Counselling and the art of being normal
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- Counselling and the art of giving back1st February 2017
- And this year I will…..1st January 2017
- Social Anxiety, Counselling and Christmas1st December 2016
- Couple Counselling – and just when is a discussion an argument1st November 2016
- Therapy, Mobiles and the Challenge of Choice1st October 2016
- Counselling, September and an Ellison’s Orange 1st September 2016
- Counselling – A room with a view1st August 2016
- Counselling: Choices and Decisions1st July 2016
- Counselling, Musee d’Art et d’Histoire and the Inevitability of Change1st June 2016
- Counselling and the art of Ambiguity. 1st May 2016
- Repetition; Normality or Folly. A Counselling Perspective1st April 2016
- Lions, Lambs and Therapy3rd March 2016
- Valentines Day, Counselling and the Great Unknown1st February 2016
- Janus Faced? The New Year, Counselling and Psychotherapy1st January 2016
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- Counselling, Guy Fawkes and Scapegoating1st November 2015
- Counselling Work and Narrative Therapy1st October 2015
- Counselling, Therapy and the end of Summer1st September 2015
- Wheat, Rye and Counselling1st August 2015
- Counselling and a break away3rd July 2015
- Counselling and the unexpected1st June 2015
- Counselling, Elections and our opportunity to choose1st May 2015
- Therapy, an April fool and the art of lost memory1st April 2015
- A Spring Clean Therapy and Counselling1st March 2015
- Couple Counselling & Valentines Day1st February 2015
- Nothing changes if nothing changes but this year can be different!1st January 2015
- Social Anxiety Disorder A Christmas Concern1st December 2014
- SAD & those dark Winter nights1st November 2014
- Existential Counselling A useful approach or pretentious jargon?1st October 2014
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- Holidays, Counselling and your Shadow1st August 2014
- Couple Counselling and Choice1st July 2014
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- Counselling and Mayday A different take on a familiar story?1st May 2014
- Useful Therapy and not an April Fool1st April 2014
- Counselling, Floods and Pandoras Box1st March 2014
- Counselling and the art of being normal1st February 2014
- The New Year and a time for change?1st January 2014
- Christmas & Counselling The first Noel1st December 2013
- Counselling, Broomsticks & Halloween1st November 2013
- Couple Counselling and just what is a successful relationship?1st October 2013
- Counselling An issue of choice?1st September 2013
- Existential Counselling From Yalom to Basingstoke1st August 2013
- Counselling and the art of reframing1st July 2013
- Counselling - Change or Conformity?1st June 2013
- May Day Counselling - Celebration or Conflagration ?1st May 2013
- Summer Time & the Counselling Room1st April 2013
- Depression a useful diagnosis or an unhelpful label?1st March 2013
- An Emotional Timeline3rd February 2013
- Resolution, Revolution & Counselling1st January 2013
- Christmas, Carols & Counselling2nd December 2012
- Seasonal Affective Disorder and the SAD Season4th November 2012
- Psychotherapy & Counselling A Stoic Perspective17th October 2012
- 10th October 2012 - World Mental Health Day5th October 2012
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- CBT, Mental Filtering and the Olympics19th August 2012
- I am not an angry man 14th July 2012
- Art, Counselling & Interpretation26th June 2012
- Murder Mysteries and Psychotherapy25th May 2012
- The importance of choice in therapy29th April 2012
- Reflections on Spontaneity6th April 2012
- A personal trainer for the mind 12th March 2012
Hands up those who want to be regarded as normal! On one level it is a comforting description. We stand alongside others who are just like us. It is a reassuring place to be. Safe and unobtrusive. We belong and there is nothing to cause concern.
But there can also be a downside to this normality. If we want to stand out we need to be different. If we want to be noticed then perhaps this concern to be normal (whatever that may mean) is a challenge to our ambitions.
It is not easy being a member of homo sapiens. We did not choose this state but it is what we are. We are complicated and rather contradictory beings. Those contradictions can take different forms at various times in our lives and maybe this is reflected in the conundrum about whether to be normal or different, the same or outstanding.
Let’s consider for example the various stages of life. Childhood is signalled out particularly by therapists and counsellors as an important time when key aspects of our emotional personality start to take shape. That can include those first contradictions. One puzzling issue which starts to emerge at an early stage is centred on this confusing concept of normality.
As far as our developing sense of self is concerned do we seek normality or do we seek to avoid it. Anyone who has stood in a room full of clamouring children knows that kids will want to be recognised as individuals. Yet there is also a very real fear of being singled out, of being seen to be different.
Young people want to display a distinctiveness which sets each apart as an individual and differentiates them from the mass. Yet each will usually be desperate to be accepted by their friends as one of the group and early ostracism can be incredibly painful. When used as a form of bullying, enforced separateness can sometimes have long term harmful impacts on emotional development.
Fast forward a decade or two and the same young people emerged from the fun, frolics and frustrations of the world of education and start to squeeze into the increasingly narrow channel of the job search. The challenge is to stand out from the crowd and yet also meet that set criteria of the employer as closely as possible. Clones we are not but ideal candidates we wish to be. The applicant wants to be sufficiently different to be noticed but to be suitably similar to snugly fit into the mould.
It is rather tricky stuff.
But has this got anything to do with counselling and therapy? From my experience the answer to that question is a resounding yes. One of the common phrases often heard in the counselling room is when a client wonders out loud whether “…. Is it normal to….?” And we can all fill in the blanks to fit our personal concerns from day dreams to fantasies, and from occasional habits to OCD.
Normalising is a common piece of work in the therapy room but perhaps we are too quick to try to find normality by comparing ourselves externally to others – when perhaps the most revealing approach is to look inward at ourselves.
There is something about the contradictory nature of human existence which can be potentially disturbing. What some existentialists would see as the absurdity of life is captured rather well in the dilemma around whether it is better to stand out or to blend in; and whether one should follow the crowd or to be true to oneself.
The universal answer as to how we should function is of course that there is no universal answer.
We will each have our own take on how things should be for us and that will reflect the totality of our experiences. But sometimes it is difficult to make sense of this conundrum. It is perhaps that particular internal conversation which can sometimes be best voiced in the non-judgemental surroundings of the therapy room.
Our thoughts on where to stand in this internal debate may often be time bound and can vary dependent upon where we are in life’s journey. The desire to be normal may be craved or despised. Our position can reflect our current state of being and whether we are uber confident and ready to take on the world; or if we are beset by doubts and looking for a place of safety.
And it is surely acceptable to have a varied internal response to issues around our own normality. Shakespeare talks of those different ages of man and Freud analyses the developing stages in the psyche. We do not stand still. We are the person we once were and we are also completely different.
Perhaps what is important is to understand why, to think about how we want to be and to then look at achieving some sense of congruency between those different states of being.
That can be a difficult thing to do on our own particularly when our emotional world may be in flux. It is in these circumstances that work with a therapist can help. And that is whatever the technical designation of the therapist, whether as a CBT therapist, a psychodynamic counsellor or a gestalt practitioner. There may be an existential element to this internal discussion but the views of a personal centred counsellor can be as valid as the existentialist.
What is normal for you is your choice to make. It is up to you to decide how to fit with the world and how you wish to be.
And if your normality is appears to be someone else’s eccentricity then so be it. You are as you are. A counsellor and psychotherapist can help you to interpret, understand and change but ultimately it is only you who can decide what is normal for you.
And that is exactly how it should be.
added on 1st February 2014
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