I’ve been thinking about what self reliance means – more specifically, can someone be in a relationship, receive counselling and still be self-reliant?
I’d like to explore the idea of counselling first. I started receiving counselling – not for the first time – a little over 3 weeks ago. I’d been intending to do this ever since I had my appointment with Mental Health in the summer (as referred by my GP) when it was recommended I receive counselling surrounding attachment. I’d started to realise that whilst my mental health has always been on something of a tipping scale, this instability always became amplified when I was in a relationship. I hated this about myself and I’d be lying if I said I don’t still struggle with feeling this way. So I sought help and I opted for the most accessible (financially) and most readily available option – telephone counselling. It has helped me to clarify things a bit. It has helped me to realise that one of the reasons I find conflict so difficult (whether it be trivial or major) is that I assign the blame entirely to myself. My default is that everything is my fault and I wasn’t aware of it until now. I started to see that with the bullying, emotional abuse and abandonment I dealt with as a child, the only way to emotionally process all of this was to subconsciously blame myself. How else can you understand why your mother would prefer to drink alcohol than look after you? How else can you understand why your father reaps joy in your humiliation? It must be your fault. A lightbulb came on in my head with the words: you can take responsibility for a lot of things but you can’t take responsibility for other people’s actions. That’s been my mantra and it’s made me feel stronger and more confident in the things that I say and do in my relationship and in general. Some people get angry, it doesn’t mean it’s your fault or that you should silence yourself because of it. The way other people deal with their emotions is not your responsibility. All you can do is be as kind as you can be and stand up for yourself at the same time.
But is counselling a form of self reliance or is it the opposite? I was thinking about this the other day. A counsellor is an almost caregiving, authoritative figure. You look to them for guidance, for answers, for reassurance. They are the one person in your life who remain relatively impartial, unbiased and objective – yet they accept you. It is very easy to become reliant on a counsellor. On one hand, you’re accessing this type of service because you want to feel better, sort out some issues and regain control of your life and on the other hand you’re looking to someone to almost do it for you. Yes, there’s this idea that the client “does all the work” but it’s the introducing of critical thinking from the counsellor that really makes change come about. The second time I had counselling, I was going back to the same person. I remember in my consultation, she recommended we put a limit on the number of sessions I would have. Ten. I felt anxious then. I think I felt I needed it on an ongoing basis. And there’s nothing wrong with feeling that way. We all grow and progress at different rates and in different ways. What’s right for one person might not be right for the next. Some people are more reliant on their counsellors and it takes time to get to a place where you’re not (there’s also people with personality disorders who might need regular monitoring which is a different story altogether). But I’m glad I don’t feel like that anymore. I’m glad the counselling is over the phone this time and I’m glad it’s only for six sessions. I don’t want to be someone who is always receiving counselling. I want to be self-sufficient. I just hope that by the time it’s over, I’ve sorted out what I wanted to sort out or I’ve at least gained the tools to sort it out myself.
Then there’s the idea of being self reliant whilst being in a relationship. Is it possible? For myself, I think I go through phases. Like a wave, I sometimes feel clingy and have this desire to share everything with my partner and then when I become aware of this I start to fall back a bit again, withdrawing and enjoying my own independence and company. For me it’s a constant effort to stay feeling independent because while in a very practical sense I am independent (I went long-distance in my relationship to pursue my studies), emotionally I guess I’m not. I’m aware that’s pretty normal in a relationship – to become emotionally dependent on your significant other – but I don’t want to be like that and I find myself looking to quotes and inspiration to cling onto feelings of independence:
“Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
– Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
“you are in the habit
on people to
make up for what
you think you lack
who tricked you
was meant to complete you
when the most they can do is complement”
– Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey
Getting inspiration from music and literature is something I find to be really beneficial. It comforts me to know there are so many people out there with more wisdom than me. I hope some of the things that I’ve written can help others, too.
I’m considering taking a little break from my 12 Steps To Self-Esteem Growth blog format to do a couple of more general posts on things like anxiety and music that I’ve wanted to do for a while. After that I’ll resume with my normal format. I’m not exactly sure what my next post will be but I’m back to regular blogging now so my next post will be up on Monday. 🙂
Thanks so much for reading!
– SMUT ❤ xxxx