Counsellors, Beanbags and Pointless Questions

I’m not a fan of counselling. That’s not to say it’s not amazingly beneficial to the majority of humans going through tough times. But it’s not for me. That’s my public statement on ‘professional ears’ and I stand by it.

I found this out through a series of sessions… both individually and as a couple. There were definite benefits and I wouldn’t like to take away the contribution my counsellors (admitting to having more than one seems like a sign of how bad my life went in itself), but on the whole I just feel like I can’t see myself ever using them again.

Don’t get me wrong. Talking is good. Talking is, in fact, great. Always talk… to friends, to family, to anyone you feel will benefit you. To a stranger. To a counsellor. However you feel the most comfortable, talking through what you’re thinking and feeling is an absolute must. For me, I had a bit of a series of events that just meant counselling had a limited lifespan for me.

I set up my sessions through a work welfare line. Once they heard the word suicide, even in the context as I meant it which was I’ll never do it but have thought about practicalities… you seem to get their attention and they want you seen in person. I understand that and on seeing my counsellor I found her to be very friendly and polite. But that was the overwhelming thought throughout. She was a classic counsellor as I would have thought them to be, very wishy washy. Very ‘beanbaggy’. I wanted challenge, I wanted to be knocked into shape and to be told how to sort my life out. I wanted to be made to feel like I had to sort it now and it really wasn’t that hard.

Instead, I was asked how I felt about every sentence I said. Feelings, it appears, are harder for me to grasp than I’d have thought. It became a running theme… I think lots, but apparently struggle with feel. Without fail, my answer to the question ‘how do you feel about that?’ Was met with ‘very good, that’s what you think… but what do you feel?’ My frustration was obviously palpable as I was met quite quickly with a piece of paper with a list of words that amounted to feelings, which I had to use in relation to each seemingly pointless question I faced.

‘I suppose… sad… ‘ I said when asked about how I felt about the effect I had on my wife.

‘But I feel I need to do x, y and z…’ I would follow up with..

‘That’s what you think, which is good, but what do you feel…’

‘Frustrated right about now’

‘That’s great…’

No, it wasn’t. It wasn’t great at all. It felt like a game. One I was losing. There is a comfort zone for all of us and mine was somewhere behind the door I was looking at constantly as ‘Mrs Kumbaya’ was asking about my feelings for the 20th time of the hour.

I managed 5 sessions in total before calling it quits. And 5 couples sessions of equal frustration. And from that I decided that I’d just be more open when anyone asked and try talking to people I knew. That worked… worked well in fact. Counselling on the other hand hadn’t…

Or had it? The sessions had felt awful, like I was failing at life. Failing at giving the answers to pretty much any question she asked me. If it was indeed a beanbag session it felt like the beans were laced with nails. But I reflected, regularly, for the next 3 months easily. And have done ever since. It eventually changed how I thought about my path out of depression, it made me think about what I was feeling as I was feeling it… it made me more in tune with the fact I do actually feel.

And from that came a new (ish) man. A man who still maintains I am more comfortable being open with my friends than strangers, still thinks more than he feels, still makes stupid mistakes and dwells ridiculously long over them. But a man who accepts he feels and sees all feelings as beneficial, even the bad ones. A man who sees the fact I feel as a strength not a weakness. A man who wants to understand his feelings more. Because feelings are as important as anything else going on in your life and you should understand and embrace them. They help you deal and respond to the challenges you face in life and should never be afraid of them. They make you, you. And unless you’re comfortable with your feelings you’ll never be comfortable with yourself.

My counsellor taught me that, a lesson I only grasped sometime after stepping off her beanbag, and I’ll be forever grateful to her for it.

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