Sigmund Freud, Jules Rimet and Therapy

I wonder what will you be doing on June 12th say around 5.00pm. Perhaps the date may invoke a sense of anticipation or dread, or alternatively just complete puzzlement?

The nature of that response probably indicates your relationship to the beautiful game. I am referring of course to football and in particular the World Cup which starts in Brazil on Thursday June 12th in Sao Paulo. During the next month irrespective of how you gain news and information you will be met by a constant barrage of information and reports on the football World Cup. From Hong Kong to Honolulu and from Macclesfield to Moscow, this event will dominate the headlines. There will be no easy escape from the torrent of coverage. Whether that reporting invokes interest or irritation, takes us back to your relationship with the beautiful game.

Whatever your thoughts about the tournament there are some interesting ideas to be gleaned from this degree of media fascination. This includes reflections on issues regularly dealt with in the therapy world ranging from thoughts on general counselling strategies to new ideas on specific individual problems which are brought into the therapy room by clients.

Let’s start with the strategies. Irrespective of our favoured counselling modality, the way in which we will respond to the forthcoming tsunami of coverage is likely to mirror one standard CBT technique. 

The irrefutable fact is that there will be an unceasing flow of coverage whether we like it or not. We cannot personally impact the number of words written in the press, the extent of the TV coverage or the extent to which this event will dominate the conversation of colleagues standing by the coffee machine. What we can do however as individuals is to decide how to respond to this unending stream of news and debate. Whether we grumble, celebrate, participate or growl is very much to each of us to decide.

It is not what happens to you but how you respond to it that matters’. That quotation or one of the similar variations is usually attributed to Epictetus who is fast becoming to CBT what Jules Rimet is to the World Cup. (And if you have no idea who Rimet is then Wikipedia will explain all). 

As far as clever sayings go it is a helpful comment to take into this time of World Cup fever. There are ways of avoiding the blanket coverage during the next few weeks but it will probably take a solo voyage for a month or solitude in a desert cave without tablet, mobile, laptop or radio to be absolutely sure of freedom from contagion with the World Cup virus.

Rather than opt for splendid isolation another approach could be to follow Epictetus’s lead and accept that things are as they are. What is important is not how much is published or spoken about the World Cup but how you decide to respond to it. It is your choice. Interest or indifference, excitement or boredom are options for you to adopt as you wish. Remember it is your choice to decide how to process what goes on around you.

Or at least that is the theory. Like much within the canon of CBT thought, all is well whilst rationality rules. The challenge comes when a raw, overpowering tsunami of emotion sweeps across our being and carries us out into a difficult place – and perhaps then some other counselling approaches will need to be considered.

I am not certain what the great therapeutic thinkers such as Freud would have made of the World Cup. Jung is likely to have understood, Carl Rodgers would no doubt have empathised, Fritz Perls would have explored and perhaps Mr Yalom will just experience. There would at least be some form of acknowledgment and involvement but I rather suspect that Melanie Klein would have simply not been able to engage in the discussion. For those familiar with Klein, any suggestion that the round thing that individuals were fixated with was a football rather than a breast would have just been beyond her comprehension. 

Anyway back to the World Cup and the next few weeks. It will be a challenging time. For some individuals there may be difficulties to be faced and as therapists we should not be surprised by an upsurge in enquiries.

England will of course lose either dramatically with another penalty shoot-out debacle or through some abject humiliation.  The issue for therapists will be to help clients deal with the resulting trauma. For some fans the anger management programme will need to be brought into play to help clients deal with incandescent rage. Fury will be projected onto the referee as the (paternal) authority symbol to be brought down whereas for others, wrath will be concentrated on players who will feature as the sibling equivalents.

For some there will be a sense of loss which may invoke the grief from previous bereavements, no matter how expected the loss and how intense the anticipatory mourning rites. There will be much scope for the obsessive compulsive to be drawn into that pattern of rituals to be observed before each game to ward off defeat and ample opportunity for the depressive to sink down into misery following each defeat. There will be a rise in anxiety levels before key games and the need to deal effectively with stress will certainly surge as the tournament progresses.

And for those therapists who work extensively with couples, there is likely to be a marked increase in the call for relationship counselling. The disputes over the television schedules and viewing habits will worsen as the weeks go by. For some this may be a realisation of fault lines in the relationship which will suddenly appear unbridgeable.

So June 12th will herald the onset of a demanding few weeks for clients, counsellors, couples and therapists. We can decide whether to adopt a rational CBT based approach to deal with the trauma that lies ahead or burrow down into subconscious processes to try to understand our (and others) extreme reactions to what is about to occur.

What is for certain is that it will be a long four weeks. But for those who are not smitten with the prospect of wall to wall coverage of the beautiful game, despair not. Remember it will eventually come to an end.

The last whistle will be blown, the last ball kicked and then silence – for a while at least. Actually for rather a short while as my calendar tells me that this ending will occur just before the new domestic football season starts!. 

Wonderful stuff or an awful prospect?  Heaven or hell?  It is your choice!

Geoff Boutle

BACP Snr Accred

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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