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.