A person-centred view of counselling treats the client as someone who, given the right conditions, knows in their heart where they might grow. The idea is that we all know what flourishing feels like, but that in childhood the world bosses us around so much that we forget how to find our own inner flow and peace. We get stuck fulfilling conditions that are artificially imposed on us, and need to rediscover what it is to act by intuition, and find what we love.
It’s an optimistic form of counselling, which believes that people’s inner selves have a natural tendency towards love and kindness. In that, it shares a lot with Buddhism, which tends to believe that there is an essential self which is wise and compassionate. Other philosophies are more pessimistic about human nature, focusing on our darker sides, but a person-centred view, while realistic about who we are, celebrates the loving people we can all be given the right treatment.
CROWDED OUT BY PLANTS WE NEVER CHOSE
Imagine your life is a garden full of plants. Most of them were put in your garden by parents, school, institutions, and society. You were told to do certain activities, pass certain exams, behave a certain way… And now, as an adult, you have ended up as the gardener in a garden full of plants you never chose. It’s scary how out of tune our lives can be – we can end up partnered with people we dislike, in houses we are not fond of, doing jobs we dislike, for people we disrespect. Many people suddenly sit and look at their lives, and find that they don’t recognise themselves. They know there is an inner self waiting to come out, who wants to play, but don’t know what that self is exactly like.
LEAVING SPACE FOR WHAT WANTS TO GROW
When busy people first stop to examine themselves, they often get scared. Workaholics typically get frightened of their own feelings, and want to go straight back to work. Alcoholics typically get frightened of the emptiness and boredom, and reach straight for another drink. Sociaholics get scared of their own company and immediately go out and do something with friends. When we first stop and allow space, all our usual cravings reach in to fill it with the rubbish the world has filled it with – Youtube, Facebook, carbohydrates, cigarettes… it can take a while, and a bit of discipline, to remain calm and let things come to stillness. We are scared of our quiet selves. We would often do anything but sit still.
But if you don’t leave a space in the garden, where are your new plants going to grow? If you fill your life up with what the world demands of you, how will you find time to see what you like doing?
We call it time off. We take a day off work, and it gets flooded with several things we have not had time to do, like reading the electricity meter, or doing the laundry, or cutting the grass.
The problem is that, in calling it time off, we are failing to give it a proper name. It becomes a big ‘NOT’ time, a negative.
Maybe we should call it ‘time to grow’, or ‘time on’! Maybe we should sit still, and listen out for an urge in ourselves to do something new, maybe visit somewhere, or learn something. Maybe real time off is like a seed sitting in soil. We knew how to do it when we were children. We just fiddled around with stuff; mucked about with whatever we found attractive and interesting to play with. Whatever happened to our adult ability to play?
Allocate some time off. Go to your diary now, and identify three half days. Mark them clearly: ‘Me time’, or whatever name works for you. In that time, resolve to do whatever comes naturally to you. Pay close attention to whether you feel interested in what you are doing, and why it seems interesting. If you find yourself chainsmoking, or doing something unhealthy, ask yourself whether you are hiding in things that are taking you away from your healthy, interested self. If you find yourself getting curious about something new such as visiting a library, or going to a beach, or walking, or looking at the plants in a garden centre, or leafing through books in a bookshop… then ask yourself what new things are taking your fancy. What might you want to explore?
One view of counselling and self-improvement takes an optimistic view that we have a loving, kind and interested nature just waiting to be released. It just gets stifled and suffocated by our surroundings, and by the requirements of the bossy people in the world.
Make sure you take time to separate yourself from the demands of that world, time for you, so that you can see where your inner self wants to go and grow next. You may be surprised what you find out about yourself.
Make some actual appointments in your diary to do your exploring, and be honest with yourself about what really lifts your spirits. It’s good to be happy.