All this focus on maturing self, begs the question: is it sufficient just to work on growing ourselves up in our relationships? Is such a focus on self the best way to be helpful to others? I am convinced that as we become more responsible people, aware of our own immature reactions, we become a greater resource to those around us. I do, however, see a place for being a counsellor and helper; a place for guiding and supporting others through their troubles. Indeed, much of my over 35-year career effort has been to become a better helper and therapist. Helping efforts can be both helpful and unhelpful to people’s growing up.
Getting past the desire for the quick-fix expert
A theme running all the way through my book is that clear thinking in the face of pressure increases our effectiveness. Each of us can discover that we have a surprising wealth of wisdom to draw on from our human brains that can help us resolve life’s problems. The challenge is to put aside the desire for a quick fix and the tendency to look to others to come up with the instant solution. This quick-fix mentality has created a burgeoning industry of programs that promise a new method to get us out of our difficulties. Some even promise a new you in one week. Within my own profession of counselling and psychology, amidst some sound theories there are plenty of examples of this quick-fix technique trend.
Over my decades of clinical practice, I have observed that people make the best progress when they access their own answers to their dilemmas. I have learnt to refrain from giving directives and answers to client’s difficulties and instead I endeavour to guide their focus away from changing or blaming others to looking at themself. I pay close attention to their descriptions of what they are doing to address their problems and ask them to assess what they think is helping and not helping. From here I can share some ideas about the predictable patterns that all humans get caught in when trying to manage the challenges of relationships. I then encourage clients to research these ideas in observing themselves in their real lives.
When people give up their own capacity to problem-solve, no matter what their intellectual capacity, they are left to either blindly depend on others or to blame and criticise others when their advice does not work. This leads to communities of dependent followers or reactive blamers.
When any one person pulls back from blaming others or trying to be the expert for others, or just going with the flow of others’ opinions, it is possible to emerge as a more thoughtful, mature contributor to society.
What to look for from a helping professional
If you are in a professional therapy relationship or looking for an effective counsellor, It may be useful to ask yourself the following questions about your helping relationship:
- Am I asked questions that get me thinking of new ways to understand and resolve my difficulty? Or are my viewpoints all accepted?
- Am I respected and listened to as a competent person? Or am I being pitied or overly protected?
- Am I given suggestions that build upon the description and ideas I have come up with myself? Or am I given lots of advice?
- Am I encouraged to consider my part, and the way each person affects each other? Or is my view of the problem in others affirmed and agreed with? –
- Do I leave my sessions thinking about my own pain in the context of relationship patterns? Or am I left thinking about how hard done-by I am?
This blog is from excerpts from the 2nd revised edition of Growing Yourself Up pages 217; 238; 241-2. The new sections of this book are focused on the process of mature helping.