This week in class we explored endings in counselling. We were asked to reflect on how we feel about endings, and what kind of effects they have on us.
Some endings I like. These are usually situations or people or problems that are causing me emotional pain. No-one likes pain. Making the pain stop is nice. Some endings I do not like. When I am having a good time, or I feel happy, I want it to last forever. I know it can’t, though. Some endings I find awkward, like saying goodbye to someone, because I’m not sure when to stop saying I’m going, and just actually go.
Sometimes I don’t even notice endings, and I think that I like that; in the long run at any rate. I can look back one day and realise that I’ve not spoken to such and such in a few years, and have no inclination to get in contact with them. If I never spoke to them again then I would not be bothered. I sometimes feel like I enjoy my own company too much to reach out to people in a social context, but if someone wants to talk to me then I am happy to converse with them. I rarely start conversations and I don’t really like small-talk. I wouldn’t talk about the weather or that last football match as I am more than happy to sit in silence with someone. I don’t feel a need to cause ripples on a calm pond. I’m not sure how I went from endings to silence, but there you go.
Whilst closure is important to me and I do not particularly like loose ends, I am realistic and I know that sometimes life is chaotic. Not all loose ends are always neatly tied up. As an example, imagine you read a book that was based around a handful of characters and their simple issues. As the story progresses along it doesn’t really get any more complex, and while the book is not dull, you are finding it a little bit of a slog. Then, in the closing chapter every loose end is nicely tied up in a satisfying and innovative fashion – and it really changes your perception of the preceding story. Now imagine another book, which has excitement around every corner and dynamic characters that are out of this world. You read on and the story builds up, layers and layers of story interweave while other storylines drop away, but you don’t even realise or care because the story is so exciting and you think it’s going to build up to something incredible. But it doesn’t. The story ends with no closure, story threads are left up in the air, and the characters just wander off and do other things. I would be left very unsatisfied.
Real life is a mixture of both, and endings can profoundly change the perspective of the sessions that precede it. In a listening relationship that is limited in terms of sessions, progress could be made, but an abrupt ending could throw it all up in the air. On the other hand, there could be no real progress until the last half of the last session, it could take that long for the client to open up, and it would be sad having to end the relationship there. Closure is nice. Being able to step back and see that you’ve made a difference is a great feeling. But happy endings are often the thing of fairy-tales. I understand this.
A lot of the endings I’ve experienced in my life have been ill-defined and drawn-out. For example, when my Dad left, my brother and I were never really sure if he had left or not. He used to work all over Europe and he was gone a lot of the time anyway. Our Mum used to say that he didn’t live with us anymore, but all his belongings were still in the house. It was only when we came home from school one day to find all his clothes and books gone that I realised it was an ending. But then again, some endings are painfully abrupt, like the death of a loved one. Even if they have been ill for a while, and it looks like they won’t recover, it is always sad when they finally do go. It’s a strange mixture as well, I mean, there is sadness because they are gone and all that physically remains is a void in the space they used to inhabit; but there is also relief, the lifting feeling that eases your mind knowing that they are not in pain anymore. And, of course, they also live on in you. Foibles you unconsciously picked up because you looked up to and admired them. Likes and dislikes you cannot explain other than the fact that they liked and disliked those things too. Memories of the silliest, most absurd moments when they would scrunch their face up and make you laugh. They live on in you.
I feel like endings could be difficult in counselling for clients you come to care about. Maybe “caring” is not the right word, maybe it should be clients you feel empathically towards, or succeed in making that important interpersonal connection with. I imagine it would be tough to try hard to forge those bonds, but then when the sessions come to an end or the client decides they have got what they wanted out of therapy, the counsellor should be happy that you will never see that person again. I suppose would be more a feeling of pride, and the knowledge that the client may well go on a lead a successful life now they have got to the bottom of their problems; rather than a feeling of sadness that the relationship is no more. It could be tough getting to know someone over the course of six weeks, or longer even, and then essentially cutting off all contact.
Regarding the ending of the course, I am nervous about it, yet also looking forward to it. I’m very proud I made it this far, and it’s looking like I will finish the course after a (very minor) incident made the start a little shaky; I now look back fondly on that second week where I was tempted to just throw in the towel when my taxi got me to the college half an hour into the lesson. Considering my financial state at this time I’m not sure if I can afford to do the Level 3 Certificate in Counselling Studies in the next academic year, which is a bit disheartening. I’m looking forward to the feeling of completing the course. With every ending there is a new beginning, and whatever happens after this course, I’m ready to take it on.