It could never happen here...

While at a pro-Palestinian demonstration recently, I was encouraged to be among 200,000 + (est.) people who, like myself, felt that the situation in Palestine needs to stop. I am not pro-Hamas or anti-semitic, I see no values when human life is lost/taken. I can see both points of view and am mindful of both. Yes, I am, by default, going to side with the underdog, but I do not allow that to cloud my thinking. Palestinians and Israelis are human beings and as such they both feel pain, have suffered loss and want a better/different world.


At the demonstration, there were people from both sides of the situation and they were united for a common purpose - peace!

I felt reassurance, acceptance and relief at being with my sort of people. As well as being angry and upset, I had the human decency to engage with the police and to be kind, not vitriolic, in my exchanges with them. Who would want to be standing between a very few right-wing extremists and a lot of people who most definitely were not of that ilk? I am glad the police were there. Glad for both sides.

What has this to do with counselling?

For me, it served as a way of viewing life in general and more particularly a way of considering counselling in general.

In my modality, Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR) is held to be essential. Indeed, in my private practice, I have had clients whose views I have no liking for or connection with. By being able to use UPR, I have left myself outside the counselling session and thus been able to focus on the client's frame of reference, the client's distress and the client's attempts to resolve the issues they are facing. Those issues that have brought the client into counselling. Trust me, sometimes this has not been easy, the various issues have challenged me at a very deep and personal level. By exercising UPR, I have been able to learn and grow - indeed the adage “no pain, no gain” has been very applicable.

Similarly, I have been able to recognise that the demonstrators, and clients, are in a state of distress and to be able to use that as the start of the therapeutic relationship. The therapeutic relationship being a core condition of my chosen modality. 

In the demonstrations I have attended, I have seen a lot of people in distress. Vicarious and actual distress. Distress over the way the situation has developed for the last 100 years and more recently the last 200 days. People whose loved ones are on the front lines and those who are appalled by current events. As challenging as it is to see the distress felt, I have felt fortunate to be able to offer support as well as counselling to those people. I may not be able to stop the horrible events but I can offer support and compassion (empathy) to those who are affected.

At the moment, I am reading On Personal Power (Carl Rogers, 1978) and it is perhaps the work I am meant to be reading now. In it he talks about the difference between the authoritarian, patriarchal society I was raised in and the person-centred culture that was/is growing and spreading throughout all aspects of our life. He obviously favours the latter and the reading causes me to reflect on the work he did in the Northern Ireland conflict – the work for which he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. The conflict that was resolved by the then Prime Minister, the American foreign Ambassador and both sides involved in that conflict all listened to each other and searching for a way forward that served each party equally. 

So when I see two sides vehemently opposed, spouting hate and being intolerant of each other, I have hope. Peace and reconciliation have been achieved in similar circumstances and I see no reason as to why they cannot occur again. In the case of Northern Ireland, the timescale for the troubles was longer than in the case of Palestine and Israel but similarities exist then and now. Forcible removal from homes, those homes being occupied by others, sectarian violence, disregard for the other's rights, needs and hopes. The use of religion to justify hatred, intolerance and murder. All these things, and more are being done now and were being done then. Indeed recent events in Palestine are iterations of similar conflicts since World War One, much to our shame.

Such lauded people as John-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Carl Rogers and Terry Whaite have stood up and have been recognised for the attempts they made to resolve the cycles of hate and violence. So I do have hope that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict can achieve a peaceful solution. Just as I have hope and belief that my clients can find answers to their distress. Just as I have hope that the Sudanese/Ukrainian/Yemeni/Burmese/Kurd/Kashmir situations can be resolved. I do believe that peace is cheaper than war and that as Carl Rogers states “all humans are capable of being good, will move to a better situation for themselves and do what is right" (paraphrased).

So in finishing, I recognise that my few words here may not make a difference. I also believe that what great people did previously started somewhere, and that my words might go some way to helping the Palestinians and Israelis find peace. The peace they need and the peace they deserve.

I have to have hope. Without hope, my world, my life is a darker, scarier and lonelier place. When I speak to my clients about finding hope and finding the means to change what is causing them distress, I am mindful that better people than I have held onto hope and seen change occur. I am reassured that my clients, those wise and knowing people, have the means to realise and achieve the changes they want. For me, it is enough that I am able to provide a space for them to do just that.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Chelmsford CM1
Written by Steve Fayers, Counsellor / Therapist | Certified Trauma Therapist
Chelmsford CM1

I am a person, a counsellor, a parent, a flawed human being who has struggled with life. Struggled with addiction.
I would rather struggle than give in and accept a life that does not meet my needs and wants.
I am trying to be the best person I can be.
"I will not go quietly into that goodnight " (paraphrased Dylan Thomas)

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