I see a counselor about once a month. I started seeing her about a year ago for a particular reason and issue I knew was going to be a difficult one for me. The issue very quickly became a moot point, but I have continued the counseling sessions because they are working for me. Once a month I have an hour to discuss (make that talk) about anything I choose, and know that I am being heard by an open ear that is not attached in any way to any of the “issues” I might want to elaborate on. That hour has become a priceless gift I give to myself.
Somewhere in Scripture, we are told that having many counselors is a good, if not wise thing to do. Many of us use our friends for that, but friends have emotional attachments and even agendas that might not allow them to be an open ear or detached from whatever outcome might be forthcoming. Thus, maybe more often than we would want to admit, we can ignore or dismiss what is offered in response. “Why did I even try to discuss that with her, she has no idea about my personal situation.”
We want to be heard because we want to know if we are making the ‘right’ choices or seeing all of the angles. We intuitively know that we are only one individual and can’t see all those angles or know all of the answers. So we talk, but do we listen?
Counseling was originally defined as the talking therapy. And although it does allow for ones talking to be heard, if we enter into it seeking to hear answers from outside of ourselves, we might be in trouble. But isn’t that the whole point of the process itself? I don’t think so.
I think the whole point of talking therapy is that we are allowed to hear what we ourselves are saying. When we talk to our friends there is always that emotional attachment to deal with. “What will she think if I tell her what I am really thinking? Will she still want to be my friend? What will he do if I allow him to know the truth (my truth)?” And all the different variations of that thought and emotional process.
That is not to say that our friends can’t be counselors in their own right. Personally, I think that should be one of the criteria we use when choosing them. Do they have similar views? Do they look at things from a wider range of experience and knowledge? Are they open to a difference of opinion without getting or being defensive? Perhaps, even more important, do I engage in those very elements? Do I work at listening with an accepting ear?
I saw my counselor yesterday. During our 55 minutes of shared time, I did at least 85% of the talking. She listened. We laughed, even shared a few tears (very happy ones) and she told me in a very few words how much I have been able to grow in my present circumstances, but also cautioned me about the very real dangers within those circumstances. I heard what she had to say, but more importantly, knew that I had been heard. And because I had been listened to, I also heard what I had said.
That in turn, had me thinking about what I want to do with today. Several things occurred to me that might not have if I hadn’t gone to that appointment yesterday. It made me aware of some things that I might not otherwise have considered and am actually thinking about doing. Somehow, in all of that talking, I was sorting out the things that are important to me. The person I am and the one I am becoming.
I also keep a daily journal. It is the first thing I do each morning, or at least as soon as circumstances allow. That is also aimed at allowing me to have this ongoing dialogue with myself. To speak my mind and to listen to what I am really all about. It also seems to fuel those other conversations with my counselor. I usually have at least one topic in mind when I settle down in her office, but then am amazed at all of the highlights we manage to cover in that very short 55 minute span. They are there, waiting and ready, because they were important enough to make those earlier notes during the preceding days and weeks since the last time.
My counselor is not my friend. She never will be. She is my counselor and is present to remind me of that all important big question: “Did you hear what you just said?” And to help me know that all the answers are there inside of me. I just have to find them and let them out. That can’t happen unless I make the effort to listen to what I myself am saying. She provides the space in which I can do that and I am so very grateful that she does.
Do you have a counselor? What do you really think and feel about seeing someone who listens, allowing you to hear what you just said?