Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to my counselling blog. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the top of this page
In last week’s blog I wrote about jigsaw puzzles – about how and why it is helpful to have someone else working with you on a puzzle. And I pictured two people sitting at opposite sides of a table – so that they see the puzzle from different perspectives, one person seeing it the right way up, while the other sees it upside down.
This reminded me of a conversation with a friend of mine who is taking art classes. She told me that her teacher had recommended painting upside down. (I assume this referred to an image you are copying being upside down, not the artist themselves being upside down). The idea was, I think, that by putting the image upside down, you look at it in a different way, without the preconceptions you start out with.
I think that often, when we are stuck or are finding things really difficult, it is because of our preconceptions, our assumptions. Our possible actions are limited by the way we are looking at things. And so I will often hear clients say “I can’t”. “I can’t stop smoking because I’m too weak”. “I can’t give up my job because nobody else would ever employ me”. “I can’t tell my partner how unhappy I am because it would upset them”
There are many more examples, but all the reasons given are open to debate. They are based on an idea that is questionable – the idea that I am too weak to give up smoking, that nobody will want to employ me, that upsetting my partner is something I can’t afford to do.
Turning the picture upside down can change this. Instead of being stuck in a place where I think I am weak, so I can’t stop smoking, and this makes me feel bad about myself – makes me feel weaker – instead of this I can look for things that can help me to feel strong, to feel good about myself, and that makes the picture look different.
In working with relationship issues, I sometimes ask clients to put themselves in their partner’s shoes (not literally), to look at things from a different angle and this too can be quite liberating. The partner who “might be upset” at hearing about your unhappiness can instead be someone who is upset because you don’t feel able to tell them, someone who would like to hear about what is making you unhappy and like to support you.
There is a theory that you can think better standing on your head, because it increases the blood flow to your brain. I don’t know about that, but I do think that there’s something about putting yourself in an unusual or different situation that helps you to think in a different way. I certainly find, like Archimedes, that I get good ideas while in the bath, and that if something is puzzling me the answer can suddenly come into my head when I’m not consciously thinking about it.
I think this is one of the reasons that counselling works for people – because it puts them in a different, unfamiliar environment, from which they can look at things, like my artist friend, upside-down.