We began by completing the theory of consonant and dissonant social relations in networks. We looked in particular at the example of a new member - say, the daughter’s boyfriend - coming into a family and the ensuing tensions. We see how this could later result in different members of the family coming into counselling with any of a range of different presenting problems, yet it not being easy to understand the whole configuration of causes and conditions.
I commented on how Korean society is more disciplined and highly socialised which has advantages in more civilised living and higher economic performance but disadvantages in a high suicide rate and a greater tendency to cover up problems or jump to a moralistic conclusion about them. As counsellors we are providing support to the people who are casualties of this situation. In order to provide such support we need, as far as we can, to free ourselves and broaden our attitude.
We then looked at the passage from the poem…
If reverent, then happy. Nothing can go wrong.
The truth that Heaven bestows is nonetheless mysterious; not even to be classed with delusion and enlightenment.
All in due season, with the ripening of causes and conditions, its glory quietly emerges.
Fine, it penetrates hell; great, no cell can hold it.
A tiny mistake and you lose the tune
This passage gives the whole philosophy of therapy. Firstly, deep respect. If one maintains deep respect, nothing can go wrong. If one lacks skill the work may go slowly, but if one maintain respect one will not do damage. All the time we are seeking truth. truth is not constructed by ourselves - it is provided by heaven. It will always be in some degree a mystery. We cannot hope to understand everything. Even if we transcend delusion and become enlightened we shall still be human beings and will not perceive everything. Rather than becoming super powerful, we are more likely to give up our personal power and rely upon the bigger process in which we are a part. In that process things happen in due season as causes and conditions ripen. We try to understand those causes and conditions and to find the truth hidden within them. The deeper truth of life is all the time emerging, like a treasure coming to light. when we have faith in this way, we can go with the client into his particular hell, his particular prison and no harm will come to us. This is a matter of paying careful attention. If concentration wanders we lose the thread, we stop following the tune and become lost.
I talked about how to respect the person no matter what decisions they have made. If a person decides to stay in a difficult situation or decides to leave - both options require courage. If they manage to change the situation into a less difficult one, that also is a considerable achievement. If we start with building a connection to the human spirit of the person - the courage to live which they display - then we have a firm foundation that puts everytrhing else that we deal with into perspective and builds a trusting relationship. That relationship itself then forms a conducive condition for the growth and development of the person.
One might have an ideal that people should have happy marriages and some people do have such marriages, but often people only pretend to have a happy marriage and do so because nothing else is socially acceptable. Where is this person able to talk about their difficulty? He or she may come to counselling, but if the counsellor also holds too strongly to this same ideal it may be very difficult for an honest dialogue to happen. Of course, it is nice if people have happy marriages, but that is not the only way to have a noble and satisfactory life.
One’s social opinions are not terribly useful in the counselling situation. Imagine counselling Donald Trump. It might be that you disagree with his view of politics. Perhaps you would not vote for him. Nonetheless, if he were your client there is much that you can find to respect. For a person to challenge the establishment system of his country and of his party and succeed to the highest job is quite a remarkable achievement. Also, there is something to empathise with. The fact that at the moment he is saying the truth as he sees it and all the important people are rejecting him for doing so is a dramatic human situation. He is becoming isolated and it could all end in tragedy. As a political person one might be hoping that he fall from power but as a counsellor one can appreciate his difficulty and the human anguish and drama. As a counsellor one should be able to respond to the spirit of the person and not get trapped into taking positions. Of course, we are all human and this is easier said than done, but it is the ideal we aim for. Being a counsellor is a very different role from being a participant in the social or political process. One develops an ability to keep the two separate.
The theme of this session was how fears acquired in early life and adolescence can carry over into adult life or be restimulated by entering circumstances that remind one of the earlier situation. The session included a small element of re-enactment to elucidate feelings. It showed how the issue talked about may also be re-enacted in the session itself, both generally and in the client counsellor relationship. The counsellor needs concentration and patience to attend to small signs of significant shifts in the client’s process.
Questions and Comments
- the counsellor respected the client’s right to decide how much she wants to reveal.
- the session was 80 minutes and we had some discussion of when and how time limits are appropriate. Generally counselling sessions are limited to 50 or 60 minutes, but sometimes one has the luxury of being able to go on longer.
- the counsellor is like a companion going on a journey with the client. The journey passes through different areas of material significant in the client’s life.
- in the course of the session the client had a variety of emotions, shared important material about her life and had some insight.
- the presenting problem did not occupy much of the time of the session. The counsellor needs to keep the presenting problem in mind and refer back to it when appropriate, but it does not have to dominate the session. Often the presenting problem is merely a starting point - the tip of the iceberg.
We then did counselling practice in small groups.