The wood for the trees

We’ve all done it – got caught up in our own thinking and gone round and round like the hamster on the wheel.

This exercise is to help you get out of your own thinking and allow a bit of distance between what we believe so we can access a little more of that creative part of ourselves.

Let’s start with a clear dilemma: being overweight. We’ll break it down into sections.

  • Issue identified – being overweight. Try not to get side-tracked into not liking yourself or how others see you. Just stick to the issue.

  • Write it down: “I’m overweight” and use a bit of playfulness such as writing it in a circle or bubble. Remember, it is only for your eyes so you can experiment.

  • From your circle, draw four or five lines off of it so it looks like sun rays. This is sometimes called a spider diagram.

  • At the tip of each line write whatever – yes – whatever comes into your mind even if it doesn’t seem associated with the subject. This is called free association.

  • When you have done this for every line. Leave it. Put it away for a day. 

  • Return to your message but cover-up the main issue you wrote. In this case “I’m overweight.” Now you can see only the lines and the words you wrote. Draw a circle around one of these words and draw more lines from this as you did the first time. Again, let your mind go wandering. 

  • Keep repeating these steps for each word so your diagram gets bigger and bigger. 

  • Once you have worked on this and you have written all you can – uncover the main message.  Now it’s time to look for links. What words come up more than once? By letting your mind process in this way you might find things you thought were insignificant to your weight. For example ‘sex’ or’ confidence.’

  • Now you have the bigger picture. We are going to shrink it down because a big picture is too much. Keep goals small. Focus on one word (or words if it is written more than once) on your diagram. Let’s say you want to lose weight to gain more confidence. You can start by reminding yourself that you made a step towards this by doing this exercise.

  • First look up local groups such as Slimming World, in the local paper and on the Internet. Next time, drive or walk past the address. Next time, see if you can take a friend along to go inside. If you are on your own, arrive at the end and see who goes to the group. Keep doing this until you feel familiar with the steps then try to go inside. Even if you don’t go back a step. If that doesn’t work, choose a different word to focus on.

Wishing you well and remind yourself that if you are looking at changes, then you have already started by reading this!

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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Sawbridgeworth, Herts, CM21
Written by Linda Helm-Manley, BACP & UKCP Accredited
Sawbridgeworth, Herts, CM21

Psychotherapist in private practice. Coach and facilitator of counselling, development seminars and group workshops for both professional therapists and general public. Strong interest in body language and symbolism.

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