Yesterday’s post (and comments) set the stage for the evening’s telephone conversation with my counsellor. We talk every four to six weeks. As we begun to review recent events in my life, I was struck (and moved to tears) by the simple act of being listened to with respect and kindness. Nothing fancy, just plain being heard. No advice, no attempts at fixing. Simply hearing me out, prompting me to dig a little deeper, guiding me in what she calls “inquiry.”
She encouraged me to “get close to” something that’s been troubling me over recent months, namely a sense of not doing enough, of feeling unproductive, and, of feeling as if I was putting in time till I die. Without judging what I said, or urging me to “get over” anything, she nudged me to “face into” this sense. “Where do you feel it in your body right now” was enough for me to sense a huge boulder in my stomach, careening towards me as if in an Indiana Jones film. Asked to get close to said boulder, I quickly found a crevice through which I entered a world of lush greens, damp mosses, flowers, and stillness. Instead of “getting over” we “got into” the phenomenon. Using imagery and here-and-now emotions, I soon arrived at a place of understanding and resolve. (I’m skipping the more intimate details.)
Reflecting on what we did together took me back to counselling school in the 80s, when I became acquainted with Carl Rogers‘ person-centered psychotherapy theory. Grounded in phenomenology — the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view — its aim is to bring us in touch with subjective experiences, especially emotions of which we’re not fully aware.
My wish today, should you find yourself at the receiving end of another’s lament, is for you to suspend judgement and restrain the urge to fix. My intention, in turn, is to be mindful of my knee-jerk temptation to solve the other’s problem and, instead, to open my heart the way I would towards a child I love.