The Goal of Counseling.
A comment on a friend's story led me to write about what counseling did for me. This was my personal experience with my therapist and what I learned from her guidance.
My therapist was recommended to me by my family doctor and we were a great match from the start but I had to find my footing with her first. I was angry at the time and having terrible nightmares of being chased to the point that I feared falling asleep. I thought I was going crazy and in desperation asked for help. I remember walking into my therapists office and looking for a couch to lie down on. Her office was so pleasant and I took a seat in a comfortable chair and looked at this woman who would help me find myself. She was tall and slender with a kind face. Quite an attractive woman. I noticed family pictures and a shelf of books concerning therapy and life situations. Not so bad I decided. No bars on the windows. Just a welcoming space. I also noticed a box of tissues within my reach and wondered about why this was there? I found out. Over the time that I spent with this lovely lady, I must have used box after box because releasing my inner demons was sometimes very emotional.
Then she introduced herself and asked me why I was there? "Because of these damn nightmares! Because I am so angry and I don't know why? Because I have all of this crap in my head and I want to get it out of there!". She said that was alright and then took down some history. Family and any health issues so this first session was more of an intake as to who I was. She kept writing and I was sure that she thought I was a hopeless case.
I saw her once a week for a time. There were days I dreaded walking through that door because a lot was being stirred up inside of me. It was hard facing the demons that had brought me so low but I persisted. Mental and emotional walls started tumbling down and I cried and railed at the hurt and pain but through this, I started discovering why I felt like such a victim. So powerless. So fearful.
I came to realize that my family circle was chocked full of abuse. Mental. Physical. Sexual. Verbal. Alcoholism and suicidal tendencies, some of which were carried out. I actually thought my life was normal for I had no knowledge of any other to compare it to. No wonder I sometimes feared for my sanity. No wonder I felt comfort in seeking out life partners that reflected what I thought was normal and no wonder this finally drove me to seek counseling.
My therapist was my guide and she did this slowly at a pace that I was comfortable with. Her goal was to help me figure out why I reacted to things in my life and how to make my life better for myself. I learned ways to reach my goal. For example: I thought friendships were all the same and she taught me to look at each one on a scale of one to ten. One being a casual relationship with a kind person at the market that I saw every week and exchanged pleasantries with to ten being the friendships of my heart. The people that would be there for me no matter what I was going through. Perspective. I learned perspective.
Another thing that I learned was to consider myself as the hub of a wheel. If I was centered and rounded than all of the spokes of my life wheel would be in balance. When I had rough emotional edges then my life wheel functioned but not in a smooth way. And all of the people around me felt the effect of this unbalanced life wheel.
One thing she taught me was very compelling and I still practice this one at times. Draw a circle on a piece of paper and divide this circle into sections as to what elements are important to me. My life circle. My largest section was love. I have always wanted to love and be loved. Respect was a large section of my circle. Without respect for myself and being respected, my life was not being filled in a good way. Laughter. Another large piece of my circle. Being sexually alive and fulfilled in this way. Also a huge element for me. Family. Friends. My artwork and creativity. Nature and animals. Financial stability. Good health. Being a positive impact on others. Kindness. Generous of spirit. Knowledge for I love learning. Writing and reading books. Gardening for I love taking care of the earth and growing flowers.
This exercise gave me time to think on what I am as a human being. The biggest thing I learned out of this exercise is what to seek in a life partner and also friendships. Their life circles should also reflect the elements in it that are most important to me. Not all have to be alike but the majority should match up with mine. Doing my life circle really opened up my eyes to who I truly am. I encourage anyone to try this and this will change over time as we find ourselves growing as people but the core of my first life circle is pretty much the same. Just minor changes over the years.
I was in counseling off and on for a lot of years. Major life changes would get me back for a tune up of sorts. The death of my mother was a big one to deal with. Problems with my children. My answers were always within myself. At times I just needed to talk them out with a person I totally trusted.
My therapist retired and now we are personal friends. This boundary could not be crossed as long as she was my therapist and we respected this. Last year I stayed with her for a time while her son and husband were away biking across the lower states and we shared a great visit. She told me that she considers me to be one of her greatest success stories. That most women with my background usually end up on drugs or alcoholics or prostitutes. Even suicides but that I had such great strength and drive to become better that I had avoided those pitfalls. That was so reaffirming to hear.
The goal of counseling is to help each one of us find our own happiness. To deal with situations in a positive way. To learn to trust in emotions and also how to change our reactions to life situations. We are not helpless beings swept along in the tides of life. We can change our directions. We can change our reactions. We can change our future paths in life. Counseling gave me back my power. Counseling helped me to respect myself for the first time in my life and I will never go back to being a victim ever again.