Apologies for the lack of content lately, I have been very focused on job interviews and getting my life together. I am in the middle of writing a very exciting, very long and emotional piece about why I, and others, find it hard to tell others about their mental health problems. In the meantime I have decided to add the journal from my most recent counselling course which inspired me to keep writing journals.
This was originally written on the 14th of June 2017.
I had just returned from Barcelona to my counselling skills course. The week before I left I had a meeting with my tutor about how I was doing on the course. We discussed how I felt about the next, and final course, I needed to pass to becoem a counsellor. I expressed my interest in going ahead with it and felt really optimistic about everything, and expected this optimisim to be reflected by her in my tutorial feedback. In my tutorial feedback I had been told by my tutor that she would not recommend me for my next counselling skills course. It was after our case management assignment, where we had to roleplay with another course mate for four weeks as if they were a client, to practice our counselling skills. This included journals, self-reviews and feedback and supervision from my tutors and an observer. In all honesty I don’t think I was exploring my emotions properly and this journal was the first journal I wrote which wasn’t under 3 pages. Life was distracting me from everything I knew I wanted to do and I was barely accomplishing anything. When I received my tutorial feedback I was angry with my tutor. I was furious at myself for not showing enough empathy, and I felt frustrated for not giving the course my full attention. The tutorial fired me up into realising that if I wanted to get on the next course, and become a counsellor, I would have to really step it up a level. I HAD to prove everyone including my course mates and tutor wrong. I never have written a journal so quickly, two hours flew by like nothing
Looking at the feedback I have gotten from the group training supervision I am happy that it was noticed how I asked good reflective questions to my peers. I think my aim was when I asked a question was to help my peers think about their involvement with a client in a different way than they had thought about their client before. I knew that regardless of their answer I was hoping that I would be able to take away something new to help the way I deal with my future clients. I think when I was going to ask one of my peers a question it was only after I had properly listened to their situation properly.
For instance, I asked one of my peers if they felt like they had truly managed to connect and emphasise with their client after they had explained how difficult they found it to find gaps in the conversation to ask questions. I asked this because I had gone through a similar situation with a former client, and while I felt like I did the right thing by giving them plenty of space to talk, I felt like I found it very difficult to emphasise with my client until the final two sessions. I had learned from this previous situation in my own way, through my previous observers and feedback, but by asking my peer this question I had hoped to find out a new viewpoint and information from his answer. It seemed like my question was able to get my peer to clarify how he felt about not being able to ask as many questions as he’d like and allowed him the opportunity to explore why he felt like he had to ask more questions and why he was not satisfied with allowing the client the space to talk.
I thought it was really important for me to listen carefully to my peers and found it really beneficial to ask questions based on what my peers found challenging as I found that some of the things that came up for my peers have not come up for me before. I did not find myself judging my peers for how they approached challenges from their client but I did feel like I kept asking myself what I would do in their situations. I know it is not about finding a right or a wrong answer to a situation like this but I think it was good practice for me to think in a way where I can understand what skills I would have used.
I went into supervision thinking that I was comfortable with the peers that had been selected and I felt like this was important in being able to trust my peers with the concerns I had. I wasn’t worried about feeling judged I was too focused on presenting my client and getting answers to the questions I had to improve myself. I felt like I could introduce the challenges I felt with empathy and warmth to my peers because of this comfort I felt. The feedback said that this was a brave thing to open myself up for challenge but I don’t think it was because I feel like anyone who wanted to understand how to emphasise with the client would do this. It is interesting to think that when I did open up about this challenge of mine that that I became more “real” and “warm” than when I was presenting my client.
This feels surreal to me as I did feel like I was being very genuine when I was presenting my client because I think the counselling process we did share was real to me. Now that this peer who was my client for the case management has left I do feel even more sadness and empathy towards him because he went away so suddenly. I think I was a tiny bit aware of the difficulties he was going through as it came up during case management so I feel a tiny bit of guilt that he has left because I feel like maybe I could have helped him a bit further than I had done in our sessions. However I understand that I am not a trained counsellor, and I shouldn’t blame myself, because I am sure whatever way our interaction went would not have changed how he saw his ability to stay on the course.
After the tutorial I felt like I had something to prove to myself that I can become more emphatic, warm, and able to be myself in counselling. We discussed how I feel uncomfortable when it gets to really exploring the emotion I am feeling deep down. I have known for the last two courses that whenever I am writing a journal that I feel like I get to a really important bit, after I have explained my issue or situation, and then I suddenly freeze or continue on to a completely different subject. It feels similar to this during an exercise on the course, or discussing something emotional about me with the counsellor I had been seeing, that I seem to stop myself from really thinking about what I am feeling. I am aware of how emotionless I can feel at some of these moments but I think I have noticed that I can feel anger, frustration and sadness the most whenever I am stuck at these moments. It is easier to feel these emotions compared to any other and it only feels like I feel glimpses of them through my own restrictive emptiness and feeling of confusion. I think this confusion comes from trying to get myself to be fully aware and understanding of what I am really feeling and why I am feeling in these ways but it is really hard for me to stay focused on these thoughts.
In the tutorial I was told that this is a survival mechanism so this got me to think about how much I like to feel comfortable in my environment and with myself. By not thinking about this for so long I have been able to remain comfortable even though I really think that it is an issue that I’d like to address. I have noticed that when I put thought into this I feel like there is something in my chest that is waiting to come out. This physical feeling goes away once I stop thinking about it or talking about it to someone.
It kind of relieves me and frustrates me to be aware of this “survival mechanism” especially as I feel like it has been an influencer as to why I stopped seeing the counsellor I had been seeing. I originally brushed this developing counselling relationship to the side because I felt like I was too busy for it or could not afford it but I kind of feel like that this sounds like excuses to myself to avoid really getting deeper into understanding myself. I enjoyed seeing my counsellor and felt bad about myself for days after it finished because I felt like it was really beneficial to get whatever had been troubling me in the previous week out into the open.
I think if I did commit to counselling I would want to work with my counsellor to be able to understand why I restrict myself from understanding my emotions further. It is really important that I can achieve this because I feel like by understanding my emotions on a deeper level I can really help my clients on a deeper level.
After I had completed my 3 sessions with my counsellor I feel like I kind of had a dip in self-confidence and trust in myself to make decisions. I was comfortable to tell her that I would happily see her again if I did want to continue seeing a counsellor. It was weird for me because I felt that we initially had a nice end to our counselling process before our counselling relationship could properly begin. I could really identify the potential within this relationship but I slowly felt like I had been left alone to deal with my issues and my life. It felt similar to times when I was depressed when I would isolate myself from going out with my friends or doing something productive to keep my mind off negative thoughts.
I had noticed that I really felt uncomfortable and unsure about myself in how I would approach doing as much criteria and work as possible while maintain a social life. I found myself stressing out so much over my assignment and noticed how much I was procrastinating even though I had purposely taken a few days off work to get as everything done. This came after I had a really challenging shift at work where I felt like I was full of uncertainty and self-doubt. I was working a shift with my ex-girlfriend so I felt even more frustrated because I used to be able to talk to her about my stress. I felt like I could trust her as much as I could trust the counsellor I had seen until we had broken up but it kind of feels like I resent her for the way we broke up. I feel like sharing the things I did share with her is now pointless because we barely talk to each other anymore about our issues. I feel somewhat like she betrayed and abandoned me by no longer wanting to share her what is going on for her. It is interesting to see that I am using words like “betrayed” towards her because I had told her I was completely fine with the reasons why we are no longer together and was completely fine with going back to being friends. It seems like whenever I recognise that I am in a positive relationship with someone, either my counsellor or ex-girlfriend turned friend, I seem to be okay with playing a role in ending the relationship despite understanding that there is still potential for something else positive to my life. I could easily put myself in a position to talk to either of them to talk about how I really feel but it feels like I have a mechanism in my head that prevents me from doing this.
With all these things considered, if I had to use person-centred theory to understand these confusing thought processes of mine, I think it would be very obvious to see that I have an external locus of evaluation. During my days off, after I had struggled to get myself back to work, I wanted to visit my friends in Brighton so I could relax a bit from all the stress. However I found it just as stressful to organise this trip because I could not make the decision to book trains myself. I found it very hard to remember which friends would be available and what plans would be possible. I couldn’t help but ask a lot of my friends for suggestions or what they would do. This happened again last weekend as I struggled for days to decide between goings to my friend’s birthday party, doing coursework, or visiting Brighton again and it took me days to come to a final decision. I feel like without the stress I am placing myself under that I would be able to have an internal locus of evaluation and be fully confident in booking my travel and organising my time as I have done in the past. It frustrates me to realise how little I have trusted myself and I feel like my friends must have thought I have been acting really stupid by asking them for a solution to a problem that they wouldn’t view as a problem.
I think it is interesting to look at this situation of myself and making a decision to visit Brighton in a Psychodynamic way. The id was fully aware about how much I wanted to enjoy myself regardless of the fact I had been on holiday previously. I think the id was aware of how much stress and frustration I was putting myself under and wanted to spend time in the nice weather chatting to friends I had not enjoyed company with for a few months. However, I think the super-ego was aware that this stress and frustration was based on avoiding the work and my assignments.
The super-ego was aware that by taking time to enjoy myself in Brighton I was taking away time that could be better spent fulfilling criteria. The super-ego was in conflict with the id because it was aware that I had taken days off work solely to focus on criteria and that these days were limited. It was aware of how much more stressed I would be if I did not achieve as much as I had originally set out to. I think the super-ego had drawn on my previous thoughts that I do not want to be the student I was, during the previous course and university, who has to have the intense pressure of an impending deadline to finally motivate me to work for hours into the night.
To mediate this conflict, I think the ego recognised how badly I had to relax in order to get work done as I cannot work effectively when I am distracted by frustration, anger or tiredness. It knew how in the past I have never failed a course, and while I have had to work tirelessly to finally meet a deadline, I can be very effective working with pressure despite how much I would love to instantly change this attitude to coursework instantly. I think the ego understand that I have improved in this respect, I am in a better position than I was in the previous course, and I have improved at writing essays, assignments and learning in general. I think the ego knew that even if I did have a few days off I would still be able to organise my time to be able to meet the final deadline to hand in work. The ego realised that I could take my laptop and books with me and borrow one of my friends library cards if I did feel well enough to work.
The final result of all this conflict is that I realised how much I wanted to visit my friends in Brighton and enjoy myself a lot more than I would have at home staring at my laptop while my friends in Bromley were at work. I stayed for two days and was able to get some work done while my friends had a lie-in. I feel like those two days made a difference as I came back more motivated and well-rested enough to get work done, while feeling the right amount of pressure of the deadline to have a sensible amount of urgency. I am happy with the way things turned out but I can’t believe how low I had felt as a result of finishing my final counselling session.
I also think that this challenging period for me displayed some ego-defences. I am not entirely sure if I used repression but I think I did because I think I repressed to myself what I was really feeling about my approach to criteria. I also think I was repressing what I really felt about leaving my counselling relationship and what I really felt about my breakup as I had not taken any time to think about how they really made me feel until I started writing this journal. I did want to admit to myself that I resent someone who I had really felt close to because I feel like it would have gotten to a point where it might lead to an argument with her. I now realise because I am feeling less stressed and frustrated that this does not have to lead to an argument, but could lead to a constructive conversation.
I think I was using the ego-defence of denial in how I had felt about both relationships. I convinced myself that I was completely happy with the way things were until it got to a point where I realised I was just lying to myself. I also think I was using the ego-defence of displacement as I directed a lot of my anger to my dad who was only trying to support me as he saw how stressed I was. There was a time where I was in my room trying to get myself motivated enough to start my assignment when he asked me several times what I wanted for dinner. I had yelled at him so much even though he was only trying to be helpful and I realise that it was much easier to direct frustration and anger at him than take responsibility for my decisions.
It is interesting to me how much I have dismissed psychodynamic theory but I feel like it has been perfect to explain my behaviour in this challenging period. I think this is because I can see the benefits to the theory to an extent but I cannot take Freud’s psychosexual stages of development seriously. Looking at my situation with reference to his stages I probably had a difficulty during my anal stage (1-3) which has led to issues around independence. If I look at myself and the issues in the oral stage then I may have developed a lack of trust in myself. either I am too stubborn or in denial to fully accept these stages, or I feel like that psychodynamic theory can be great in exploring the conscious and unconscious thought process, and understanding how you think as a person, but not so great in looking at the sources.
Apologies for the lack of content lately, I have been very focused on job interviews and getting my life together. I am in the middle of writing a very exciting, very long and emotional piece about why I, and others, find it hard to tell others about their mental health problems.