related to me how the Manager of a partner organisation in the same building had repeatedly knocked on the door of a therapy room during a session until he had gone out and remonstrated that he was not going to interrupt the session even for him. The Manager had left a ladder in the room which was desperately needed.

What would you have done in these situations?

If you had been the client, what impact would these events have on you? How would you want the therapist to respond?

My therapist went outside and dealt with the person outside the room, returned, apologised and acknowledged that his process was also interrupted. He allowed us both to express that, explore the impact and then recover and resume.

The counsellor had refused to give way and spent precious session time dealing with the event both with the Manager and the client who had heard the angry exchange – and subsequently in supervision.

So much for “The Door and The Ladder”….But what about “A Wasp and Two Chairs?”…

During one very hot summer, one of my sessions was interrupted by a wasp flying in through an open window.

A colleague turned up one day to find that her chair and room had been turned into Santa’s grotto by the organisation in whose building she worked……

Another colleague related to me once how, with identical chairs for himself and the client, his chair quite simply totally collapsed mid-session without any warning ….

If you had been the therapist, how would you have dealt with it? How would you have brought those events into the process for yourself and your client?

Of course, we hold boundaries. It’s an essential part of the process. And we also need to be realistic and flexible.

So – what happened next?……

The wasp flew off happy, encouraged out of the still open window, after a request from the client (to me not the wasp!).

Santa’s grotto was partly dismantled by my colleague for her sessions and then re-assembled afterwards all ready for Santa again.

And my other colleague invited his client to join him sitting on the floor for the rest of the session – after they had both recovered from the laughter.

Remember – it’s not the event that dictates the outcome, it’s how you manage it.

Creating New Positive Beliefs

Old Belief – There’s never enough time

New Belief – 24 hours is enough time, we all have the same 24 hours in a day.



Old Belief – I work better under pressure

New Belief – I work best when I allow suitable time to complete tasks.


Old Belief – There’s always something.

New Belief – There’s a solution to every problem.




Old Belief – Anything worth doing is worth doing perfectly.

New Belief – Anything worth doing is worth failing – forward at, until I get it right.



Old Belief – If I say no, people wont like me.

New Belief – If I say no to some opportunities, I can say yes to better ones.



Old Belief – Successful people are always busy.

New Belief – Successful people live a life they love and are at peace with.



Old Belief – If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.

New Belief – If you want something done right, give it to the person who can best do it.




7 Tips to help Avoid Procrastination

7 Tips to help Avoid Procrastination

Here are seven techniques to overcome procrastination:

1. Take five minutes to identify what you are putting off. On a blank sheet of paper, note several important activities that you realize you are delaying or have put on hold.

2. Look at your list of tasks and do one of them right now. Put the energy you’ve been directing toward excuses into the activity you’ve been avoiding. You’ll discover that action eliminates anxiety.

3. If getting started is the hard part for you, set a designated time slot in the day to work on the list. Set aside thirty minutes of your day specifically on one job, project, or personal goal that you’ve been avoiding or find difficult to start.

4. Don’t worry about perfection.  What counts is quality of effort, not perfect results. Don’t let yourself get bogged down with a preoccupation for perfectionism.

5. If what you are putting off involves other people, consult with them. Your reasons for delaying action may be imaginary. Lack of communication often turns molehills into mountains.

6. If you fear the consequences associated with the action you’ve been avoiding, ask yourself, what is the worst thing that could happen If I did this today? The worst-case scenario most likely would be a minor inconvenience or a temporary setback.

7. Finally, Vividly picture how you’ll feel once the task is done.  Freedom from anxiety. Freedom from nagging pressures. Freedom from self-doubt. Accomplishing put-off tasks will give you a great boost of confidence and energy!



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