Betrayal, trust and innocence


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That thing that’s bubbling towards the surface, well I think it’s surfacing.

It’s something to do with trust and innocence.

As a young child I had a relationship with my dad that wasn’t just about hated family walks. He used to take me to work on a Saturday which was something that didn’t happen with my sisters and he used to come and tell me stories at bedtime. He never read me one out of a book but talked about his life, his childhood, his National Service or his really bad jokes that gave him so much pleasure. Then we left London and it all stopped. I felt that I lost him then and that we never got back to that intimacy. Continue reading

Introduction to Counselling, fifth


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Once again I’ve left this several days after the event so it’s a blur until I start to recall it and then it all comes flooding back. Our leader (teacher seems wrong) was ill so we had a substitute. She was different in a good way and the change made the session seem more lively and interactive.

In our check in at the beginning M spoke about his wife again, as he has done most sessions, saying she finds it difficult worrying about the changes that will happen to M as a result of this course. I remember trying to explain to my mother when she was worried about a (correctly) perceived change in relationship when I started counselling. I had this image in my head of a spider like web between me and all the people I knew and how counselling meant I re-evaluated the connections and sometimes the elasticated strands got tighter and sometimes they got looser and that changed the whole layout of the web as the different tensions changed the web. I feel sorry for his wife but I’m also curious as to why he feels the need to keep on mentioning it. I think I find it irritating because it’s about her, not him.

We spent some time talking about the roles used in the triad the week before: speaker, listener and observer. Clearly the triad is an important part of the learning process and we were investigating it before moving on to practice.

In terms of positioning the listener and speaker should be opposite but slightly off centre so that they are not confronting each other too intensely. Heights should be roughly the same with both able to see the clock and no tables or other barriers should be present.

The listener is showing active listening, acceptance, being present, showing empathy and reflecting what is said. The speaker is there to share what is comfortable to share; it’s their time. The observer is watching the dynamics between the listener and speaker, observing the evolving relationship.

It’s up to the observer to start off the feedback and we talk about how to make constructive feedback, sandwiching the “to be improved”in between positive comments and being sensitive to the recipient. The recipient has to try and hear feedback with an open mind and hear it all, even if s/he doesn’t agree with it all.

We then went into what feels like a tried formula now of what it feels like to give and receive feedback and what blocks it. I am bored of this formula.

Giving feedback is about being aware that we’re peers here. No one is the expert with the knowledge and the right answer. Feedback should be sensitive and appropriate, owning the observation with “I saw… and I felt…” rather than the generalised “you are…” We owe it to the recipient to be kind and gentle. It might be difficult to receive. Everything that we’ve spoken and listed previously on blocks, giving, receiving apply as well. We must all be in the right frame of mind to be kind towards one another and sometimes we are unable to park our stuff outside the room.

Closing a session: we’ve only got a few more minutes; we’ll have to bring it to an end now; we’ll have to leave it there…

Our triad was a foursome with G N and C. I like G although she does regularly mention Christianity in a way I could do without but she really wants to learn how to use this to enable her to be better at her job and to help people. When she was speaking about trying to apply some of what she had learned and how difficult it was when the real-world speaker isn’t as co-operative and gentle as we were was so interesting that we all found it difficult to focus on the exercise rather than have the discussion about what she was saying.

This brings up a difficulty with these sessions. They’re not real and they’re not exercises; they’re somewhere in between. I hesitated to start talking about 3son and CAMHS and the week that was, not because I didn’t want to (after all it was somewhat on my mind), but because I was worried about dumping it on someone who didn’t have the experience to cope with hearing it. I wouldn’t worry about that with a ‘real’ counsellor. The speaker has to choose something that is real but preferably light enough that it can be discussed in under ten minutes. Speakers so far have all been mild-mannered, with no extremes of emotion. The listener has to interrupt when paraphrasing in a false way as to get practise interjecting in a way you wouldn’t need to do in a full session. But in order to learn how to do it properly you really have to do it every few sentences which isn’t real. Whether it’s because we’re trying to keep it light the session can just go round in circles as if the speaker has chosen a topic, has spoken on it and doesn’t know where to go from there in the rest of the allotted time so repeats what has been said. This is also because the listener isn’t asking questions so it’s harder to guide a conversation. Although the difference between “was that hard for you?” and the non-question that is equivalent “you found that hard” is possibly little. The rules of engagement are different in our sessions to real sessions and sometimes it’s hard to work out how they differ and whether they should differ. One similarity is that you run out of time just as you get to an interesting bit.

We’re halfway through and are tasked with summarising the good and the bad. The above paragraph covers the complicated. I am mostly enjoying it although do get frustrated with the repetition (what is x, how does it feel delivering / receiving, what blocks x). Smile everybody! We’re not going deep enough but it is an Introduction course. I do worry about the impact of the next course on the rest of my life and how it will eat into time. The group is nice and is bonding together. There is I think one person I haven’t worked with at all and several who I’ve gone into groups with but haven’t had sessions with. The two I had an instinctive reaction to I think I did because they remind me of me, middle aged mums. I don’t like that, but that is about me and not them. I wonder if any of us will stay in touch afterwards. The practice sessions always feel rushed. We’re very easy going time wise on the first half and then we have to switch to being exact timekeepers during the sessions and we haven’t learnt that.


I am a Mess


Seriously, I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.

This week has had good parts and great. None really have been bad but nevertheless I just feel like I’ve been hit by a truck.

I need to have words with 3son and say how his need to protect me by not telling me how bad he is just doesn’t work. But it’s not just that. I’m feeling overwhelmed with the last month. Problems seem relentless and when it is my  turn to speak at my counselling class as to how I am and how the week was I just don’t know what to say. A shoulder shrug, a pffft, a so-so, this is how my week was.

The counselling is pressuring my week as it’s essentially one day off from work. I should be able to manage a 16 hour week in four days but it’s too much. I try to get some work done over the weekend but then it feels like every day is a work day. We’re half way through the course but I wonder how I will cope time wise with the next one. I’m not doing any of the reading as I can’t focus. My brain just flits from one thing to the next so my lazy time is spent scrolling through news and social media or binge watching TV on Netflix.

Something is trying to bubble its way through to the surface and I don’t know what. I’m stressed out over funding for 2son and 3son but that’s not it. I’m tried of making decisions and I’m tired of fighting. I’m not yet depressed but I’m slipping down. I’m too stressed out to enjoy the good moments or for their effects to last beyond their passing.

What is bubbling? I wonder if it’s just that I’m yearning for an imaginary time when life is simple and I don’t have major decisions that have impact. That imaginary place where you can make mistakes but can also get over them, forget about them and move on. That TV reality where people die, get divorced, break up, do really embarrassing things but yet pick themselves up, keep smiling and get on with enjoying the next thing. Maybe I just want to be carefree.

It’s so tough, being young


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My son went to his school counsellor this week, luckily to the same one he’d spoken to a few years ago, and told her he was having strong suicidal thought, had equipment and a plan.

Hence the phone call that interrupted my Introduction to Counselling.

I was sort of pleased that it had got so bad he talked to a grown up and sad that it had got this bad. It’s been a couple of weeks since he had gone out with a rope and I had just been getting on with life, as seemingly had 3son.

The counsellor phoned up the GP and made an emergency appointment for later the same day. I went home and phoned up CAMHS to see if I could jump start negotiations. 3son finished with them just over three months ago and their queue jumping invitation expired a week ago. However mentioning suicide and rope got me into Tier 3 rather than Tier 2, a bit like levelling up a really horrendous computer game (Skallagrigg anyone?) as well as a strong insistence that they couldn’t do anything without an official referral from the GP.

So we went to see the GP. 3son was at his best at being non-communicative, saying that therapy sucked and he just wanted pills because all his friends had them and feel so much better. She was good at saying he needed to change his mindset just a little bit and be a bit more open to change, whether via therapy or pills otherwise neither would work and she wouldn’t be interested in prescribing him anything without some willingness on his part. He was as negative as he could be but considering he’d been talking about suicide that’s hardly surprising. The GP said she’d make the referral and that was it.

The next day I got a phone call from the different duty clinician at CAMHS who said they’d hope to send out an appointment soon and that it should be within 3-4 weeks. It’s a good thing he’s not desperate really, and again unsurprising he doesn’t really trust CAMHS or anyone else. He said he would go and see his school counsellor.

Everybody talked about keeping him safe in the meantime and having a safety plan. This consists of knowing you can go to A&E if you’re inconsiderately feeling suicidal outside of office hours and the possibility of talking to someone, anyone instead of committing suicide. We also talked about the fact that he has hidden the rope and I don’t know where. It might not even be in the house. I was also advised to remove all sharp implements and knives from the house and watch the medicine. I can’t say I felt that any of this was helpful for either of us.

I have to say I felt numb the whole afternoon. This feels like a process that we have to keep going through, that may get better or may get worse but other than being there for him there’s really fuck all I can do. I am patient, supportive and all those things and he has told the counsellor that I’m quite reasonable and he can talk to me; he just chooses not to.

Part of me wishes he would try and do something, fail, and at least be hospitalised and have a little more urgency in clinicians debating what to do with him. I feel that once again the burden is with me as it always has been. The power is with 3son. He spoke and we all jumped through hoops and yet he’s sitting there playing video games as if nothing happened. I’m the one feeling lost and not being able to focus.

I am feeling tired of it. I’m still fighting for funding for my autistic 2son of which more another time. That’s not going to be an easy one. Now he’s turned 18 they’re trying to chuck him on the scrap heap, although that isn’t quite the phrase they use. I’ve been fighting for him with the odd week off for quite a while and now that he is settled, happy, making progress at school and still with his girlfriend I would like to just be happy for him and stop worrying about him for five minutes. But I can’t. 1son and 4son are in good places and I’m just really grateful for that.

I’m angry. I really am at having to deal with 3son’s shit when he doesn’t want to. I have to hold myself in so tight when he does want to talk, to not give him a big slap and ask him what he’s planning to do to sort his shit out. I let go of all the fear and anger is left. I didn’t sign up for all this. No one ever does.

I have a mad weekend planned for January. Really mad. The maddest thing I’ve ever done and I’m wondering if I can still do it. As a responsible adult the idea of leaving the two of them alone for a few days is unnerving at the best of times but under these circumstances is it folly? If he wants to kill himself he will. But I would never forgive myself if I wasn’t around at the time. But I could equally be out at the theatre for the evening and not taking calls so what’s the difference?

I’m fed up and think it’s about time life gave me a break.

P.S. There’s a really fascinating discussion on reddit about this image, entitled “One of the most powerful image I’ve ever seen” offering perspectives on suicide.

Introduction to Counselling, fourth


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As we sat down to check in with how we are feeling at the start, it struck me what magnificent friends I have. Although the ones I interact most with vary from month to month I spent some real quality time over the weekend with a few of them and it really struck me, as I debated what to say, how important those people are and how much you can share with friends.

Today the topic for discussion was UPR, or Universal Positive Regard, one of Carl Rogers’ fundamental abilities needed to be a counsellor.

It’s still a clunky phrase and yet the concept is quite simple and we’ve touched on it already. Accept the client for who they are, setting your prejudices aside at the door and without criticism. Like your client. We show this with our body language, the way we reflect the conversation and the warmth we demonstrate. Although how exactly you demonstrate warmth is a little hard to pin down.

What blocks UPR? There’s a long list: over-identification, prejudice (large and small, yours and theirs), feeling tired or ill, having your own personal stuff you can’t quite put aside,  lack of belief in what the client is saying (whether true or not), finding their experiences so extreme you can’t accept them. Maybe they lack chemistry, or have poor social skills and you simply find it hard to develop a rapport. You might find their language inappropriate or offensive, as well as their body language. So many things by which we judge someone before they’ve opened their mouth.

How do you feel when in receipt of UPR? A warm fuzzy feeling that is trust in your counsellor, a developing belief that you can say anything and still be accepted which leads to you opening up and being more honest. Telling your story can be a great release but it can also make you feel vulnerable. A client needs to feel safe before they will go beyond the superficial.

We went slightly off course in discussing what we do when a client demonstrates bigotry. Do we challenge it, say we find it offensive, or deal with it like anything else they say. What happens when a client crosses our line, conflicting with our core beliefs. Where do we go?

There are clearly personal beliefs that are life choices such as religious faith, veganism, sobriety that it is not necessarily up to the counsellor to challenge, but how to separate those from others? Just because I do not agree with a belief doesn’t mean I should challenge it. We’re not in a session to discuss politics, but what about when a client makes a racist/sexist/homophobic/bigoted remark? What happens is they believe in white supremacy or that immigrants should all go home? What if, as someone raised as an example, they voted for Brexit? Should a counsellor educate or is that beyond the brief? If it is, where is the line drawn?

I’d like to explore these questions further. Thinking about when I challenge people as in friends or acquaintances when they come with values I fundamentally disagree with. Sometimes I shrug my shoulders and walk away from the conversation, others I challenge. Possibly I choose the latter when I think there’s a chance of making a difference and the former when I think the other person is rigid in their views. Or of course that I’m not in the mood for a big argument.

This was a more interesting session. I think maybe the group is getting more comfortable with speaking out and asking questions.

Our mission for the day was to look at qualities that we regard as positive or negative about ourselves and to explore the fact that they are just qualities and, like Marvel’s superpowers, it’s what you do with them that matters and that makes them good or bad. Our mini-group struggled to get going with this and I felt frustrated by the slowness of a couple of them to understand the concept and I’m not sure I managed that terribly well.

I had an interesting one to one with V, who chose to carry on discussing his perceived weaknesses and he had a monologue about his inability to stand up and disagree with people when necessary. He used the word confront rather than disagree or argue which I find a much more powerful word and I wanted to ask him which word he really meant. I asked him a few questions and then stopped myself in the middle of one, noticing that it was a question and I shouldn’t. Because he was exploring his own motivation and emotions I found it really difficult to paraphrase what he was saying as there were fewer facts to grab hold of and he was paraphrasing himself as well.

I then had to leave early after a phone call from school about 3son which I will write about separately.

Introduction to Counselling, third




I always say to myself that I will go home and write this up immediately when it’s all fresh in my mind, but I haven’t managed to do so yet. Only the fact that another week beckons pushes me to get it done.

I walked in, intending to sit somewhere else and talk to others. But given that everybody was sat in the same seat or at least the same area as the first day I meekly did the same. I still hate walking into a room full of people. Do you give a loud hello to the whole room, do you say hi to those nearest you, will they answer back; these are all questions I’ve been asking for so long and have just got better at not letting them putting me off.

There were 14 others in the class; a couple never reappeared after the first session. Out of those 14, 3 of them irritate me (V, A and C). I was sitting there trying to work out why. With A, who I spent some time with, it’s something about her cheery enthusiasm and yet it’s not just that. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is and will have to ponder further.

However it did make me think that while I could readily dismiss the obvious prejudices (I’m not racist, homophobic, anti-foreigner, mono-cultural,…) I do have prejudices. In our one to one session G said “I’m a Christian and therefore I believe I ought to forgive x”. If we’d been in another situation I’d have challenged that. I am prejudiced against people who think their religion, whichever one it is, makes them a better person or gives them a higher moral ground. There are accents that are off putting, some because they imply wealth, privilege and upper class twattery, and others because they just don’t sound nice. I’m looking at Birmingham as I say the latter. Strong accents that require you to really listen to distinguish the words will impede good listening and some pitches are off-putting. Then again, some names you associate with previous people of the same name and pre-judge accordingly.

Then there are the other little prejudices: hand gestures and mannerisms that sub-consciously remind you of something you find off putting. There are of course people you don’t like because they’re just not very likeable. The father of a friend is bombastic and demands to be the centre of attention. I can cope with him in ten minute bursts and then I either have to walk away or just get increasingly rude.

Counselling requires you to park your prejudices, however justifiable you think they might be, outside the room. It is possible, and I’ve always believed it to be so, to find something positive about everybody, to find that one nice thing that enables you to form a connection with someone that is the start of tolerance which can go on to understanding and mutual respect even if it can’t finish in friendship. Some people need more effort than others.

Our discussion interacted with my musings. We talked about those things that block good listening like prejudices, over-identification, transference. The latter two require more clarification but transference can refer to a situation reminding you of a similar experience and you therefore expect the client to feel similar to how you felt. Over-identification is when you feel their pain too much to be able to be of much use. We talked briefly about how counselling brought people out of the isolation in which they live or feel that they live. Listening to a voice mismatch between tone and content.

We then spent some time discussing the group contract which basically covered confidentiality, mutual respect and understanding and that we should all try and be kind and considerate to one another. We talked about the fact that while we had things we weren’t going to discuss in sessions that what we did say should be honest. It seemed to take longer than necessary.

Our one to one was a trio, with listener, speaker and observer. The aim for the day was to paraphrase what the speaker was saying both to check that you were understanding what is being said and to highlight the main issues. Doing this in a 8 minute slot is difficult as the monologue is quite short (although it seems long when it’s your turn) and in order to practice interjecting you have to do it more often than you would otherwise. My listener kept re-explaining something so that she’d explain something, I would paraphrase and then she would explain it again. It felt false but that is to be expected.

G on the other hand was listening so hard that she didn’t paraphrase at all which was missing the point. She said she tended to sit back and listen to people and then summarise the problem rather than interrupt. I chose to go over and join G and O as I hadn’t interacted with them at all and I liked them. We scared O a bit by both of us saying that he was staring at me when I was speaking rather than just looking. When does looking becoming staring and when does it become too close to be comfortable? O was worried, especially as we couldn’t identify what exactly he was doing that made it seem too much.

I really enjoy the sessions although they are difficult. The instructions seem simple but they are a lot harder to carry out than they are to understand. I find it difficult speaking, or rather choosing about what to speak. The first week I had spoken about 3son’s walk out with the rope as that was what was on my mind and since the listener T couldn’t say anything in response we both found that rather difficult. The second week was S and after an initial clash we got on well but discussed the state of mental health rather than providing lengthy feedback to one another and I think the feedback is possibly as important as the one to one at this stage. This third week I talked about 1son leaving the country to work abroad. I don’t want to open myself up too much in these short sessions as five-ten minutes isn’t enough to go into depth and I don’t want to feel too vulnerable in these sessions. Also we are a mixture of those who have had therapy and therefore have a greater appreciation of the process and those to whom it’s all new and I feel I don’t wish to scare them. Maybe that is not fair.


Commitment, Am I afraid of it?


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quotefancy-9662-planWhat have I committed to; what is there that I have said I want this and am willing to spend years getting there?

I said yes to the theatre. I gave it my heart and theatre college broke it.

I committed to children.

I committed to marriage and that didn’t work out.

I committed to gaining a degree but I did it part time so that it could fit in with real life and it took me ten years to gain in total. I did get married and divorced and have at least two children during my studies.

I also got a CiW qualification in Web Design and whatever that I never used. It took me under a year and cost about £1000.

So when I say that I don’t like any career or profession so much that I want to spend the full time learning how to do it, is that because I don’t like anything that much or because I’m too scared to make the commitment?

Let’s look at counselling, seriously.

I am doing an Introduction to Counselling, which is 30 hours over ten sessions, less than a term (around £250). It is followed by a Certificate in Counselling Skills which is 1/2 day for a year (£1,500). Lastly comes a Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling which is 1 day for 2 years (£4,000, but eligible for Student Loan as is the Certificate).

So firstly, I could go for the next level without having to do the full diploma and I could walk away at that point with a qualification so it’s not like walking out halfway through.

I do not yet know whether I really am capable of being a counsellor but the qualification is not going to do me any harm. Yes it’s expensive but compared to a degree it’s dirt cheap and I can get a student loan that I barely have to repay.

So what’s stopping me? There’s the time and the cost. Neither of which are real factors. The time is 3 years but it’s part time. Maybe I’d give up some voluntary stuff but I could do that if I really wanted to.

So what is it? I’ve stopped at this point to go and find the careers service site. And it comes to me. Other than I was young and wanted the theatre, I have never sat down and thought about what I want, what I really really want. I have done things because they were convenient, fitted in with partners or children, or because I hadn’t learn to say no. I’ve never sat down and really tried to work out what I want. Thinking of leaving London is part of that decision. Deciding how I wish to earn my living is another. So back to that careers site.


P.S. I never thought I’d be quoting Emma Watson.


Introduction to Counselling, second


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empathy-four-elements_quotesgramdotcomCarl Rogers developed person-centred therapy out of a need to develop therapy that worked for the returnees from the Korean war. He discovered that the type of therapy provided was less important than the qualities of the therapist.

He found that, for therapy to work you needed three key ingredients:

  • empathy, the ability to see things from the client’s perspective;
  • unconditional positive regard, a clunky phrase meaning that you positively accept your client for who they are without wanting to change them or judge them;
  • congruence, a word more often applied to triangles that means the therapist must be genuine, that her words, deeds, actions and body language must all present the same personality, must be congruent with one another, demonstrating by example feeling comfortable in one’s identity (or “être bien dans sa peau” as the French say, being comfortable in your skin).

He later added a fourth:

  • presence, being there for your client in such a way that there are moments of real connections, when everything clicks.

We focused on empathy. Trying to describe what that means feels like a group thesaurus session. It’s easy to say words or phrases that mean similar things but narrowing this and other words down is harder than it sounds.

Although we started saying empathy is walking in someone else’s shoes, it’s more like walking alongside them, sharing the journey but with the recognition that you can’t actually fully understand someone else’s perspective although you can understand sufficiently. Acknowledgement and understanding are key words that keep coming up.

What demonstrates empathetic listening? In a very basic fashion, just paying attention and being seen to be paying attention. Beyond that it’s how you react to their story, acknowledging what is being said, demonstrating warmth and giving them the space to say what they want to say without hurrying them along. The client might not maintain eye contact with the therapist but when they do look it’s important that the therapist is looking at them and not staring out the window looking bored.

What hinders empathy? A lack of connection, a pre-existing prejudice, impatience, parallels with your own personal stuff, the cut-off of the session end.

How does it feel to receive empathy? It feels comforting/supportive/safe that someone is listening without rejecting you or your story. Feeling safe might enable you to open up more (rather than initial self-censorship when you’re not sure); there’s a building of trust.

Writing this down makes it all sound so simplistic. Don’t I do this anyway? When we were talking about conversations not being the same as the ones with your friends when you do offer them advice and tell them what to do I was thinking, but I don’t do that. I practice these techniques in normal personal conversations.

I know this is an introduction but it all sounds so simplistic and superficial. The theory, such as it is, that we are discussing seems almost irrelevant. I feel superior to the discussion.

The practical was a lot more interesting. A five minute monologue each way, on this occasion with minimal prompts such as body language and non-verbal comments but no words. I partnered with S who I liked a lot more at the end of it. My initial reaction to her on the first week was that she was slightly too enthusiastic but actually we bonded.


Listening to someone without being able to interject produced two streams of thought in my head: the first was listening to what she said and mentally ticking off shared or overlapping experiences that I understood or could relate to; the second was trying to list the comments and queries that I wanted to ask but couldn’t. I was too busy trying to get a grip on these steams to put together what S was saying other than as a sequence of events. I couldn’t integrate them into a picture. I wanted to touch her at one point to show sympathy, just by putting my hand on her knee sort of thing. I didn’t but it was really hard not to say something that shows sympathy. It was the emotions that were expressed that were more important than the story and facts although sometimes the facts mask the emotions. Indeed if you’re used to multiple therapist you can (as I have done) rattle off your story in a very factual way designed to convey information and ignoring the feelings.

When we swapped roles (and in fact I started speaking) I found it really difficult just to keep going for five minutes. It’s not as if I can’t talk endlessly but I found myself slightly going round in circles rather than progressing. It felt as if there wasn’t enough feedback to know in which direction to drive the conversation. Also her listening face seemed put upon, which it was as she was trying to show that she was listening without responding naturally.  I’m quite used to sitting in conversations and doing more listing than talking as I’ve often done it when feeling uncomfortable and it’s become habitual.

I was wondering about what to do next term already. I’m feeling a bit bored by the lack of depth but not sure that I want to do the full course although I could just do the next and stop. I want more in depth but I also don’t want to commit. Or am I afraid of commitment, as the time-honoured cliché goes?



A Really Hard Week


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I know it can get harder but this really pushed me to my limit. And then some. It started so well.

Last week 3son threw a wobbly at the idea of reverting to how we had been before summer came along, with all three of us on computers in the same room. I’d started it that way years ago when they were younger so that I could keep an eye on what they were doing on the computer and occasionally chat to them. Once I got over being angry with my son for being difficult I realised that actually he was right and it would be nice to not have to listen them play their computer games online and shout at all their team mates.

So we spent Sunday moving everything about and I did a fair bit of cleaning with the result that I have a lovely new office that has no space for everyone else and they have their computers upstairs where I don’t have to listen to them and all seemed well.

3son has been increasingly difficult, with the stress of exams and a lack of identity making him a troubled teenager. He hasn’t found his place in the world and is worried there isn’t one. He gets very angry and upset. He has some good friends he can talk to, but there is a lot in his head that he never lets out. He has tried counselling a few times but has never really clicked with the counsellor and has never given himself up to the process. Hence every so often it all explodes and he often goes for a long walk to calm himself down, usually late at night. It’s not ideal but it works.

This time however, he took a rope.

He told a couple of friends that he’d gone out and bought a rope and one of them was concerned enough to get in touch with 4son and the two of use looked at the screen grabs of chat between 3son and his friends and wondered whether we needed to panic or not. We decided that yes we did. Naturally 3son was refusing to answer his phone but he eventually told his friend where he was and I drove off to find him before he moved on. As I did I wondered how I’d cope if I couldn’t drive and had to rely on others for help. We ended up going for a two hour random drive as he refused to come home, saying he didn’t want to sleep at home but didn’t have any friends he could stay with that night. So we went for a rambling drive and talked about stuff.

We talked about him not being sure about what he wanted to do or how to achieve it. He doesn’t have a passion for any of his subjects and he realises he finds it hard to work well if he’s not really interested in something. He wants something to engage him and is feeling lost. I did my best to reassure and he did end up signing up for as many enrichment classes as he can in order to just try things out. But I’m not sure he’s willing to put enough energy into anything and he needs to in order to find out whether a subject or activity can really grab him.

We also spent some time talking about my childhood. I’ve always glossed over it as he was too young for me to really discuss it but I found myself driving on a road I used to live on and so we talked about my parents and growing up in London when we were all unhappy and my dad’s affair and me being unhappy at school. I think in some ways it really helped him to realise that I had been there and did know what he was talking about. I’m not just trying to be a good parent but I do empathise with him. I do remember being his age and I do remember thinking that life really and truly sucked. I told him about my half assed overdose and again that bonded us.

It was a long and exhausting evening and a week on I still don’t feel I have recovered. 3son is going around as if nothing has happened which really makes 4son angry. 4son was brilliant, getting in touch with 3son’s friends and guessing passwords and trying to use track my phone to find 3son. He was incredibly responsible and mature and I’m exceedingly proud of him but it affects him too.

I feel drained, as if I had been wrung dry. Then of course I had to wake up the next morning and start on my counselling course whereas I felt I had done my quota of counselling for the next month or so. On top of that I’m trying to write my next letter about funding for 2son who has had an excellent year but they have decided that one more year will do him. The haven’t got any basis for the decision but I just can’t find the words to express how I feel. I can; it just involves an awful of of rude words and suggestions. My MP has agreed to write a letter of support which is nice, but she needs me to draft it so it has the right points in it so I have two to write. I haven’t been in mood which is no surprise but the clock is ticking and I need to sort it out. I’m going up on Tuesday for a meeting with school and 2son and hope that will invigorate me.

So yes, this week has been tough, and I wonder how long it will take before it gets better. I have to believe that it will one day. 3son will grow up and will find his way. In the meantime it’s going to be a bumpy ride.


Introduction to Counselling, first


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pearls-before-swine-metroI have started an Introduction to Counselling course. I don’t think I want to become a counsellor nor do I think I want to spend the four years training to do so. But I do want to look at my options and consider changes. Also, I do want to work with people more directly in a way that effects positive change so it will be useful either way. It’s a ten week course so it’s no great commitment if it doesn’t go anywhere.

We are a mixed bunch who all started nervously sitting in silence on our chairs as if waiting for permission to turn over the papers and start the exam. Some made an effort to start up a conversation but it didn’t take. However we started introducing ourselves in pairs and then larger groups and then we went round the whole circle. The initial warm up served its purpose and we spoke quite openly about our personal experiences and needs as well as our jobs, careers and thoughts of transformation. Some want to do their current job (or voluntary) better; others were considering a career change. There were several acknowledgements of depression, alcoholism and anxieties.

I noticed that when two members introduced themselves as recovering alcoholics I instinctively withdrew any warm thoughts. That’s about me lumping them all together and being judgemental. But the fact that we all (bar one) spoke honestly and openly about why we were there was very warming and helped encourage us all to be open.

Saying hello to each other took quite a while. There was a bit of housekeeping as it was the first session.Three hours go fast. But we all acknowledged how nervous we felt at the start and how much more positive we felt at the end. This reflects the start with a new counsellor (or indeed most new things) when the fears and anxieties of starting something new can be so overwhelming that you might consider running away instead.

We talked about what counselling is and is not. We all had an intuitive grasp of the rights and wrongs of it but pinning it down to meaningful words proved rather more difficult.

Counselling isn’t telling people what to do or what is wrong with their lives; it’s not analysing all the threads as an academic case study; it’s not being their friends or their parents.

Counselling is guiding someone to make their own choices, to learn about themselves, to find their own solutions. It’s helping them to explore their own issues, understand the relevance of the past to the present and future, to be independent. It requires a level of connection and empathy without being emotionally committed.