Going to see a Counsellor for the first time can feel daunting. You might recall seeing in movies, the image of the patient lying on a black couch regressing to your childhood memories whilst the psychiatrist sits by your side, detached, taking copious notes – but is this accurate? It certainly does not encourage me to seek out a counsellor for help, being neither an engaging or relevant image.
Unlike the image of a clinical, detached process, counselling is a very human and relational process. It is a conversation between 2 or more people, where you are invited by the counsellor, to tell your story. Yes, counselling is a story-telling process. Initially, the stories that people bring to counselling are about feeling stuck, misunderstood, hurt, anger, sadness, betrayal and a myriad of other features. You tell your story as you experience it, according to your values, beliefs and the emotions you feel. It is a story that is complex and many layered, the present and past, an emotional tapestry that is brought to life in the retelling. Did you know that forming this convincing narrative with its rich, emotional content is a function of your left- brain? The questions that a Counsellor invites you to reflect upon and respond to challenges the stuckness of your left-brain narrative. ‘What if your story could be different? What would it look like? What would it feel like? In what ways would it change your experience to become something healing and restorative?'
Here is one of my old stories. Notice the references to the way my left brain influences my feelings and behaviour:
When I was 15 years of age I was living in a small, relatively unattractive town known as Port Pirie located north of Adelaide, South Australia. Being the daughter of a Minister of Religion, my lifestyle revolved around the church – youth groups, games nights and youth camps. Beyond the borders of the church was a community and lifestyle that I knew only through the ‘stories’ I read or listened to, my observation, and my own assumptions. It was foreign territory with ways and customs that I failed to understand or appreciate, to be feared and avoided; so I lived on the edge of the wider community, observing but not participating in it.
There were times when, as I looked through the ‘window of my experience' I felt the desire to join this community that I was a part of and yet separate from, to BELONG. The occasion was the Year 12 School Social. It was a rite of passage, a ritual celebrating a significant phase of life coming to an end and a new one beginning. I recall the struggle in my mind between my right brains need for ‘belonging’ and ‘connection’ and my left brain logic. As I dreamily imagined myself in a beautiful evening dress looking and feeling like a princess, ‘floating’ around the dance hall to the surprise and admiration of my peers, my left brain kicked into action. Hearing the word ‘school dance' my left brain immediately brought up the image of my Grade 6 self, waiting anxiously for a boy to ‘pick me’ to be his dance partner at the weekly school curriculum dance class. I didn’t get the opportunity for much dance practice however I did became practiced in the art of ‘how to be an inconspicuous wall flower’ – just keep your eyes on the ground in front of you and pretend to be invisible. Humiliating! Ego deflating! Painful!
My left-brain is a gifted story-teller, with the ability to take just a small piece of information and weave it into a convincing, if not plausible drama. By triggering memories that hook into the circuitry holding strong emotions, my left brain exhausts every ‘’what if’’ possibility in its effort to convince me of its truth: What if you turn up dressed differently to all the other girls? What if you don’t know the dance? What if no one chooses you for a dance? Humiliation! Ego deflating! Painful!
Unaware that my story-teller left brain is actually constructing the world, as it constantly filters energy and information through my eyes, ears, nose and sensory storehouse and fills in the gaps of information by coming up with its own assumptions, I eventually agreed that to attend the School Social was to invite humiliation, rejection and pain. Besides, I had more pressing things to do ….like washing my hair!
I have experienced numerous lost opportunities, disappointments and regrets over the course of my life experience, having been convincingly persuaded by my story-teller left brain that to pursue them would have serious and frightening consequences. However, the more I understand that our way of seeing and experiencing the world is largely a process based upon the left brain's very limited information (In fact, the left brain takes no more than 1% of the information around you at any given time) the more I learn to challenge the stories and look and experience life differently – from a more positive, optimistic perspective.
A quote from The Talmud, puts it this way:
“We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.”
By the retelling of your story to a counsellor, you begin to see things as they are, and not so much as you are. A story offering healing, hope and a different future.
Want your story to be different? If you would like a personal consultation on how to cultivate and enhance your daily life and well being, and feel hopeful and optimistic about your future you can call Colleen for a FREE 10 minute consultation on 0434 337 245 or if you would like to make an appointment to see Colleen, go to BOOK NOW and you will be able to access Watersedgecounselling’s online appointment diary.