I was not late this week, in fact I was the third or fourth person to arrive, and I was happy about that. Although for reasons I cannot fathom, I had a feeling of being out of my depth at the very start of the session. I am not sure why exactly, but I feel this way at the start of each session. As soon as our tutor starts talking and things get moving I lose that odd feeling and I feel focused and eager to learn. As a person who tries to be mindful, and finds meditation to be a useful addition to my everyday life, I understand that not every thought that pops into my head or emotion that surges through my body is a real or truthful indicator of how things really are, and after three sessions, I have come to realise that the thoughts of quitting the course are fleeting, and that I soon settle down to learn. Upon examining my own feelings after the sessions, and considering I am fine once the session starts, I have come to the conclusion that it is just nerves.
We did some roleplay early on, and when I was the observer in our group of three, I think I missed something quite important while I was writing something down, as when I shifted focus from my notes and mentally re-entered the conversation the counsellor and client were having, they had changed tack somewhat and were talking about something different. That sure highlights the importance of not taking notes during real sessions.
We learned more about empathy in a bit more detail this week, this time in the context of it being one of the Core Conditions. It is very reasonable to expect that to really help someone and understand their problems and feelings you have to possess some form of empathy. I do feel that it is possible to increase your empathy – while a great degree of it comes naturally, you can develop it further by studying things like facial expressions, body language and the specific words people use to describe their issues. It’s entirely possible that learning about and developing your empathy is a natural by-product of living life and conversing with people on a day to day basis.
We also learned about Immediacy this week, which I found very interesting. Before the course started, I found a page whilst browsing the CPCAB’s website describing Immediacy and I thought it sounded like a very advanced skill, touching on deep counselling theory – it was described as risky on the website, and I thought it did indeed sound quite risky to do in the moment. I was surprised that we were learning about it so early on in the course. It is very much a here-and-now, you-and-me skill that deals with the relationship of counsellor and client, in the room at that very moment, which surprised me somewhat as I thought counselling was more concerned with events that had already happened and the people that the client knows that are connected to those events. It was an aspect of the counsellor/client relationship that I had not yet considered.
It feels like a moment from real life where suddenly someone is giving me the passive aggressive silent treatment – usually in real-life I would notice the shift in their behaviour towards me but not have the courage to mention it. It does indeed seem risky to ask them what their problem is, but I get it now. The key is to just ask. Be honest. “I’ve noticed that you have suddenly become cold and are only answering in one word replies – have I done something to upset you?” Or when someone’s eyes glaze over and their attention seems to drift off as if caught up in a distant memory and I’m left wondering what’s going on. I just need to be honest, let them know I’m still here, and ask them what triggered their vacancy from our conversation, and what they are thinking of. Just say “Hello? I feel like I’ve lost you! Where are you?” It could start a lovely conversation.
I find it fascinating how all the different aspects of counselling, listening skills and core conditions intermingle and mix with one another. As an example, we learned about empathy this week, and it is so tied into everything else we have learned so far such as showing an open body language towards the client, picking out the strongest emotional words to use in reflections, listening for feelings behind the words to form paraphrases, but really I could have taken anything we have learned about and tied it in to any other number of skills or aspects we have learned, and I think that is what I am enjoying most about the course, that it is all so interwoven, but fits together perfectly.
Congruence is an interesting one for me. I have recently taken steps to examine my own self-esteem issues and I came to realise that my low self-esteem was probably caused by the great difference in my perceived self and my actual self. Having a greater degree of self-awareness, exploring how I am as a person, and just being more accepting of myself has helped greatly. Once I stopped kicking myself for not being who I wanted to be or I expected myself to be by now, I became happier and strangely I was able to move on and truly grow as a person in a direction that would contribute to me being that person I desired to be. Slightly paradoxical.
We were also asked to think about and discuss what kinds of people or problems we would not be comfortable with, in regards to unconditional positive regard. Having recently started working on my social anxiety, I have come to realise that I was uncomfortable talking to very “manly” men, and attractive women. Extreme ends of a spectrum there. I felt I would also have problems talking to someone who had a strong accent, or mumbled so much that I could barely understand them, as well as someone who didn’t really want to be there and were trying their best to simply pay lip-service to our sessions. As for subjects I would feel uncomfortable talking about: I could not think of any. I am sure that a comment or story could trigger a sad or painful memory from my past, but I could not pin down any specifics at this point to be honest.
I have been trying to hone my own sense of unconditional positive regard, in that I am trying to see the best in everyone and not making snap judgements about them. I work in a shop and deal with a lot of different people as colleagues and customers on a daily basis, and I have taken to accepting them more, and not immediately deciding if I do or don’t like them. I am cheery and good willed towards them and do my best to help them more than I previously would have. Please note: I mean that I do this more so than I used to – it’s not like before I learned about UPR I was uncaring and dismissed all my customers as stupid, rude or annoying, that only happened to two or three “exceptional” customers in extremely rare cases – I have been actively trying to see the best in everyone, and it has made my days a little brighter because of it, and hopefully my customers days as well.
Our lesson was at Admiral Lord Nelson School this week, and during our break I spoke to a fellow student about his smoking habit – I overheard that he wanted to stop smoking and I suggested a book that I found useful when I wanted to stop smoking. I also noticed that they run Aikido classes at Admiral Lord Nelson School. I felt that the universe had aligned somewhat there, as I had been faint-heartedly looking for Aikido lessons for a while.