Going round circles…

I’ve realised as I’ve I spent a lot of time listening to others, there’s sometimes a strong feeling of going round in circles. One individual repeats the same story time and time again, sometimes till I know it almost as word perfect as they do.

Now in a therapy session, as in everyday life, that can get irritating and depressing.

On occasions, I have been able to reflect back to a client “I’m conscious that you tell me that story quite often – is there something important I’ve missed?”

On occasions too, I have felt that sinking feeling in my body and not expressed that sensation in any way.

In those two responses, the congruence of the former opens up the potential for the client to explore the impact of a past event on their present. The disengagement of the latter locks the client into that process of going round in circles.

I have often found myself reflecting later in my notes and in supervision on the underlying need to repeat the particular story. Wondering what else that person is communicating without directly saying it.

It may be something they haven’t identified for themselves, so the need to repeat the story continues.

It may be something they feel deep within that they are holding onto, and haven’t really engaged with.

They may even be aware of something subconsciously, and actually want or need to hold onto in order to justify present day behaviour or beliefs.

So, if I change my belief from “here we go again…I’ve heard this before…..I’m switching off” to something more along the lines of “what else is being expressed here….what am I missing…….what need is being filled by holding on to this story?”…..the process changes.

It’s no longer about going round in circles, it’s more about experiencing a spiral – each journey round is at another level, with another element to the process.

Exploring that story needs to expand into exploring the feelings and sensations attached to the story; exploring the thoughts, ideas, beliefs attached to it; exploring the needs fulfilled in the telling and re-telling; exploring the question “what do you really want to tell me?”

So at the next re-telling of the story, dare to engage with exploring the all the sensations, feelings, beliefs and needs. Reflect on the non-verbal as well as the verbal aspects of the story-telling. Be congruent.

And experience the spiral not the circle.

Going round circles…

I’ve realised as I’ve I spent a lot of time listening to others, there’s sometimes a strong feeling of going round in circles. One individual repeats the same story time and time again, sometimes till I know it almost as word perfect as they do.

Now in a therapy session, as in everyday life, that can get irritating and depressing.

On occasions, I have been able to reflect back to a client “I’m conscious that you tell me that story quite often – is there something important I’ve missed?”

On occasions too, I have felt that sinking feeling in my body and not expressed that sensation in any way.

In those two responses, the congruence of the former opens up the potential for the client to explore the impact of a past event on their present. The disengagement of the latter locks the client into that process of going round in circles.

I have often found myself reflecting later in my notes and in supervision on the underlying need to repeat the particular story. Wondering what else that person is communicating without directly saying it.

It may be something they haven’t identified for themselves, so the need to repeat the story continues.

It may be something they feel deep within that they are holding onto, and haven’t really engaged with.

They may even be aware of something subconsciously, and actually want or need to hold onto in order to justify present day behaviour or beliefs.

So, if I change my belief from “here we go again…I’ve heard this before…..I’m switching off” to something more along the lines of “what else is being expressed here….what am I missing…….what need is being filled by holding on to this story?”…..the process changes.

It’s no longer about going round in circles, it’s more about experiencing a spiral – each journey round is at another level, with another element to the process.

Exploring that story needs to expand into exploring the feelings and sensations attached to the story; exploring the thoughts, ideas, beliefs attached to it; exploring the needs fulfilled in the telling and re-telling; exploring the question “what do you really want to tell me?”

So at the next re-telling of the story, dare to engage with exploring the all the sensations, feelings, beliefs and needs. Reflect on the non-verbal as well as the verbal aspects of the story-telling. Be congruent.

And experience the spiral not the circle.

The Washing Up…

If, like me, you don’t have a dishwasher, life sometimes seems to contain rather a lot of washing up. When I engage with hosting social events, entertaining friends and neighbours, experimenting with new recipes, having family to stay, or simply cooking a treat for myself, there’s always the washing up at the end.

Now I know you are already thinking “what has this got to do with therapy?”

Trust me on this. Stay with me here!

Washing-up is a very physical activity – even if you have a dishwasher, you have to scrape and stack the plates etc! It’s an integral part of an event – an experience, however you do it.

I remember one very busy day in a work department finding that I only was left in the building when we seemed to have used every single mug and teaspoon in the kitchen – and I was left with the washing-up!

But washing-up is not only a physical activity. It brings a time to reflect on the event or experience that has produced the washing-up. It’s a time to enjoy moments again; to review what worked and what didn’t work so well; and to prepare for the next event, experience; or simply set things in order again.

After each session of therapy or the end of a therapy process, there needs to be a time of review, reflection, clearing up, sorting and straightening out. At times that will be practical, as in my busy day example above.   Or the room may need clearing up if you work creatively and have moved things around to enable the therapy session itself. But there needs to be time also for reflection, review, remembering.

Of course, with family events, there may be a lot of helpers to do the washing-up – or they may all go home and leave you with everything! As therapists, we generally find it to be a solitary activity or a one-to-one experience in supervision – though obviously also a peer group or group supervision session will support the emotional & mental washing-up.

But remember – washing-up is part of the dinner party, and the therapy session. It’s part of the whole process. It’s simply not possible to work without it. The rest of the process depends on your washing up emotionally, physically and mentally.

It’s an essential part of the balance in the whole process.

So don’t forget the washing-up!

Conversation Starters…

“How are you today?”

That little question can be a conversation starter, or an everyday politeness that doesn’t expect or require an answer.

Often, if we answer that question at all it’s all about practical or physical issues. But that’s only part of the picture isn’t it?

There’s been a lot in the news recently on the subject of starting conversations about mental health issues.

But there’s still some stigma attached to those conversations. What effect will it have at work? Will I lose my job? Will I be overlooked for promotion? Will people avoid me? Will I lose my friends? Even worse – what happens if I own up to being in therapy?!

Well, if it’s good enough for Prince Harry and Brad Pitt, then it’s good enough for me – and you!

Opening up the conversation is one thing, but it’s really just a starter. The conversation needs to continue. It needs to lead to action, change, development. It needs to include the whole spectrum of mental health issues alongside the physical and emotional elements.

Engaging with those issues in therapy can be tough enough. But which is tougher – talking about our mental, emotional and physical difficulties in therapy, or talking about them to our friends, family and neighbours?

One of my freelance contracts has a medical centre attached on site and recently sent out a leaflet full of information for staff on managing sickness & minor injuries, sickness reporting, attendance etc. They managed to produce this leaflet and get it through all the reviews without including one single word about mental health issues.

And yet there are many staff members with mental health issues who feel unable to report to supervisors, managers or nurses.

So the conversations are still starting.

We need to develop them in the everyday settings of our normal home, work and family lives.

We need to engage with those discussions with our colleagues.

We need to initiate those conversations; share our own experiences; model acknowledgement and acceptance.

So, “How are you today?”

A Matter of Life and Death

I was in London in early April and walked over Westminster Bridge arm in arm with my daughter, on a very sunny day with the place filled with tourists. The juxtaposition of relaxation, enjoyment and pain was almost tangible. It fostered a sense of perspective and priorities.

How often do I get caught up in the small details of life and lose that sense of perspective with the bigger picture?

How often have I sat with clients stressed about what may seem insignificant issues for me?

It’s important to acknowledge that sometimes it is difficult to connect with a client’s issues if and when there are what feel like more significant issues in my own life or in the wider world.

But it’s necessary to stay with the feelings of the moment and engage with what a client presents.

And it’s also important to recognise that issues are very personal and impact in different measures on different people.

And sometimes a client will present with a story and experience that makes my own issues pale into total insignificance.

I think it’s essential at those times to be very present in that moment with the client. To be present in the bigger world issues, and yet also to acknowledge my relationship with personal issues.

And acknowledge that each of those experiences is part of life. Part of living and being human. Part of the experience of life and death.

And part of learning to work with everything that life throws at us.

Life and death and everything in between.

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