Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – email@example.com
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We all make mistakes, don’t we? Yes, of course we do, although some people find it more difficult to admit that than others do. I’m sure we all know people who find it very hard to own up when they’ve got something wrong – people who prefer to point out the mistakes that others have made, rather than acknowledging that they might be at fault. Often, it seems, such people “walk on water” – they always seem to come out smelling of roses and this can leave people wishing that, one day, they’ll come unstuck in a big way.
Underneath the veneer of self-confidence, of course, can lie a very different person, and I sometimes see this in counselling. People might put on a brave face at home and at work, but in the privacy of the counselling room they can reveal the vulnerability they feel behind the façade.
But of course, these people rarely present themselves to me as a counsellor. Much more often, I will meet people who find it all too easy to admit their mistakes, such as a client I worked with a few years ago, whom I shall call Freda. She was only too ready to take the blame herself rather that believe that others had a role to play too – she was always doing themselves down when things went wrong. Freda’s tendency to self-criticism was fuelled those around her – at home and at work – who saw an easy scapegoat. It had become a joke in her family that “it’s always Freda’s/mum’s fault”. Rather than disputing this, Freda seemed to absorb the criticism, but it was like a poison – it sat inside her, eating away at her self-esteem, and leading to the self-defeating belief that it was always her fault, that she did always get things wrong. When I met her, Freda had even started to believe that she was a bad person, and that her constant blunders were a result of a mental illness.
Over only a small number of sessions, Freda started to look at herself differently. It was a gradual process, in the course of which she changed the way she talked about herself. To start off with, many of Freda’s statements started “I can’t…..” but over time this changed to “I could…” and then “I can…” Beneath Freda’s nervous lack of self-confidence, she started to find a strong person – a survivor – whose core values were solid and who was able to stand up for herself.
It was a remarkable change. Freda had initially presented herself as a very passive person, who would “go with the flow”, take what was given to her, and accept her fate without complaint. She changed into someone who was very assertive, who would not put up with being treated disrespectfully, who stuck up for herself. She described herself as a tigress and even talked about dyeing her hair in stripes.
And maybe she did….