We found this very gentle and person-centered in its flavours… and what Jeff says also resonates deeply. So many of those who come to this service are asking similar questions to this woman, desperate for change and for relief of pain. The writer can identify those same ideas and longings in herself, from time to time. Seems to be a human thing, at least in many cultural arenas, this perception that we must work hard and do stuff to heal, be that therapy or something else, and that the task with our painful feelings is to escape them, change them, push them out or away.
And that does not seem to work, or not for long. Hence the anguish, the bewilderment of the questioning (‘I’ve tried so hard…for so long……why…..?’).
We were struck by the comments under Jeff’s Facebook post, and the fears expressed…. ‘If I stop trying to heal, then that means I accept staying in this much pain forever – and that’s not okay’.
But of course that is not what Jeff is saying, and not how the process works.
The snare is ‘forever’. The reality is present in Carl Rogers’ words:-
‘The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change’.
The way of encountering our experience that Jeff describes does not lead to staying as we are. It is a process which generates aliveness, fluidity – like the ice melting in a frozen river. We become ABLE to move and change, quite naturally and spontaneously without any need to strive for that.
The relational model of person centered therapy depends on the therapist’s offering the core conditions to the person they are working with. There is no ‘doing to’ and the task is not about seeking change. Instead this offering is a ‘being with’ – presence; loving, empathic, real relationship; an attentive receptivity to that person’s experiencing, just as it is and just as it unfolds moment by moment.
The effect of this offering is to allow to arise an invitation and a vessel, for that person to make the same offering to themselves. The invitation is to hold our sad child. ‘hold’ does not mean ‘hold onto’. It means ‘cuddle’, ‘love’, ‘welcome’, ‘understand’ – the core conditions, offered to self.
To the extent we are able to welcome our sad children in this way, the next sad child knocking at our door will not be the same as the previous one, even if she at first appears to be. She will be subtly different, beginning her journey of release into fluidity and movement, into the possibilities of newness, actualizing, growth and change.
This is the process we witness unfolding in those we work with, not at a cognitive level, but deep within. It’s an awe-inspiring privilege to be alongside for that. And there will always be sad children to be welcomed, light and shadow, summer and winter, joy and sorrow. We are in process, always. We are in the river. We can fight the currents, or surrender to the flow. This is what it is to be human…
Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter