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Being mindful of the client as an interconnected network
While we all may be keen and passionate in regards to helping our clients in a theraputic setting, there are a number of factors that can be crucial in our clinical sessions. In this article I want to present a number of thoughts and illustrations that may assist in increasing our awareness and insight pertaining to these. The key focal point critiqued in this paper is the ‘importance and ongoing relevance of the interconnected networks, contexts, and environments that our clients are imbedded in’. In valuing and exploring these influential networks I suggest a number of benefits in developing a broader foundation and understanding of the client’s needs and possible limitations or restrictions in these networks or contexts.
In illustrating this principle, imagine picking up a rock on the side of a lake. Your job is to understand this rocks patterns, features, and shape solely through visual inspection of the rock itself. Using this approach alone you may in fact come up with a relatively narrow view of the rock. If, however, you recognise and acknowledge the forces within the rocks environment, such as the wind, water, weather, and contact with other rocks, then you can start to form and develop a broader picture of that rocks development or personal narrative over time.
The same principle can apply to our counselling work with clients, as everyone is imbedded in many environments and all the interactions are played out in a context within those environments, from family, school, friends, and work places to the larger influences of culture and political structure. To understand and therapeutically support a person we need some form of knowledge or appreciation regarding these networks and how they are experienced by the individual. In addition to this, we can address and respect how any change in the client’s immediate situation or issue will inadvertently change the lived experience of these other networks.
In presenting an apt metaphor in describing the nature of this connectedness within our networks we can draw some wisdom from an ancient Chinese tradition describes a mystical net belonging to a deity called ‘Indra’.
What is this net?
“FAR AWAY IN THE HEAVENLY ABODE OF THE GREAT GOD INDRA, THERE IS A WONDERFUL NET WHICH HAS BEEN HUNG BY SOME CUNNING ARTIFICER IN SUCH A MANNER THAT IT STRETCHES OUT INDEFINITELY IN ALL DIRECTIONS. IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE EXTRAVAGANT TASTES OF DEITIES, THE ARTIFICER HAS HUNG A SINGLE GLITTERING JEWEL AT THE NET'S EVERY NODE, AND SINCE THE NET ITSELF IS INFINITE IN DIMENSION, THE JEWELS ARE INFINITE IN NUMBER. THERE HANG THE JEWELS, GLITTERING LIKE STARS OF THE FIRST MAGNITUDE, A WONDERFUL SIGHT TO BEHOLD. IF WE NOW ARBITRARILY SELECT ONE OF THESE JEWELS FOR INSPECTION AND LOOK CLOSELY AT IT, WE WILL DISCOVER THAT IN ITS POLISHED SURFACE THERE ARE REFLECTED ALL THE OTHER JEWELS IN THE NET, INFINITE IN NUMBER. NOT ONLY THAT, BUT EACH OF THE JEWELS REFLECTED IN THIS ONE JEWEL IS ALSO REFLECTING ALL THE OTHER JEWELS, SO THAT THE PROCESS OF REFLECTION IS INFINITE” (Francis H. Cook, 1977)
In this historical narrative it is understood that when any jewel in the net is touched, all other jewels in the node are affected. This speaks to the hidden interconnectedness and interdependency of everything and everyone in this system or network. It is this unseen connectedness that can be a rich source of material for exploration with the counselling setting with our clients. This ‘Net of Indra’ is also a philosophical and subtle metaphor for the structure of interconnected reality of all things. Imagine a vast net; at each crossing point there is a precious gem; each gem is perfectly clear and reflects all the other gems in the net, this is the same as the way two mirrors placed opposite each other will reflect an ongoing infinite image. Every jewel is intimately connected with all other jewels in the universe, and a change in one gem means a change, however slight, in every other gem. (Mitchell, S 1991).
In highlighting the fact that any subtle change in one area of a client’s life has the potential to bring powerful change to any or all other parts is a sobering and influential thought for us to build upon in our clinical approach. As my thoughts are, the realization of our precious and privileged place in this persons “Net of Indra” can become a key element in our application of skills and theraputic interventions and deeply influence our timing and attitude towards the client’s actions or lack thereof.
The moral of Indra's net can be that, the compassionate and constructive interventions a person/therapist makes can produce a ripple effect of beneficial and positive action that will echo and vibrate throughout their whole lives and entire networks and possibly into that persons future generations to come. In the same way you cannot damage one thread of the web without damaging the others or setting off a cascade effect of destruction, which should be a sobering though for all those who endeavour to work in the theraputic field.
In moving from using Chinese folklore and legend as our example we can draw a further connection of these networks through the ‘Ecological Systems Theory’ posed by Urie Bronfenbrenner (1917-2005). Bronfenbrenner’s sociological perspective presents us with a number of interconnected systems that influence a person’s life, from the Microsystem to the Chronosystem. This theory gives a good foundation for comprehending the vast connections and influences that can come to bare upon the individual and their life situation. As the application of this theory is too broad for this article further understanding can be found by visiting www.psychologynoteshq.com/bronfenbrenner-ecological-theory.
Finally, in relaying a biological example of this principle of interconnected networking we can see that,
“Not that long ago we naively talked about genes “for” particular traits, and assumed for example that humans, being so complex, would have lots of genes. When in the 1990s two groups were vying to sequence the human genome, they believed they would identify some 100,000 genes. To everyone’s surprise they discovered we have fewer than 25,000. The reason, we now know, is that genes are team players; their activity is regulated by other genes, creating a network of connections. The whole is thus capable of much more than the sum of its parts” (Douglas, K. 2016)
In translating this understanding into the therapeutic world, we can hypothesis that all the networks and environments that we are influenced by are working together and influencing each other in an endless amount of ways that combine to form an experience for the individual that is greater than the sum of its parts. In highlighting this principle we can establish not only a strong case for cause and effect, but also a more functional approach towards many issues that are labelled today as “Mental Illnesses”. Which on many occasional can be nothing more than a normal reaction by the organism to a hostile environment. In this, I suggest a deeper appreciation for the complexity of the human condition beyond the narrow focus on biological causes.
In application of this I present the possibility of our clients becoming more aware and insightful regarding their environments and networks and the influence that it has on them and vice versa. As much of the time we cannot take them out of a situation, give advice or make suggestions on how to rectify the issue that they are experiencing (as if we could ever know how!), rather we can facilitate their own innate resources to develop the awareness and insight into adapting to or changing the situation.
What does this understanding do for our clients and our theraputic approach?
From these examples, we can suggest that the client that comes to us is more than just the ‘Sum of all their parts’. In this they are mixture of their interconnected networks spanning a variety of generations, cultures, beliefs, experiences, and values which they in turn have allocated individual and unique meaning to. From this viewpoint we may benefit from framing the broad spectrum of client issues that bring them to therapy as part of their reaction to, and consequence of, the unique interaction of this personal network and systems of interaction that they are in.
From developing and applying this understanding we would hope to see our clients develop a deep appreciation and respect for the position that all networks and influences can have on their lives. Out of this deep appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things I would suggest the very real possibility of therapists developing timely responses, respectful interventions, and a well-developed sense of giving each person the psychological space to develop their own insight and awareness specific to their unique life situation. As each network and environment for each client is as individual and unique as our fingerprint or DNA which much of our diagnostic assessment and medicalised model can miss.
Rod Gow, Unique Counselling
Why 'Unique Counselling'?
Counsellors aim to work cooperatively with people to help them better cope with difficult life circumstances such as grief and loss, communication, relationships, work and career, stress, anxiety, depression, life transitions, parenting, self-esteem, life transitions, addictions, trauma and abuse.
Each person has a unique life experience and internal frame of reference that informs and shaped their values, assumptions, perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes in responding to and making sense of life. It is in response to this that my counselling approach attempts to value and come alongside of the client to facilitate further awareness and insight into the presenting issues or concerns that the person is experiencing.
In the clinical setting I value a ‘pluralistic counselling approach’ this would be an approach that incorporates a variety of interventions and methods to suit the client.
This pluralistic approach can be described as:
"An approach based on the assumption that no one therapeutic approach has the monopoly on understanding the causes of distress or on the most effective therapeutic response. Instead, it suggests that different clients are likely to want -- and benefit from -- different things in counselling. Hence, it suggests that therapists should be open to applying interventions and skills from across the counselling modalities. "
Cooper, M. (2012) Unpublished monograph: A hierarchy of wants: Towards an integrative framework for counselling, psychotherapy and social change
In working with people in a clinical setting I am mindful & appreciative of the variety of life experiences and environments that the client have been in, or is still part of. In working with these influences my approach is to respect and give place for this range of networks in the client’s life.
This approach could be described as an Ecological approach to therapy.
In this we are examining clients within the context of their lives, because it is within this context that they grow, develop, hurt and change. When we attempt to understand and help people, we cannot miscalculate the impact that their environment has had and will continue to have on their well-being and development.
In developing an ecological analysis we can consider a number of questions.
- How is the problem situated within the client’s environment (who, what, when, where)? And what has it come to mean to them?
- What are their significant interactions with people? Groups? Clubs? And political frameworks? How do these interactions influence their life?
- What life roles and identities appear significant to the client?
- What central life meanings are prominent to the client’s current concerns?
These questions are an excellent place for the general counselling practitioner to start. These questions can be used to better understand clients beyond [what] is usually gained from most traditional intake or diagnostic assessments.
- What are the issues or obstacles stopping them [from moving] ahead in their life?
- What impact does time have on the client (Chronosystem)? How does he or she experience time every day (e.g., is there too little or too much of it, is it going by too fast or too slowly)?
- Where does the person feel he or she is in their stage of life?
- How age appropriate does the person feel important life events or problems are?
These questions can give insight into the inner experience of a client in their daily life and after reaching a better understanding of each client and situation, we can then present new possible skills or offer resources that are relevant and in line with the client’s needs, view, values, or situations.
Some counselling perspectives tend to focus around a belief that the potential for change rests solely within the client. In contrast, the ecological perspective takes into account how clients interact with their environment and suggests that change sometimes must happen outside the client as well. The ecological perspective also deters counsellors from viewing clients as “unmotivated” to change, a label that is never helpful. I prefer to start from a curious position off, “just what barriers to change does the client experience”?
Clients may give up efforts to change their lives because the challenges seem overwhelming and their resources inadequate. If counsellors are able to suspend their own perceptions and experiences in order to truly understand the client’s life from [the client’s] own viewpoint, the counsellor will find it easier to identify resources, opportunities, and possibilities. Counsellors who fail to take a client’s environment and meaning into account run the risk of blaming or labelling the client. It is easy to forget that our clients’ framework for perceiving the world may be quite different from our own. What may be straightforward, easy or not a big deal for us can be anxiety provoking, shaming and not worth it for our clients. When we can understand the relationship between the client and their context, we may find change is needed in the client, the environment or both.
In my sessions I value and use a number of interventions from Person Centred, CBT, Gestalt, Psychodynamic, Narrative, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Transactional Analysis.
In all this, the client is uniquely placed within an environment with unique reactions, understanding and experiences. In valuing and giving attention to this, I suggest that counselling is then more respectful of the individual. In focusing on the unique lived experience of each individual it can be good to know that:
“We all share the same planet … [but] we live in different worlds” (Mercer, K, 1994)
Rod Gow, Unique Counselling
Living in a Society that is addicted to change and reinvention
In this article I want to introduce a number of sociological thoughts and ideas in helping us to explore some possible forces and contexts that can have a huge impact on our mental health.
In understanding how society and social structures can influence and shape our experiences, we might benefit from looking at how the wider world frameworks can have a powerful effect on our levels of anxiety, depression, and general wellbeing. As many people can gain a sense of security, safety, and purpose from being part of an environment that is stable, consistent, and somewhat reliable. While I believe that this need is experienced on a spectrum for many people, this is a general human need that secures our desire for survival, connection, and security.
In introducing our sociological terms for this short article I want to introduce two terms that will be explored. These are "Solid Modernity" and "Liquid Modernity".
Firstly, what do we mean by "Modernity"?
In simple terms ‘Modernity’ is a phase of history that began in the late 19th century as the population began to gather in metropolitan centres. In this time ‘Modernity” could be seen in the proliferation and spread of capitalism, scientific discovery, and in the wide spread industrialisation of production.
This first form of ‘Modernity’ is what Sociologists sometimes call “Solid Modernity”. This form of modernity can be described as being rational, orderly, predictable, and somewhat stable. One of its key features is the systematic organisation of the populations’ activities, organisations, and institutions along bureaucratic lines. A further attribute of this form of modernity is that individuals live with a relatively solid set of norms and traditions within this framework.
On the level of the individual this solid form of modernity can give rise to a stable set of personal identities and versions of what we call the “self”. People who are influenced by this structure in the environment can have a stable sense of identity, founded on their religion, occupation, gender, ethnicity, and nationality. While we can understandably want to avoid the rigid and negative possibilities inherently connected to this framework, we can also glean the strengths and sense of security and determinacy that can be experienced in this by many.
In living and growing up in this solid stage of modernity the individual effects can be that of consistency and reliability, which can create a sense of security, loyalty and stability. In relaying this understanding it is noteworthy to add that while this solid modernity may in fact have its benefits and strengths, it can also stifle spontaneity and individuality when extreme versions find expression within any given society or individual’s situation.
Furthermore, to explore all the negative and positive elements of this structure are beyond the scope of this article, all I offer is an inference regarding the possible mental health effects for many people if we abandon any structure and embrace an extreme version of the opposite in its entirety.
In now looking at our next form of modernity we turn to the possibility of “Liquid Modernity” it is my suggestion that this is where we find ourselves today in many of our social structures. The bases of this liquid modernity is a global condition that is characterised by constant change, movement, uncertainty, and unpredictability.
This transition has been a gradual influence, one that has been influenced by many factors in our society, both economic and political. The result is a global position driven by a “compulsive, obsessive, and addictive reinventing of the world” (Bauman, 2000). Some of the hallmarks of liquid modernity is the widespread scepticism of knowledge which can lead to an apathy on the part of the general population. Liquid modernity can directly undermine secure employment, education, and on many levels welfare. In an age of liquid modernity and market driven strategies, constant change and higher returns are sort after at the expense of consistency, stability and reliability. We can see this largely expressed through many areas and spheres of public life, from entertainment to politics.
In addition to this, I present the possibility that many workplaces and organisations have become addicted to constant change. Many times this change is perpetuated not because change or alteration in needed, rather because change and reinvention has become its own goal and obsessive norm.
In all of this we see a reinventing of things, such as employment and education. The shifting nature of education is seeing people now required to continue their education throughout their lives to remain current in a changing environment and stay ‘marketable’. We could say that solid modernity was based on the industrial production of goods, while liquid modernity is based on a relentless consumption of goods. The general population are now consumers to be marketed to, not valued for their contribution. They are valued by their marketability and means to continually purchase.
What should we see in the areas of personal values, identity, and mental health due to this shift?
The impact of this increasing liquid and transient environment on both individuals and society can have far reaching mental health considerations on the level of security and empowerment that is crucial for so many. Furthermore, the emergence of an individualised and consumerist society in which the ‘new poor’ (those who are unable to fulfil their ongoing role of “consume”) are particularly demonised and stigmatised? We find ourselves caught in an obsessive and compulsive modernisation in every sphere of life where the ever beckoning call to change, reinvent, and restructure is always evident, with profound consequences for how we live, act and think.
We should not be surprised that consumer goods also reflect this shift: transience has now become the order of the day. Goods and products are meant to be used up, replaced and disposed of, in cycles of consumption which apparently gains pace with each passing year or, in some cases, month. The point is that consumers must be guided by aesthetic and changing interests, not ethical norms. In many spheres of life, ‘durability’ changes from something that was deemed as an asset to a liability.
In all this we can see that the speed and values that are forced upon the individual can be both positive and detrimental depending on your personal situation, personality, needs, and core values.
I suggest that, liquid modernity can bring other problems as well, as contemporary individuals are not tormented by the pressure of ideals they cannot live up to, but by the absence of any such ideals, the deficiency of guidelines in life and the lack of a predictable destination for our life itinerary. The result for individuals may in fact perpetuate situations of mental depression, and feelings of powerlessness or anxiety in life. It has been my experience over many years of working with clients, that surface issues and struggles can have a foundation of existential confusion or a sense of deep powerlessness over their life situation.
The Powerless self
In finding ourselves powerless in this global situation Lash (1991) argues that,
‘Having no hope of improving their lives in any of the ways that matter, people have convinced themselves that what matters is psychic self-improvements: getting in touch with their feelings; eating health food; taking lessons in ballet or belly-dancing; immersing themselves in the wisdom of the East; jogging; learning how to “relate”...’ (Lash, C, 1991)
Whilst such ‘substitute pastimes’ are harmless (and may even be beneficial in a number of ways), they are also symptomatic of a broad cultural shift from:
‘Things that matter but about which nothing can be done’, to ‘things that matter less, if at all, but can be dealt with and handled’.
The point is that, for most people in society, none of the most crucial elements of life and safeguards of our situation actually come under our control or influence. We are subject to apparently mysterious forces such as ‘recession’, ‘rationalisation’, ‘fall in the stock market’, etc. Many of us live on the knife edge of possible redundancy. It is in this environment that I present the reaction of depression and anxiety as a normal reaction, one that sounds the alarm bells for an organism that perceives itself as under constant threat and danger.
In looking at our work and job security we can see how this new global obsession of “constant change and reinvention” has relegated many to the continuous fear of retrenchment and replacement. The fear this generates can be toxic and debilitating: it provides the backdrop against which we all live our lives. Trust then in ourselves, in others, and in organisations is ‘floating’, unable to find safe anchorage. A reasonable response in the face of such possibilities, may be disparagement, hopelessness, and short-sightedness. This, I believe, is an inherently stressful environment that promotes anxiety and constant hyper-vigilance, one that beckons the individual to find refuge in addiction or escapism.
The individualised society is also one where citizenship slowly but surely corrodes and the public space is filled by the concerns and preoccupations of individuals. Matters of ‘public interest’ seem increasingly boiled down to curiosity about the actions of public figures and celebrities.
Our collective intellect and drive is taught to focus intently on leisure activities and our individual abilities to cook, sing, lose weight, and renovate houses. While this endless tirade of “Reality Viewing” can in fact serve as a needed source of healthy distraction and light entertainment it can, in my belief become the new “Opium of the people” that Carl Marx suggested belonged to religion.
It is my view that both of these elements in society, and our personal life, need to be balanced. As it is my thought that certain people’s needs and values can be stifled under any extreme version of these frameworks or systems. From this, I believe that those who find themselves stifled, frustrated, or powerless in many areas of their lives can be susceptible to depression and anxiety. As many times the agent for change in the individual’s life needs to be two fold, one being from internal processes and cognitions and the other from changes and alternations in the persons environment and life situation.
In our modern day situation of liquid modernity we can find ourselves swept away by the constant obsession to reinvent and change. In this situation of constant transition and striving for the new, updated, or better, it can be easy to mistake ‘Mental Illness’ for nothing more than a person’s unmet need for a reliable and consistent environment in which to live and work. As the need for purpose and belonging can be eroded if a person’s purpose and sense of belonging are constantly moved or changed in reaction to a market driven society.In conclusion it may be quite plausible to see today’s widespread mental conditions and ailments better understood by considering the wider social structures.
In my clinical work, it can at times, be beneficial to give this situation psychological space in the session to explore the individual’s values and needs in these wider areas. Even if little adjustment can be physically made, the connection, insight, and awareness of this larger influence can be empowering and facilitate new perceptions and knowledge.
Author: Rod Gow
Bauman, Z. (2000). Liquid modernity. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Nash, C. (1991). The Culture of Narcissism – American life in an age of diminishing expectations: New York, United States. WW Norton & Co.
Our belief system
In this article we are looking at our beliefs and how they can have a powerful influence on our lives and current situations. It can be crucial to understand that “Changing the way we think about a situation will change the way we feel” (Edelman, 2006).
In this we can see the powerful influence that our thinking can have over our current experiences, as our thinking is intrinsically connected to our beliefs and our belief system. In presenting a framework for this we will consider two categories of beliefs that may be described as ‘self-destructive’ or ‘limiting’ in some way. In looking through these beliefs I suggest that personal insight can be gained into our beliefs influence on our feelings and overall well-being.
These will be in the areas of:
- Beliefs about ourselves, our needs, and our limitations: and
- Beliefs expressed through the ‘Should’s’, ‘ought to’s, ‘must’s, and ‘have to’s’’ in life.
In therapy these can be key areas to be explored, as your ‘foundational beliefs’ can be seen in many different areas, such as beliefs about yourself, about others, and about the world and community in which you live. Over the years I have come to appreciate how powerful and resilient these beliefs can be for the individual.
So firstly, what are beliefs and our belief system?
We could say that, between something happening to us, and the reaction to it, the stimulus passes very quickly through the person’s belief system. Understanding and learning to recognise and observe when we are responding in habitual ways is a key to change, insight, and personal growth.
We can see from this that each of us has a ‘belief system’ that is made up of our assumptions, judgements, perceptions, and myths that we hold to be true of ourselves or others. This contains powerful family or cultural messages about our personal value, relationships, needs, and sexuality. Carried within this system is our model of the world and how we need to act or react in it.
“On the basis of that model we:
- Plan and make decisions:
- Interpret other people’s actions:
- Make meaning out of life experiences:
- Solve problems:
- Pattern our relationships:
- Develop our careers: and
- Establish priorities” (Carnes, 2001)
The problem with this can be that our beliefs are many times taken as undeniable fact. For once they are established, beliefs are accepted as fact that are rarely subject to scrutiny or critical examination. They become our personal operating system. Much like the operating system on a computer, our beliefs control how we sort and file every bit of incoming data.
Everything we see, experience, think, and feel is adjusted to fit with our beliefs. In other words, ‘our version of reality is a creation of our beliefs’. Our personal operating system filters and reassembles all incoming information to fit what we currently believe.
Much of the time this is not a conscious process. Many of our beliefs were established in childhood to suit the environment at the time but have never been open to renewal. Many of these beliefs or cognitive reactions may have outlived their usefulness as we have left these environments.
Why is this important?
This can be an issue, as many times we can be habitually reacting to situations and people based on historical situations and experiences that may be no longer relevant to that person’s life. For all of us the belief system is the filter through which we conduct the key tasks of our lives. It can be like trying to run your current software on an ancient version of windows, or some other obsolete operating system. The results would not be very satisfying or effective. The same could be said of obsolete belief systems that may still have a powerful influence on how we evaluate everything in our lives. Many times in couples therapy I have seen two operating systems trying to conduct a relationship in the present with out of date software. This can lead to misunderstanding and hurt until an awareness and focused effort to update the belief system is started.
In looking at our first set of beliefs regarding ourselves, our needs, and our limitations, we can briefly introduce a sample of the core personal beliefs that I have encountered over years of theraputic work with clients in these areas. Many of these beliefs can fuel certain emotions and behaviours from the person, which may seem confusing and distressing for those who are in relationship with this person.
1. The belief that I will be abandoned in life by those close to me.
This can manifest in a perceived instability or unreliability of those available for support and connection.
It involves the belief that significant others will not be able to continue providing emotional support, connection, strength, or practical protection because they are emotionally unstable and unpredictable, unreliable, or erratic. With this, and all the examples in this article, they can be established early on in childhood if the environment reinforces this experience.
2. The belief that others cannot be trusted and will hurt or abuse me.
The belief that others will hurt, abuse, humiliate, cheat, lie, manipulate, or take advantage of you if they get the chance. This usually involves the view that the harm is deliberate and may include the sense that one always ends up being cheated or "getting the short end of the stick" in life.
3. The belief that others will not meet my reasonable needs.
The foundation of this can be a belief that one's desire for a normal degree of emotional support will not be adequately met by others. This can usually take root in a person’s belief system due to early experiences in childhood where these needs may not have been adequately and regularly met.
The three major forms of neglected needs that may have been experienced by the individual in developing this belief can be:
- A lack of nurturance, which can be highlighted in a lack of attention, affection, or companionship.
- A lack of Empathy: which can be a lack of understanding and validation from others in relation to your feelings, thoughts, or needs.
- Lack of Protection: Absence of strength, direction, or guidance from others in your life.
4. The belief that, I am in some crucial way defective or less than others.
This can be a foundational belief that one is defective, bad, unwanted, inferior, or invalid in some important way; or that you would be unlovable to important people in your life if this was exposed. This belief can carry with it a hypersensitivity to criticism, and blame; it can cause us to make comparisons and feel insecure around others. It can also empower a sense of shame regarding one's perceived flaws. These flaws may be both internal and connected to the person’s personality or physical in nature.
5. The belief that I am in some way isolated or alienated from others in some crucial way.
The belief that one is isolated from the rest of the world, different from other people, and/or not part of any group or community. This could be exacerbated by a physical impairment or due to belonging to a culture or ethnicity that isn’t/wasn’t widely accept or understood.
In supporting clients who have well established belief systems that include these examples I have found that a clinical approach that utilises a number of person centred and mindfulness based CBT interventions can be very effective in this situation.
The next set of beliefs can be described through what we call the ‘should’s, ‘ought to’s, ‘must’s, and ‘have to’s’ that can be very powerfully embedded in the person’s belief system. These beliefs can be very resilient and powerful in a person’s life as they may have been constant messages in childhood regarding how we are meant to always behaviour or present ourselves.
In looking at these we can see that the focus can be on our own performance and behaviour, such as:
“I should have lots of friends”, “I must always be polite and never angry”, “I must always work hard” or “By this stage in life I should have lots of money and a good solid job”.
And many times these beliefs can also be imposed on others, such as:
“Other people should always do the right thing”, “Other people have to accept and like me”, or “Parents must always put their children first”.
From this we need to understand that it is not the content of these beliefs that cause conflict and issues, rather it is the rigidity of these beliefs. Beliefs are not a problem when they are held as preferences. For example, it is perfectly understandable to prefer others to like and accept us and to want them to do what we believe is right and fair, as long as we are flexible enough in this to accept that things will not always be this way.
If we fail to find flexibility and balance in our beliefs we will be trapped in a vicious cycle of frustrated expectations that can act as a foundation to depression and anxiety in our lives.
In this article I have presented just a sample of core beliefs that may be discussed in a therapy session. Due to the limiting and disempowering nature of these beliefs it can be paramount to challenge these and explore their foundation and place in your life today, through a number of sessions.
In reading through this article if you would like to explore this topic further please feel welcome to contact me.
Author: Rod Gow
Carnes, P. (2001) Out of the shadows – Understanding Sexual Addiction. Hazelden Centre City, Minnesota.
Young, J. E, & Klosko, J. S. (1993) Reinventing Your Life- The breakthrough program to end negative behaviour and feel great again. Penguin Books: New York U.S.A.
Edelman, S. (2006) Change your thinking (2nd Ed.) Harper Collins Publishers. Sydney NSW.