*Attributed to Socrates. However, it is a motto inscribed on the frontispiece of the Temple of Apollo Delphi c5th Century B.C.

People usually enter into counselling because they have an issue, or issues, of some kind in their life which is/are causing discomfort and which they would like to resolve. As a result, they are, perhaps unwittingly, seeking change. However, for some this creates a dilemma. On the one hand, they would like to feel better but, on the other, they may be afraid of what they might ‘turn into’. They fear they may regret some of the changes, ‘I won’t be my old self’ or, ‘I may not like what I become’. I sense these may be very serious fears for some who prefer to think ‘better the devil I know’ and, consequently, choose not to enter into the process.

Given that a client does enter into counselling wishing to make changes, how likely is it that any of the fears felt by some will happen? In all the years I’ve been counselling, not one of my clients has ever expressed a regret about what they have become. Quite the opposite. I strongly believe that’s because the person centred approach, the one I choose to use, is non-directive. I don’t ‘do’ person centred counselling. I try to live, and ‘be’, person centred. It is my way of being, and it is a never ending process. There are things which crop up which, previously, had been out of my awareness. Such a realisation comes as a shock. However, now it is in my awareness I have a choice. I can choose to address it, or I can choose to ignore it. This can be challenging. It may be a thought or behaviour that I have probably had all my life. As ‘old habits die hard’, making the change may take several attempts as it can be so easy to fall back into the ‘default’ position. In any case, I don’t beat myself up but accept I’ve been doing the best I could knowing what I knew. Change is an option when such a choice is recognised. Which of the options to take will depend upon the question ‘What’s in my best interest?’ So, as with clients, any change made is through choice and it’s the client who chooses what change, if any, to make.

There is no ‘quick fix’ in counselling, which can be disappointing for some. Nor are clients going to be told what to do, which is sometimes another disappointment. Coping, or management, strategies may be sought which could be successful, to a degree. But, the surest way of dealing with an issue is to discover what is/are the underlying issue(s), and that may take time. A large proportion of these begin in childhood. Parenting manuals don’t arrive with each child. New parents may rely on books for guidance and/or on the parenting they themselves experienced, which is understandable, since this was the only parenting they knew. And their parents in turn may have done the same. (See Philip Larkin’s poem ‘This be the Verse’ – https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48419/this-be-the-verse). So, it could be a case of ‘the blind leading the blind’.

However well intentioned, or good, they may appear, no parent can get it one hundred per cent ‘correct’, whatever that is, especially, as each child is unique. Much also depends upon how a child interprets what is said, or done, to them and what feelings are evoked and experienced. These are powerful unconscious messages which become our inner voice. Is there any wonder why most, if not all of us, are ‘messed up’ in some way in our childhood? Even when we become physically mature adults, we may not have grown up emotionally. Especially if we have experienced, say, uncaring parents, significant life events, such as parents getting divorced, the death of one or both of them, the death of other significant adults, physical, sexual or emotional abuse, life-changing accidents, other traumatic experiences, not to mention unpleasant treatment by peers, or elders. On top of all that, modern life is full of distractions, temptations and pressure from the media, advertisers, video games and the like. Some may go along with ‘the crowd, the current trends, allow themselves to be influenced by celebrities, pop idols, soap opera characters, bloggers and social media personalities etc. and completely ignore, or be unaware of, what is in their best interest. As children we may have been told not to be selfish but sometimes this is the very thing we need to be. Not in a greedy, egotistical manner but one in which we look after our ‘self’. If we don’t no one else will. It is in the early years of our life that our sense of self worth and self esteem are established – or not!

So, is there any wonder why more and more people are seeking counselling for help? Thank goodness there isn’t the stigma there once was about seeing a ‘shrink’. It is good to talk to someone who, in a secure and confidential environment, offers unconditional positive, regard, is non-judgemental and non-directive. Yes, friends and family can be helpful and supportive but they, perhaps for selfish reasons, albeit unconscious, may tell you what you want to hear not, necessarily, what you need to hear. Counselling is challenging. There is the need to be honest and open with your ‘self’, to take responsibility for your words and actions and to acknowledge your feelings. This leads to greater self awareness and understanding of your ‘self’. It helps enormously if we know and have an understanding of why you are, where you’re at! It will permeate all aspects of your life. What greater gift can you give to yourself than a few sessions of counselling to assist in discovering your true self?

Socrates (c. 470 – 399 BC) was a classical Greek (Athenian) philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, and as being the first moral philosopher of the Western ethical tradition of thought.

An unexamined life is not worth living“ is attributed to Socrates.

An article very similar to the above was posted in the Counselling Directory in November 2019