You finally decide to pick up the phone. It’s one of the hardest calls you’ve ever had to make. Not just because you might find it difficult to speak to the person on the other end, but because you’ve finally admitting to yourself how bad you really feel.
The person at the other end picks up. Their voice is warm and reassuring but still you feel anxious and unsure if this is the right thing or the right person for you. You clear your throat, open your mouth. And something starts. You feel a tiny bit more in control.
Getting in touch with a counsellor or psychotherapist is rarely something you do because you feel good about your life. It can often be a last port of call, when you feel so stuck, so desperate for something to shift. No wonder, it can feel hard, particularly if you are your lowest ebb.
When someone calls me for an appointment, I know they aren’t doing it lightly. Not only have they navigated through the minefield of choices, descriptions, counselling approaches, locations, fees but they’ve also made a decision to talk to me. I want to honour that choice and honour the courage of acting on it.
Whether we agree to meet or not, there’s already a leap of faith that you can be helped with whatever you’re struggling with.
How long will counselling take?
If you’ve never had counselling, one question that might be at the forefront of your mind is, how long will this process take? It’s normal to feel like once you’ve started the process of counselling, you want to see results and for things to be different.
That’s always a tough one to answer and of course is dependent on many different factors including understanding not only the part of you that brought you to counselling in the first place, but also the other part of you that might be quite afraid of and resistant to change.
Working with those two seemingly contradictory forces is a big part of the work in counselling. The more entrenched their position, the harder it can be to move things forward.
When you feel stuck
When someone starts saying to me, ‘I feel stuck’, or ‘nothing ever changes’ or ‘I don’t understand why I’m not feeling better / different’, it brings that inner conflict into mind.
If it were easy or even possible to think your way out of a feeling or situation to create lasting change, many of us would be leading different lives, with a lot more ease.
What makes it all so difficult? You can pretty much boil it down to this:
Change means giving up something, as much as gaining something. While the gain can seem very attractive and seductive, the giving up can feel terrifying and unfamiliar.
There comes a moment where you have to let go of the handhold and trust you won’t fall. That’s the space between the pain of the familiar and the uncertainty of the new.
For some the impetus to change outweighs the fear of losing the familiar safe ground. For them change happens relatively easily and quickly. They know and feel they stand to gain more than they stand to lose.
For others, that takes much longer to figure out and feel at home with. What can be small ditch to cross for some can feel like a chasm, an enormous expanse which can’t be contemplated without a lot of work to help them know they will be safe, they will survive. It takes practice and the building of inner resources.
And when it comes, it is a moment of extraordinary power and solemness. Like the moment of taking flight, it can leave you feeling liberated and at greater peace.
This week’s Lifeline
If you’re feeling stuck and wanting to change, this exercise will help you identify what’s driving you on and what’s holding you back.
Take a pen and paper and allow yourself to relax in to a reflective space, by doing some focused breathing.
Bring your attention to something in your life you wish to change, and which feels stuck at the moment. Recreate the situation as vividly as possible in your mind.
When you have it clear, open your eyes. You’re going to write two lists:
What drives me forward and What holds me back.
The first list, what drives me forward, is all about the force for change and energy that drives you on. Make a list as quickly as you can for what drives you forward. Eg
I feel sad about…
I’m bored with…
I need more… etc
When you’ve completed your list, turn your attention to what holds you back
I’m worried if I do this, that…
I don’t think I can…
I’m anxious about…
When you’ve completed both lists, take a look at them both. Is one longer than the other? What does that tell you?
You might want to score each item out of 10 for its relative importance or power or ask yourself, ‘Is this true?’ for each statement. The idea is to bring you into a deeper understanding of the multiple thoughts and feelings you might have around change so you can attend to each and everyone of them.
Are you impatient for change or scared of it?
If you’d like a safe space to discuss what areas of your life you’d like to change, I offer counselling and psychotherapy in Totnes, and online to support you through your experience. Get in touch to make a first appointment, via email or by calling me on 07443 640556.