Counselling Studies Level 3
Learning Journal for Week 7: Wednesday 21st November, 2012
I am at a stage in the counselling course where I am naturally starting to question my relationships, both past and present. In particular, I am finding myself fearful of the relationships I have formed in the class, which has highlighted to me that it is at this stage of developing friendships that I usually run – literally. I can’t do that in this case as I want to complete the course. Furthermore, in all honesty, I don’t want to run. I have met some wonderful people, some of whom I feel I have developed long-term friendships with. So, did I want to run in the past? No, I don’t think I did.
I don’t think I have ever wanted to run from friendships. In fact, I have longed for them. I haven’t, however, had the confidence to maintain them due to fears of never quite being good enough. In my efforts to be ‘good enough’ I end up hiding parts of myself, which I have only just realised creates an incongruence that is probably what drives me to return to isolating myself – some kind of deep shame in myself, which prevents me being the real Nicola. Maybe this is why I am finding myself opening up more and taking risks within the group? My self-actualising tendency knows that to be congruent within the group is essential for me to be able to experience long-term relationships with people who accept me as I am.
Rogers (1959) believed that for a person to grow and develop, they need an environment that provides genuineness (i.e. openness and self-disclosure), acceptance through unconditional positive regard, and empathy (i.e. being listened to and understood). Without these conditions, according to Roger’s, healthy relationships and personalities will be challenged and an individual will not be able to reach their full potential. As McLeod (2007) summarises, “Like a flower that will grow to its full potential if the conditions are right, but which is constrained by its environment, so people will flourish and reach their potential if their environment is good enough.” This makes me reflect on my past relationships and how they might have impacted my current relationships.
In terms of genuineness, this definitely wasn’t present throughout my childhood. It took me a number of years of counselling to be able to cry in front of my counsellor. If I cried as a child I was told I was “mad” and would be “put away.” I was terrified of any form of emotion until I had counselling. I still have difficulties, but this is gradually dispersing. I have cried twice in the counselling group. Both times, I felt weak and ashamed when I got home. However, on reflection, I think maybe it is because I am starting to feel safe in my relationship with the group, which is a huge step for me.
Acceptance was also lacking in my childhood, but acceptance of what? It certainly wasn’t acceptable to have emotions, wants or needs, but was anything else acceptable? I find this condition difficult to think about in terms of my past, possibly because what was and was not acceptable wasn’t very clear – there were no boundaries in relation to this. I don’t believe you can have empathy without genuineness. Since I couldn’t be genuine and always had to hide my emotions, empathy was not necessary from others. On the surface, I didn’t need it. However, maybe someone with empathy would have noticed that I did, in fact, need it. I provided my mum with a lot of empathy and was her shoulder to cry on. Whether this was true empathy at such a young age is questionable, but I feel it was as I was in the same boat as my mum in terms of living with an alcoholic, struggling financially, etc.
When I combine my analysis of these three conditions within my childhood, it helps me understand why listening and supporting friends and loved ones comes easier than asking for support. However, I understand that for a relationship to last it needs some balance, which I finally seem to be finding within some of my current friendships. This is fundamental because it is the abovementioned conditions that also contribute to the development of an effective working relationship with clients. It is these conditions that facilitate growth and change, and for me to experience the conditions myself is imperative if I am to supply the same gift to my clients.
Rogers, Carl. (1959). A Theory of Therapy, Personality and Interpersonal Relationships as Developed in the Client-centered Framework. In (ed.) S. Koch, Psychology: A Study of a Science. Vol. 3: Formulations of the Person and the Social Context. New York: McGraw Hill.
McLeod, S. A. (2007). Carl Rogers. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/carl-rogers.html [Last accessed 27/11/12].