An Emotional Timeline
- 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
Discussions within the counselling room will often include reflections on key events which have occurred at certain times in the life of a client. That notion of time can be significant. Irrespective of whether one is working with CBT, solution focussed therapy or some other form of counselling, time will often play an important part in discussions. Even mindfulness which looks toward some Buddhist practices in dealing with some of the difficult issues of life will have a sense of reflection on the passage of time.
Traditional counselling approaches have acknowledged the reality of everyday life. Whether we are working with contemporary therapy or invoking Augustinian ideas from over two millennia ago, the usual division of time in our lives has been into past, present and future. There may be some debate about what we mean by the present. We may be encouraged to live in the moment but that can be a surprisingly difficult thing to do. The moment we contemplate the present it becomes the past. We cannot hold on to what is ‘in the now’ but instead we see this slide instantly and inexorably into what has been. That suggests that the present can be held in terms of hours, days or years but not in terms of immediacy.
When we talk informally with friends of what is or what has been, we automatically pin event labels to the time line. Those labels are usually past, present and future. In therapy we can extend this and refer to the past present, the present present and the future present. This rather odd terminology acknowledges the presence of a high degree of consciousness and indicates that we are able to talk with understanding and meaning about events, people and experiences within those three time periods.
There is a further extension of this emotional timeline when we discuss within the therapy room events, our emotions and the passage of time. In addition to those things that we are conscious of, there are also occasions when we may not fully recognise what is happening to us or around us.
There will for example be some events in our past which will have affected us but which we cannot recall. That may be because we were too young and lacked a sufficiently advanced level of cognitive functioning to fully understand what was happening to us. It could also be that sometimes the event may have been so alarming that our conscious mind refused to process what was happening and we shut out from our conscious thought, the occurrence. I describe this type of not knowing as the past absent.
There is also the concept of a present absence. This is a challenging concept but there may be things happening around us in the now which our subconscious does not want to acknowledge. These may be events, ideas or emotions which are disturbing to us. In some instances we will do the emotional equivalent of slamming a bedroom door shut; and creating a barrier between ourselves and what is going on. This notion of present absence can be a classic defensive position taken by our unconscious to protect our emotional self.
The same phenomenon can be considered when we look forward. There may be some forthcoming events which we do not consider simply because we do not have the capacity which allows us to understand the particular issue. For example many people currently spend much time on social media such as Facebook and Twitter. I have no idea as to what will be the next big thing after social media and I cannot therefore anticipate that activity. Yet it will be there in our lives.
There may also be other personal events looming in our lives, perhaps the loss of a relative or the breakup of a special relationship. These events may be already anticipated by others close to us but we do not allow ourselves to see this because those thoughts would be too emotionally painful to bear. As we are oblivious to this aspect of our future I regard that state as the future absent.
The ideas around this extended emotional timeline can be useful to work with whether in individual counselling, couples counselling or with relationship counselling. Therapy can include bringing into full consciousness, ideas and concerns that are perhaps in part unseen. That aspect of the past, present or future which is real but unacknowledged, may be key in enabling us to achieve an improved understanding of our situation. It may assist us to move on to where we wish to be in our lives.
There has been a recent trend within the counselling world to focus on structured techniques such as CBT and solution focussed therapy. This approach works with the conscious present and for some clients these can be successful strategies. For others these techniques may not always bring about a deep enough understanding of the self to encourage fundamental change. That may be because there has not been sufficient attention given to that which has been absent from the conscious time line.
It can be said that we all walk along an emotional continuum. That time continuum may contain some shaded areas which perhaps need to be brought out into the light if the desired personal understanding and development is to be achieved.
For a further discussion of these ideas please see www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/counselling-an-emotional-timeline
added on 3rd February 2013
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