Some years ago In a t.v. discussion about the nature of depression David Smail, former psychologist, spoke about counselling/therapy as often being the only space of comfort some people ever receive, I found his acknowledgement of this comforting in itself as I've been drawn to talking therapy over many years, a way of telling my story, there are
times I have felt 'addicted', to that comfort, which he acknowledged can be an outcome.
At times as a child the lack of an appropriate adults to listen to me, whatever their reasons, has resulted when stressed, for a quest to be heard. Mostly I have found the resilience to be my own counsellor, listen to my inner voice and this can be calming, at other times that voice becomes muffled, jumbled and distorted, it transfers in to an
inability to do practical things, I get overwhelmed, confused, even the simple tasks of daily routine seem very hard.. My experience with counselling is that although it has the ability to 'hold' me when suffering from emotional distress, the process has sometimes been far from comfortable or benign. There are many practitioners, former practitioners and clients of therapy/counselling who will attest to the sometimes far from useful outcomes usually ascribed to the process.
Jeffrey Masson. 'Against Therapy' is one such renegade, a former Freudian analyst. Dorothy Rowe a former psychologist, said some thing along the line of, 'all therapy works but not all therapy works completely', Ken Wiber and John Rowan view differing therapies as working on different levels of consciousness, therefore seeing a transpersonal therapist could be inappropriate if you have little or no awareness of
this level of perception, and by level I don't mean a 'higher' awareness, just a different awareness to 'every day' consciousness. Fancy and mystifying terms, and buzz words abound in the therapeutic community, just as much as they do in other circles or the DSM, with regard to mental 'unwellness' and woe betide if you question the theory
behind them, depending on the skill or the orientation of the practitioner, this may be assessed as your .'problem'...... As a way of verbalising my distress I've both self referred and requested professional referral to all kinds of practitioners, mostly
it aided me regain some calm and it has aided me to become more fully the person I wish to be, but at times I found it almost abusive, it's a space, either in one to one or groups, where an imbalance in perceived 'power' , can exist.
Finding "someone to talk to.....a new hiding place"..(Dylan) has involved sharing with friends even casual acquaintances along the way ,has helped as they listen to parts of my story and I try to with theirs, having someone reasonably capable of 'walking' alongside you as you relate your 'story' in bite size pieces or big chunks can be reassuring, if that is a friend, someone you trust and who has the capacity, well and
good...if you are fortunate to get a 'professional' listener who views them self as a 'co-experimenter', as some Personal Construct Psychologists refer to their work, you can be lucky, but even then these processes can unleash things that are hard to contain.
Someone advised me against the process some years ago as we had both read
''Against Therapy' and being apprehensive about a pending appointment for an 'suitability',assessment. The course of therapy that followed, in part left me with an emotional whoosh of feelings and no way of stemming their flow.....it was a 'breakdown'/possibly a breakup/breakthrough.......I 'fell into the hands of psychiatry'...leading to medication and electro convulsive therapy.
Probably I would align myself with the Post Psychiatry movement since I think medication can help distress but the commercial interests behind an over reliance on its use is suspect and I would not want to discourage someone from engaging with counselling/therapy if they are drawn to it, it can be a courageous step in discovering yourself, like everything it takes time to adjust to the process, but trusting your feelings about the counsellor or theory they use is important, being informed about the different approaches can help, part of my recovery came from the wisdom I gleaned from books, song and poetry.
Stanislov Grof refers to some forms of apparent mental ill ease as spiritual emergence, he does however distinguish between this and spiritual emergency and what he terms 'real' mental illness......I'm not sure about these distinctions.
My experience with my emotional 'dis'.ease was that there was a strong spiritual, not specifically religious content, although some former long held religious ideas did get sifted and become 'refined' in the process, seeing scripture in a new light and examining some religious traditions, rituals and ideas which had previously been presented as mis-truths. Sam Keen refers to tapping into anger that has been turned inward ....inrage/depression , once accessed, acknowledged and released as out
rage, becoming, for a time a torrent or flood engulfing someone or thing who gets in it's path, no matter how significant their role has been in the person's life story., .....it.gushes muddied for some time......until the water runs clearer,....possibly channelled. in a
Despite my reservations,and experiences.......why am I willing to engage yet again ,with the process?, I 've had an appointment this week. Something happened recently which sent me into that confusing emotional spin, I made the appointment to tell another piece of my story, and because I've had some autonomy in choosing, where, when, how long, it might be, it seemed the safest place to test the water,for telling the next instalment. The time gap between making the appointment and its arrival, had been space to regain some equilibrium.......and therefore I felt some apprehension about attending, ....should I cancel? ......though nervous.....I kept the appointment,.....the waiting area was such a warm welcoming space, in it was an original black leaded fire range, complete with it's oven!, one of my family homes had something similar......I felt cozy....remembering toasting bread on a toasting fork, mum's stew which simmered in earthenware pots for hours, having baths in a tin bath! while listening to the radio, my brother and I
dancing, reciting or singing performances for my parents, all in its flickering light and warmth,then when a little older, being entrusted with cleaning the grate, making and lighting it ,......sounds idyllic, it wasn't, but these are some of the happier memories,.......the 'counselling' went well, I was given a choice of possible ways of
working.....flexible follow ups with the same person seems the most appealing.
Despite some of my reservations with social media, writing for the Leeds Wellbeing blog and contributing to its Facebook group page, sharing with other members has been another step in my healing. Su
* details of the fireplace image by the National Trust