My clients often start by telling me the presenting problem that brought them into my office for counseling. I reply, that to get at the heart of the problem, we must go back and find out what happened earlier. There is value in learning about the experiences that clients have had and what they learned from them.
These past lessons have set them up for their current difficulties. Their problems took time to create and will take time to solve. To overcome their current problems, we have to explore their past experiences, which allows us to understand how they make sense of their struggles.
(T) “What has to happen before you can ask for help?”
(C) “I don’t know?”
(T)”You have to trust the person you are asking.”
(C) “I don’t trust many people.”
(T)”What has to happen before you can trust people?”
(C) “They have to earn my trust.”
(T) “Or you can take ownership over how your behavior shapes how other people respond. You may trust them to say no in advance, so you don’t even bother to ask. You may fear being disappointed and feel discouraged because you assume what is the point of trying because you’ll just be turned down anyways.”
(C) “But they do turn me down.”
(T) “Of course, if you ask with the wrong music, the wrong intonation, they will turn you down. They hear it in your voice, ‘you not going to say yes are you?’ So they fulfill your expectation and they say no.”
(C) “How can I make them say yes?”
(T) “Do you see how you are putting the problem in terms of changing others? Its not about how we can get them to respond differently. It’s more important to focus on what you can control. You can choose to stop trying to control the potential from happening and instead you can choose to live in the present by focusing on reality.”
(C) “If I ask for help people will think I’m weak and needy.”
(T) “That is some expectation you learned somewhere in the past. It is an expectation of being judged. You are living on other people’s terms, not your own. This implies that others will define me, I cannot define myself.”
(C) “That is what I’d like to do, I’d like to feel good about myself even if other’s don’t approve of what I’m doing.”
(T) “What has to happen first?”
(C) “I’m not sure.”
(T) “You have to change your expectation from pessimism to optimism. When you do, you will feel that people can be trusted. You will even feel you deserve to get what you want. If you don’t feel you deserve it, you will set yourself up to fail, you will ask for help in a discouraging, off-putting way. You will confirm your belief of being lesser and inferior, which will only perpetuate your pessimism forever.”
Hand reaching out of water image available from Shutterstock.
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Last reviewed: 2 Dec 2013