The discomfort in awareness

It's often said that starting therapy is the hardest part. In fact at times I have heard it shared that making the decision to engage with therapy is the difficult bit. While it is comforting to believe that it is all up-hill from then on, I am noticing the sticking points arriving long after the therapeutic relationship is established.

Yes, for some, acknowledging the need for support puts you miles out of your comfort zone and for a good number opening up to a relative stranger may cause feelings that are particularly uncomfortable. The truth is however, that for many of us the real discomfort arrives as they grow in awareness of ourselves. Counsellors often hear clients describe the frustration of being able to understand how they might make changes and yet experience themselves as incapable of embodying that change. This stage of learning known as ‘conscious incompetence’, where you can see what is not satisfactory and yet are not able to make the desired improvements, is certainly not a favourite, as the old saying goes ‘ignorance is bliss’, except it isn’t really is it? Ignorance is what causes you to make the same mistakes habitually.

In this place of discomfort it is common to start very negative self-talk like ‘I can see I am the problem’ or ‘even though I know what needs to be done I am too pathetic/lazy/useless to actually do it’. Although a very usual response to the feeling of being incapable this kind of self-criticism is not conducive to progress. Since when did we tell a child they were terrible as they learnt to walk? It would serve only to prevent the child from developing. It is all too easy to forget that in being more aware we have actually made a good part of the progress. Don’t panic, acknowledge the work you have done and if you can bare to stay with the awareness, with the support of your therapist, you will start to notice the ‘conscious competence’ phase creeping in to the way you function.

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Written by Annabelle Hird, MBACP

Annabelle Hird is a counsellor practising in the Richmond area. She also facilitates peer support groups for women with postnatal depression with Cocoon family support in Camden and is a counsellor with Off The Record, youth charity in Twickenham.

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Written by Annabelle Hird, MBACP

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