Navigating life’s highs and lows
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Basia Spalek Registered Member BACP, PhD, MSc, Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy
18th August, 20150 Comments
The nature of existence is dynamic, a constant process of movement. Our relationships with other people and with ourselves; our work environments, our physical fitness and health - these are constantly moving around and within us. Sometimes, this motion can bring about intense joy, other times such motion can be sickening, even devastating. We can get addicted to the highs, and therefore we can feel lost when not attaining or achieving something. At other times we can wallow within the depths of our despair and helplessness. Sometimes we can feel that we have become stuck within repeated patterns of unhelpful behaviours, feelings and thoughts, and trying to move out of these seems as hard as moving through thick glue.
Therapy involves helping people to accept the highs and lows they experience in their daily lives. Part of feeling better involves us accepting that our emotions and experiences fluctuate, that we cannot possibly remain happy all the time. This means of course, that it is also okay to feel angry, upset or depressed. Self-compassion involves developing an awareness of our highs and lows, so that rather than trying to suppress or prolong these, we learn to be kind towards ourselves, to change what we can and to tolerate what we cannot undo. Sometimes we can re-frame powerful experiences so that they have less hold over us. For example, we can reduce the size of an intrusive image, reduce the intensity of a sound that frightens us or re-evaluate our understanding of what has happened as a way of dealing with it. We can with practice and time, change the shape, size, colour, and fabric of our experiences as a way of regaining our control over life events; the highs and the lows.
It is important for therapy to hand control back to clients, for clients to start to believe and experience that they can influence life’s ebbs and flows without feeling that they are drowning. It is a wonderful moment for a person to realise their own power to act upon and react towards their environment, to realise that they are not merely tossed around by life’s great forces, but rather, that they can exert some control. This simply involves learning some new techniques to enable a freer flow.
Different therapeutic approaches offer different types of techniques, but perhaps most importantly of all is the relationship between the therapist and the client. Without a relationship based on trust and understanding, it is unlikely that clients will ever feel that they want to learn new ways of dealing with life’s highs and lows. A solid therapeutic relationship therefore provides the fundamental basis for movement and growth.
About the author
Basia Spalek is a practising psychotherapist, and is a Professor in Conflict Transformation. Basia enjoys walking and running in nature and is interested in helping people to grow therapeutically.
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