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
Sometimes when clients come to see me, they want to go over things that have happened in the past – sometimes things that have happened a long time ago. This is because things are somehow unresolved – they are not at peace with something that has happened, they have been unable to understand it, they still have questions about it.
It’s a bit like being in pain, I think; like having a recurring hurt that you can’t get rid of. Maybe there are times when the pain abates a little, and then it’s easier, and perhaps pain-killers can help, or can do something to distract yourself – there are things you can do to help you lessen, or forget, or manage the pain. But the pain won’t go away, it’s always there. You don’t understand why it’s there, the doctors cannot help and you have no way of knowing whether it will get worse or better. And so it can rule your life.
By the time clients come to see me they may have been living with such emotional pain for many years – they may have “tried everything” to get rid of it, but they have not succeeded. And so they come to counselling, perhaps as a last resort.
With individual clients, this can be tough work. It may be that, many years on, there is nobody left to ask about what happened – so there is no way for them to get answers to the questions they have – that nagging “why?”. Nevertheless, it is often possible to look at things from different angles, to seek alternative explanations – to construct different stories about what has happened. I remember talking to a client about the breakup of his first marriage – 30 years ago. He blamed himself for the relationship ending – and had been blaming himself for three decades. He had, I think, idealised his partner and so was convinced that it couldn’t possibly be her fault. But as we talked about it more he started to see that his partner was not blameless – that she had made mistakes too – that probably the break-up of the relationship had been inevitable, that it had stopped working for both of them. In such work, there are not, of course, answers. There are alternative explanations, there are different stories, but there is always an element of uncertainty.
Living with uncertainty can be difficult. We are an inquisitive species – we tend to look for answers and however far back we go into history – or pre-history – humans have sought to further their knowledge, to gain understanding of their environment, their emotions and their spiritual lives. Science provides us with many answers, as do religions. And in more day-to-day ways, technical manuals tell us how things work, movies and books on the whole have neat endings that provide us with comfortable feelings.
But there are not always answers – or if there are, we cannot always find out what they are, and sometimes we have to find ways to live with “not knowing”. It seems to me that there is something here that might be described as “making friends” with uncertainty. The constant battle for answers – the quest for the truth – the struggle with pain – the never-ending search for a happy ending : these things, it seems to me, can be more painful than the pain itself. Accepting that you will never know the answers can make a huge difference. Now, rather than fighting against the uncertainty, you can nurture it. It may be unwelcome in your life, but if you can treat it as an unwelcome guest – and then as a guest, your anger will subside, your pain will lessen, you will start to feel less frightened and more secure.