Repetition; Normality or Folly. A Counselling Perspective
- Counselling; A time to end and a time to begin1st March 2017
- 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
- So which road do we travel this Christmas...1st December 2015
- 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
- Counselling, Therapy and a return to work1st September 2014
- Holidays, Counselling and your Shadow1st August 2014
- Couple Counselling and Choice1st July 2014
- Counselling, Jules Rimet and you A therapeutic perspective1st June 2014
- 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
- A First Meeting Explanation or Exploration?5th September 2012
- 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
One challenge of writing a monthly blog is that topical issues tend to repeat on a regular basis as the year moves on. An obvious link with the beginning of April is April Fool’s Day. As that is an issue I have written about on a number of occasions it seems sensible to avoid the subject on this occasion.
This act of avoidance can sometimes need to be a very conscious decision. It is rather easy to slip into a pattern of repeated behaviour whether that is writing an article, driving a familiar route or always listening to the same type of music. Repeating patterns are comfortable. We know what is going to happen and although not exciting, these repeating patterns of behaviour are easy. And also safe. The likely outcome is known.
Yet repeated behaviour can be troublesome particularly if we recognise that the action is inappropriate or unsuccessful in achieving a specified end.
Einstein is widely attributed with that famous remark that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result. Interestingly Einstein never actually accepted authorship of the remark which has also been attributed to Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin but then why should facts ever be allowed to get in the way of a good story!
In any event the source is irrelevant. The fact that the phrase has become such a well known cliché is testament to the issues which abound when we are trapped by repeating behaviours.
Habitual patterns work well when the desired result is achieved. Often that repeating behaviour is as a result of practice whether conscious or unconscious. The ability to Bend it like Beckham only became possible because of the footballer’s constant practice. Driving a car becomes a natural habit because of training, practice and repetition. And perhaps the same is true of our personal behaviours and emotional reactions in other areas of life whether we are aware of that pattern or not.
Of course some reactions will be an immediate spontaneous response to undergoing a specific event for the first time. This may be experiencing an acceptance, a rejection, an outburst of joy or a distressing collapse. Yet even with these first time events it is quite likely that we will manage the experience by an unconscious reference to an internal pattern of behaviour and emotional reaction that has already been set up within our internal world.
We will have already established our personal reference frame and a way of being If we can become aware of that framework and these patterns we can place ourselves in a position where we are better able to control how we wish to be in the future.
To change reactions requires consciousness, patience and perseverance. For example to decide to listen rather than speak out, to walk away rather than engage, or to apologise rather than to attack, are all examples of behavioural and cognitive processes which require understanding and effort.
Of course our current way of being exists for a reason. We became creatures of habit because our reaction carried a payback. Anger produced a momentary pleasant omnipotent physical reaction. Those tears from long ago ensured that we were held by a loving carer. And our helplessness abrogated any need to take responsibility for our situation.
Back there in another time, the payoff from these behaviours was helpful to us and was appropriate. As a result the behaviour may have been repeated and eventually become engrained in our way of being. But now? Perhaps now as an adult, things are different.
Perhaps now that momentary feel of omnipotence can result in physical altercations followed by an unwelcome visit to magistrate court on a Monday morning. Those tears which had been so effective just do not seem to work with this new partner who remains unmoved. And now as adults, our helplessness in the face of a threat is of little comfort to our children who look to their parent for support when the unexpected occurs.
Some of our behaviours and our emotional reactions formed years ago can of course be valued. These are endearing traits much valued by friends, lovers and colleagues. Those behaviours are part of who we are and who we want to be. But sometimes there may be a need to change. And then the hard work has to begin.
If we want things to be different then things have to be different. We do not need an input from Einstein, Twain or Franklin to recognise this.
And how to change? And how can therapy help? I have commented before in these notes about different types of therapy be that Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), Solution Focussed Counselling, Existential Therapy or Psychodynamic Counselling. All can have a positive role to play. It is not that one type of therapy is superior to another, merely that these are different tools to be used to meet different needs.
For example, some repeating patterns of behaviour and feelings can be relatively superficial. In these cases it is likely that some cognitive behavioural techniques may prove helpful. CBT strategies can help clients in a very conscious way identify some immediate changes to thought processes or actions which can promote behavioural change.
If however the behaviour and feelings are integral to the individual and seem to be a fundamental part of her or his emotional fabric and way of being, then it is likely that some longer term work may be required.
A key part of bringing about change is to identify and understand what actually needs to change and why. If that is not easily apparent then it is likely that a rather formulaic approach to therapy such as CBT or Solution Focussed work may not provide the best treatment fit. Deeper therapeutic or analytical work may be required such as psychodynamic work or alternatively a less structured approach such as existential therapy may prove to be more effective
And as this talk of therapy, structure and process all seems rather heavy and a long way away from ideas around April Fool’s Day let’s end on a lighter note.
Repeating patterns do not need to be repeated. Habits can be modified. You can change what you decide you want to change. Usually. Within limits. When someone walks into my room and tells me that they are five foot eight and angry and want my help to become be six foot two and peaceful, I have mixed feelings.
Now one of those issues we can certainly work on. But the other? Even though I think therapy can be a really powerful tool for change, there are limits. Alas…..
added on 1st April 2016
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