You can’t get rid of me.

A little more than a year ago, I started learning more about what it takes to become a counsellor and I am currently studying for a Certificate in Counselling Skills. I haven’t pinned myself to the idea of becoming a counsellor but I know that I am enjoying it and it is good for me, so I’m going with that for now!

Although we only meet for 3 hours per week, it is an intense process. Any education I have undertaken prior to this has consisted of mainly rote learning of facts, multiple choice questions in exams and writing essays. Counselling training is completely different. Reflection on our thoughts, experiences and actions holds precedence over studying the minutiae of psychology. We learn how to listen to others by getting to know ourselves and exploring our own values, reactions and judgements. 

Prior to being on this course, I regularly kept a journal, a brain dump of sorts, exploring my thoughts and what causes me to feel anxious, sad or happy. I used to bury my head in the sand and ignore uncomfortable thoughts without untangling them and they would just fester. I can’t recommend it… Self development through self exploration is not new to me, it benefits me greatly and I enjoy it. However sharing these thoughts out loud was new territory. I consider myself to be a very open person but revealing ourselves and being vulnerable forces us to analyse and judge ourselves in another way. I would ask myself questions like:

“Maybe I am just making a fuss over nothing?”

“Am I oversharing?”

“Are my thoughts even valid?”

The first time I shared something completely honest and vulnerable with the group of 12 other students I wanted to run a mile. I worried about it for days after, and wished I had stayed quiet. This was not due to the reactions of the others, who listened kindly with acceptance. My internal analysis of what I’d said was wholly self driven. From then on, each time I shared with the others I managed to say my piece and let it go much quicker and it became easier with time. My confidence has been building and I am finding it much more enjoyable and cathartic when I share now. 

Vulnerability is something that equally terrifies and fascinates me. For our first assignment we were asked to present our self exploration in a creative way. The following is what I presented to the group: 

The Characters

This is my Emotional Brain. They jump into action immediately by reacting, it’s neurotic, self critical and drives my fears and worries. 

On the other hand, my Rational Brain kicks in later or after I’ve had some time for reflection. They are calm, collected, and undoubtedly have a much more balanced view of the world. 

The Conversation

EMOTIONAL

 This is too overwhelming, my head is swimming. I can barely string a sentence together in front of all these people.

RATIONAL

That’s ok, it’s the first week of the course, it’s natural to feel a bit overwhelmed.

EMOTIONAL

Urgh, I’m literally the worst. I was so nervous that I started laughing during a listening session. That’s not very empathetic is it?

RATIONAL

Making mistakes is what this is all about, right? And wow, this actually feels ok, I accept it was inappropriate but I just need to keep my composure in future and just chill out a bit. 

EMOTIONAL

I’m just a one trick pony, all I can do is reflect back feelings, I need to learn more skills to build up my repertoire

RATIONAL 

Yes, of course you will learn more in time, but keeping things simple can be effective too! 

EMOTIONAL

And why can’t I just sit normally when I’m listening to the client, I’m so rigid and nervous looking all the time. Nobody wants a counsellor who looks terrified!

RATIONAL

Yep, Body language is important but just try to relax a bit more, breathe deeply a few times and relax the shoulders. There, that feels better, right?

EMOTIONAL 

All I can think about when I’m listening to the speaker  is how I relate to what they’re talking about and the fact that I’ve said nothing useful so far. I’m useless at this.

RATIONAL 

How about trying to think about presence, make it your one goal, to just be there for the listener, you don’t need to give much out, they are doing the work, you just need to be there to accept what they are saying. You don’t need to have all the answers to their problems. 

EMOTIONAL 

I suppose so… 

RATIONAL 

So how do you feel you have done, do you think you’ve passed?

EMOTIONAL

 I’m pretty rubbish, I’m really not sure. 

RATIONAL

 Well, I think you’ve done well, you’re becoming more and more relaxed during sessions, you’ve been able to reflect back  emotions fairly accurately, you know what you need to work on and you’ve been taking steps to improve. What’s more, you’ve been very self aware throughout and been really open to learning more about yourself, even the difficult parts. 

EMOTIONAL

Yeah, I have been trying really hard, although I have so much to improve on….

RATIONAL 

Well it’s all a learning curve, now lets just relax a bit. 

Emotional Brain sits bolt upright with wide eyes.

EMOTIONAL

 Relax?? What’s that? It sounds scary.

RATIONAL  

Shhhhh, quiet now.

Emotional Brain sits back quietly for a moment then springs back into action

EMOTIONAL 

You know you can’t get rid of me?

RATIONAL 

Yeah I do, and that’s fine.  You are an essential part of Claire, although, I can tell already that your voice is getting quieter. 

Emotional Brain scowls.

EMOTIONAL 

Yeah, we’ll see about that.

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