Understand the past, embrace the present, enjoy the future

BACP Senior Accredited Counsellor

My office provides a safe environment in a pleasant relaxed location on the outskirts of Basingstoke, with easy access and ample parking
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Wheat, Rye and Counselling

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There is some attractive countryside close to my office which provides good walking opportunities.  During a recent stroll my walking companion and I were looking at fields of wheat, or was it oats, or barley or rye?  As a natural urbanite I struggle with various country issues and any formal identification of grasses (or are these cereals?)  lies well outside of my sphere of competence.

The conversation drifted from wheat to the various uses of grasses, to animal foodstuffs and then onto hay. As the sun started to slip away, somewhere within this lazy meandering conversation, the phrase ‘make hay while the sun shines’ gently wandered into our discussion.

After the walk that phrase stayed with me perhaps because that afternoon the crops had looked ready for harvesting – and then next day the rain poured down!

‘Make hay while the sun shines’.   We can interpret those words in many different ways but perhaps one clear interpretation is an exaltation to take action whilst one can. To act, to be or to do whilst one is able to.

That resonates with some counselling approaches.  Counsellors and clients continually wrestle with different styles and techniques.  There has been too much time spent within the therapeutic world in a rather self-serving discussion as to what counselling approach is be regarded as the real panacea. CBT wrestles with an inferiority complex by shouting loudly to drown out all other strategies. Psychoanalytic and psychodynamic work struggles to provide evidence to doubting funders with sufficient rigour while existential ideas continue to face accusations of pretentiousness.

I have remarked before that all strategies can have a place and all can help clients if used at the right time in the right way. Yet I am also aware that my personal readiness to distance myself from some CBT thinking perhaps betrays an unconscious concern about a technique which can sometimes appears just a little too directive and too structured despite the protestations to the contrary.

Given this inbuilt bias it feels important to acknowledge when CBT or perhaps the earlier variant of behavioural therapy, is clearly seen to provide very real support to clients.

‘Make hay while the sun shines’.  There is a clear behavioural imperative to that comment. The benefits of action, of doing, are made manifest in those client comments which can follow participation in an event particularly if there had been earlier wavering.

‘I did not want to go but I am glad I did.’  ‘I could not be bothered to go out but I forced myself – and it was worth it.’ 

I will often hear these and a myriad of other similar comments from people who had an opportunity to do something, have hesitated, equivocated, and then found that extra something, that additional motivation which has encouraged them to go and do.  And it has helped to lift the mood. Action assisted in reaffirming a sense of self. 

Life provides opportunities. These can be to do, to meet, to talk, to travel, to love, to explore or just to think and consider.  The regrets I usually hear in the counselling room are often from people who did not do it – whatever it is – rather than those who did and then had to live with regret.

If we have the opportunity to, then why not go for it.  The saddest words are those that are thought and not expressed.  One day for you and I the words will fall silent, our lips will cease to kiss or smile and your arms will not embrace. But for now.  Right now there is still time.

Sometimes however the reality may be that it all just feels too difficult. The fabled cry of  ‘yes you can’  becomes a ‘no I cannot.’  It happens. And that is when some additional support may be requited.  

If an extra push is needed from somewhere to restart life then search that out.  Look for a catalyst and perhaps that is where the visit to a relative, friend, or even a therapist will can provide the spur. (And why the therapist?  Well there just had to be a subtle nudge towards the counselling world somewhere in this note!).    

‘Make hay whilst the sun shines’.  There is a message here which talks to all of us.

Country, town, village or city. Wherever.  There will be lots of time for regret later.  For now just go and do.  The sun is there and under the sun it can be done and done now. And for tomorrow – who knows about tomorrow?

But just before you go and make that hay or whatever the equivalent is within your world, I would welcome advice.  Walk backwards with me through that meandering discussion on a warm summer afternoon. 

Now I am okay with hay.  I can understand hay.  Just. But all those others. Wheat, rye, barley? There are no labels.  How am I supposed to know which is which.  How am I to identify, to recognise, to know….?  Grasses, fields, rural life?  It can be a very confusing world! 


Geoff Boutle

added on 1st August 2015

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