Our lives involve continual change, movement and development. Nothing stays the same for very long. We find ourselves having to balance two kinds of change:
- Changes that we can bring about: The ebb and flow of life can be very exciting – we can make changes which will enhance our lives, making new friends, moving job or city. On a simple level, we can decide that we would like a new image and change our clothes or haircut. Similarly we can decide to change the course of our career, enroll in a new course, scan the jobs market and apply for a new post. We get a sense of enjoyment about the changes we can make.
- Changes that happen to us: Not all change is within our control and we can easily think of some of these changes. We have plans but they don’t work out. Our dearest friend has let us down. Redundancies, bereavements, recessions. This is change we did not ask for or want. Life seems unfair. You may feel that you, or even life itself, is falling apart.
When someone considers counselling, it is usually in response to the 2nd kind of change – something which feels out of control. It is important to talk to someone whenever you are going through a crisis. You need to get support from someone. Having friends, family, neighbours are all very helpful and important. We humans are primarily relational beings – we need other people. Sometimes, however, we need professional support. Friends and family want to help and often offer advice, which may not feel suitable. Sometimes you may feel that they want to cover up your problem. You may feel more isolated as a result. A professional counsellor does not offer advice, but works with you to understand the problem from the inside before working towards solutions.
“Know Thyself” was a maxim written on the temple of Apollo in ancient Greece. These two words give an overview of the counselling process. My experience is that people gain greater insight and clarity, not only about their situation, but more importantly, about themselves. One person described it as having opened a door within themselves they had previously feared to enter, only to find hidden treasure within.
Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who coined the term “Self Actualization” to refer to a person living to their peak potential. We often feel as though we could be more and give more in life. We may feel as though there is a part of us still waiting to find it’s expression. I don’t think that Self Actualization is a permanent state we can live in, but instead we can catch glimpses of it. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced Cheeks-sent-me-hi) introduces the concept of Flow, meaning those moments in life when we lose ourself in the moment. This could mean after years of preparation, the sportsperson strikes the ball perfectly and effortlessly, just letting it happen. Or being embraced in a lovers arms in total surrender.
Counselling has also proven to be effective in helping people in approaching this kind of change – moving closer to our greatest potentials and living life with less struggle and more surrender. This is the 1st kind of change mentioned above. I love this quote from Anais Nin:
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.
I love seeing people develop, grow and expand in response to a little en-courage-ment!