Presentation and Peer Review

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For the first time this course I took not a single note for my journal and then left writing it up for too long as it’s certainly easier to write up before memories start to fade.

I was relieved to not be in the first group of presentations that took place today. Covering four topics that form essay number two we each have to give ten minutes on one of them.

The first person was incredibly nervous and spoke very fast but was also well-prepared and well rehearsed. The other three got worse and worse, in terms of content, style and presentation. Nor did they answer the questions. I felt an immediate sense of relief that I couldn’t be the worst presenter in the class. It’s a low bar but I shall jump over it.

What was more challenging was that we had to peer review everybody’s presentation. It was difficult to take notes of what was being said (unnecessary but useful for the accompanying essay), to look at the criteria for the content and the criteria for a presentation. I also felt bad about being critical rather than just focusing on the positive but I did it anyway, even though I felt very mean for so doing. I did share this thought with a peer who felt the same way which did lower my anxiety. Is this about being bullied and feeling at some level that criticism is name calling and belittling? I do appreciate the difference between negative and constructive criticism but still. We all agreed last term to be a bit more critical and that we could all cope.

I spent most of the weekend writing my presentation (and that part of the essay as well) and got stuck for several hours on needing one example and I couldn’t find one or think of one. I decided to be imperfect and leave it there but it’s still niggling at me and I shall have one more go before presenting.

I am confused over the whole point of this exercise that take up the best part of two days. Is it to see if we can deliver a presentation, but what relevance has that? Is it looking at our ability to write peer reviews, but if so the tutor doesn’t look at them. I do not like not seeing what the point is.

I then found my triad very challenging. I like the people I am with but when I observed I wanted to swap places with the listener and intervene myself. [Redacted in the unlikely case one of them reads this] I am projecting my own stuff onto the speaker.

I skipped personal development as I had parents’ evening at school for 4son.

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Letting Go Of Hostility

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When we let go of the hostility we feel towards others we free ourselvesThis quotation from my DailyCalm recently resonated heavily with me.

This is mostly to do with the father of 1son who is an alcoholic. He drank heavily while I knew him and up to several years after we divorced.

He claimed that he woke up one morning and decided that he would be a better father to 1son if he quit drinking and so he just did. I didn’t believe it was quite that simple but he certainly never had a drink again.

I am very grateful that he did quit as it enabled him to be a better father to 1son who subsequently went to live with him which he couldn’t have otherwise done.

But, for all that I’m also just really angry that he’s never apologised to me. He’s never said sorry for the pain that he caused me, whether due to the alcohol or otherwise. He’s never acknowledged that he put me through all that and that quite simply pisses me off.

I put up with his drinking, his being drunk, his snoring, his siphoning of all money to drink. He got fired while I was pregnant as one of his departing work colleagues complained about working with someone in potentially hazardous conditions who would be drunk at 10am. They opened his locker and the empty bottles cascaded out, despite him having had sufficient warning that he could have cleared them out. Every time I hoovered I found bottles stashed behind the furniture and in weird places. He claimed that getting fired was deliberate as he wanted to stay at home and look after me whilst pregnant. Which would have been nice except that I’d been made redundant so we had no money coming in.

The day I brought my son home from the hospital, after three days stay, should have been one of the happiest days of my life as the new mother triumphantly returns home, babe in arms. Instead we got home and my then husband collapsed on the bed and started snoring. The place was in a tip and he’d clearly not done anything other than drink since I’d given birth. I scrabbled around emptying his pockets to find enough money to order a pizza, the only food that delivered, as the fridge was empty and seriously contemplated for the first time ever the fact that maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but one day, I would have to leave him. And then I cried.

Just writing that leaves me shaking with anger. It wasn’t how it was supposed to be. It took me another two years to accept that being a father wasn’t going to change anything and to get started on divorce proceedings. That whole period of itself was traumatic as he refused to leave our home so I took 1son and went and stayed with the local vicar for far longer than they were happy for. I’m very thankful to them, even if I cannot remember their names. Eventually 1ex went back down to London, to his mother’s and we returned home. He contested the divorce as I cited alcoholism as the reason and said he would agree to it if I changed it to no fault which I refused to do and he did give in. It was important to me that I didn’t back down and pretend that  the reasons were other than they were or that the blame for our marital breakdown might have been more 50-50.

Despite all my wishes I didn’t however actually break off communications and let him see 1son whenever he could. This wasn’t very often until I moved down to London a few years later but he did make day trips to see his son and I would always find an empty bottle, anywhere from a half to an eighth, of the cheapest whisky, neatly tucked next to a garden hedge or hall within a door or two away.

I now appreciate that even if he hadn’t been a drunk I would probably have ended up divorcing him. I welcome the fact that we can get on as long as we keep our conversations (preferably by email or telephone) to matters relating to 1son or IT and rarely anything else. He has done his bit by 1son who got more attention from his father and grandmother than he could have done from me with three other children to take care of. I recognise all that.

But I still want him to say sorry and that isn’t going to happen. I cannot make it happen and I’m definitely not going to ask. So I have to let it go. I have known this for multiple years though and I haven’t.

I feel anger towards him in a way that I don’t towards my parents. I may not have realised it at the time but he was supposed to be my way out from my childhood, from the mess that my life was at the time that I met him. Instead of being my saviour, he instead reinforced many of my already existing feelings of inadequacy and made matters worse. So really I am angry at him for not being the person I needed and wanted him to be even though that wasn’t really within his power.

Maybe then I have transferred to him the anger that I should have felt towards my parents for all that my upbringing led me to feeling completely disempowered and without identity at an age when I should have been leaping forth into the world. It’s easier to feel angry towards him, who I have mostly cut out of my life, than it is to be angry towards my parents with whom I have much more complicated bonds.

So I have to let go of my hostility towards him because, ultimately, it’s simply not his fault.

 

 

Starting This Year

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Seven+Stages+of+Rogerian+Functioning+It had been four weeks since we’d all been together and it seemed like an awfully long time. But there was lots of smiles and happiness as we started in a relaxed atmosphere that seemed different, like a fresh start without any tension. We lost one permanently and had a couple of absences.

Most of us were relieved to be handing our first proper assignment in although worried about how it would be received. I did say that I’d like some feedback before we started on our next one just so that I know whether it’s OK or not. I feel amazingly confused over it but felt better that so were most of the rest of us.

The fishbowl got mentioned. We’re going to do some more at the end of term but not in full groups. As soon as she mentioned it, and the laughter I cringed and wanted to disappear. There was relief (again) that I’d done it but also embarrassment. It was used an example of immediacy, that the listener should have said “you’re smiling/laughing as you tell this painful story. Why?”

I reflected on something that had come up in therapy, and I’m not sure why it came back to me. Adler talks about the youngest child frequently becoming a perfectionist or an over-achiever, driven to gain approval this way. As my father is a perfectionist and an extremely hard worker I rejected these approaches and instead settled for being fiercely independent, even if it was just inside my own head. This stubbornness, this willingness to dig my heels in and do it my way, which is also very Yorkshire, I inherited all this from my father who is also very independent minded. My sanity has been helped and occasionally hindered by my absolute determination to decide who I am for myself. I’ve never been a conformist, never wanted to be a sheep.

I remember my son (think it was 4son) coming home from school one day saying he’d felt left out of the lesson because they were discussing some recent event in Eastenders about which he knew nothing. I held my breath wondering how much Eastenders we would have to start watching and he just said “why do people watch this sort of rubbish” and I relaxed, welcoming that he didn’t want to watch something just because everyone else does. In the same way this household does not watch I’m A Celebrity, Come Dancing, The Voice or any of that sort of popular cheap television. No sirree, if we’re going to watch crap television we are at least going to choose it for ourselves.

Bloody-mindedness has stopped me from compromising and has sometimes made it harder for me to make friends but, given that I have limited self-esteem it counter-balances that with sheer independent will.

We changed triads and I had a really good one. I was a rubbish observer as I got too interested in the speaker and wanted to say me too, been there, done that. Empathy was oozing out and it was hard to focus on the observer. It was also hard to be more critical as we had all agreed to do. I suggested she struggled to ask the right questions and to pick up on some of the strong words used and she then observed afterwards that my listener had asked 9 questions which seemed too many to her but not to me. It seemed ironic. Anyway I talked about the New Year and how difficult I found it to be hopeful considering all the crap I had to go through and he actually strengthened my resolve in those twelve minutes and made me feel more capable and competent and able.

I spent some time afterwards wondering why this person had that impact and I came to a sweeping generalisation, that introverts are better active listeners than extroverts. They spend more time listening to other people, are less inclined to jump in, to take over the conversation for their own story. They are more likely to pick up the under-currents and are less likely to want to impose their own views on the conversation. All this adds up to being more experienced at the active listening that is necessary to be a counsellor. I’ll see if this holds true as we work through triads with other people.

We also talked briefly about Roger’s seven stages of process (On Becoming A Person, p132-158, summarised very briefly above). In it he discusses the process of change of a person, from the first stage of being totally rigid to the end of being a fluid, fully functioning person. I am somewhere in stage 5 or 6. For me the difficulty is in accepting the qualities that I do have rather than actually developing them.

Last year’s huge achievement was my acceptance of my parenting skills and my ability to feel proud of where my children are (despite all the ongoing problems) and to simply accept that I have done a good job. I feel this acceptance and awareness every day in my interactions with them and it does help keep me strong.

This year’s emphasis needs to be on self-care. To not forget that sense of acceptance and achievement about my parenting and, if I cannot yet feel that about myself as an independent person, I can at least become better at looking after myself which will help me get through the next months. That self-care includes carrying on my daily meditation which, since I started with Calm, I have missed about four days in the last three months. I would like to do twice daily but I’m recognising the value of each meditation and the peace that it brings. I would like to get out of the house more for a walk, both for the exercise and the peace. If not to do half an hour every day just to do it occasionally. I’m quite good at, but need to continue recognising that I cannot do everything today or this week and must limit myself to what needs to be done and to try and let go of everything else.

During my triad I was thinking that anxiety is like the contractions of childbirth. Instead of feeling anxious or in pain for the entire duration, it’s important to recognise feeling anxious in the moment of dealing with some event and to then let go until the next event (or contraction). That ability to let go gives you the peace and strength to deal with what happens next but it is vital to relax in between.

So I also need to try and let go of things over the next few months, deal with them when they come up and then let them go until they need a further action. I need to be kind to myself, whether it’s allowing myself to veg out, read a light book, have a bath, to give myself the permission to not be on all the time.

New Bloody Year

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Yay. Happy whatsit and all that.

Whilst I actually enjoyed Christmas my mood then slid downhill and I very much hid at home for the week, culminating in not going to a New Year’s Eve party that I had gone to last year which showed me that I’m going backwards.

I am worried about this year.

Financially it’s going to be difficult. 2son needs to apply for new benefits as he is deemed an independent adult so I stop getting tax credit for him. 3son will finish school and also be deemed an independent adult. This would be fine but the apprenticeships he’s looking at don’t start until November or January so he’s got six months or so without a plan or an income. I wouldn’t mind but my benefits will get cut immediately he finishes school. Plus I still haven’t sorted out my benefit dispute and the next changes are rolling in. Continue reading

Christmas Break

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Christmas Tree

I have managed five days without turning on my computer or worrying about things to do. Instead I have actually had a surprisingly good Christmas, considering that last year I didn’t put up a tree or buy any presents.

I still felt quite grumpy in the run up to Christmas, knowing it was all going to be down to me and resenting it. But I did buy a tree (took me all of five minutes) although I didn’t dress it with any baubles, just lights and lametta. That was my compromise of not wanting to spend hours putting everything up only to have to take it down again on my own. Still it made me feel Christmassy.

I struggled with presents, as always. They get plenty during the year and there’s not much that they actually want but I went mad in a bookshop and then went into a second one, finding hopefully suitable ones for each as well as the usual junk of sweets and chocolates. So the spread of presents under the tree was a reasonable one. Continue reading

This Sodding Essay

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Writer's Block from PhD Comics

This sodding essay is only 2,500 words. It’s not a bloody dissertation. But it still has me bamboozled.

Describe the person-centred model with examples from your personal experience. Evaluate this approach by comparing and contrasting it with two other therapeutic models.

It’s not even a proper essay. This may be the overall question but it’s broken down into smaller questions that can be answered as paragraphs so it’s more of a series of questions and answers than a proper essay.

And yet…

In order to prove you’re not a plagiarist, every statement made must be sourced and referenced. So either a quotation or a reference to a paragraph that you’re paraphrasing. So I write down a statement and then look for the appropriate quotation and sometimes it’s easier to look for useful quotations and then write the thought to match. It’s very restrictive and leads to bite sized thoughts.

But…

This is counterbalanced my personal reflection on everything mentioned i.e. what do I think about a particular concept or how do I define it for me, referenced to my learning journal where appropriate. I’m not even sure if I can reflect directly with referencing it to previous journalling.

Confusing…

How to balance these two approaches to writing? They are both very different and I could use up my word quota on either of them. I sit at my keyboard thinking about all the things I haven’t yet written about but also how few words I actually have left to write about them, and then I don’t write anything.

I tell myself to write it all down; it will serve as a good summary for myself and then to edit it down. But each line is painful and takes me an age. I also keep reminding myself that this is level 3, equivalent to an A level. I am putting too much effort in.

And yet…

I feel I am not putting enough in, that I’m not answering each question, each sub-question, in sufficient detail to answer the question properly.

I will muddle through and get there but am feeling the need for stronger guidelines. I am feeling lost within this piece of work.

 

The End of Term

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It’s quite scary to realise that we are supposedly over a third of the way through the course. We have finished the theory and will now focus on the skills. We all had a bit of a moan about not having had triad practice every lesson so far and welcomed the news that we would have longer triads for the rest of the year as we end up having eight minutes each if we’re lucky, which we are not always.

We also all threw a bit of a wobbly about the essay. We’re all slightly confused about how much personal reflection, how much theory and how many quotes to put into it all. I had emailed the tutor and asked her about it and sent her a partial answer to see if I was along the right tracks. The discussion did make it clear that I need to add in more personal reflection, to almost all the questions. The one person who has finished it announced that he wasn’t bothered about getting the qualification as he wasn’t going to continue and so wasn’t going to do any more essays or homework as he wasn’t computer literate and found it all too stressful.
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My Vulnerable Core

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mud-puddle

I chose to dig deeper in therapy this week and to try and get back to that really vulnerable core of me, my “puddle” that I had come so close to exposing a few weeks ago.

I couldn’t quite do it. I have spent years covering up and getting on with the business of life such that I’ve almost lost the ability to go back. Could I address my father in my voice as a child. No, not really. If I could say one thing to them then, what would it be? It came to me on the way home.

I hate my life.

Continue reading