A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Thursday, 2 February 2012


Therapy training programs and their teachers are merely the whetstones on which the novice therapists hone their instruments. Those instruments are the selves of the therapists. NED GAYLIN Family, Self And Psychotherapy: A Person-Centred Perspective

Some sharp-eyed readers may have spotted a plethora of counselling and psychotherapy books in my 'WHAT I'M READING' widget lately. The reason is: I've just begun an Introduction To Counselling Skills course. According to the book Counselling Skills In Context (edited by Sally Aldridge and Sally Rigby), there are three major aspects to a Counselling Skills programme: learning the skills, understanding the theory and cultivating self-awareness. It's the last one which particularly intrigues me. It's this aspect which clearly differentiates counselling/psychotherapy courses from courses on most other subjects.  

How can we claim to even begin to understand the minds of others if we have no insight into our own minds? It struck me today, as I was wondering what direction my blog might take in the future, that I could harness my blog to this pursuit of self-knowledge. Perhaps, through thoughtful, self-exploratory blogging, I might arrive at a deeper level of self-awareness. It's only by writing down your thoughts and feelings as clearly and honestly as you can, by examining them and expressing them in words, that you can really get to grips with what you are thinking and feeling, and why you are thinking and feeling it. That's what I believe, at any rate. It seems to work for me. And, actually, it's been one of my motivations for blogging from the very start.

I'm not quite sure yet what format this will take — it may be fluid and experimental — but I view it as a challenge: a valuable and enriching one, even though it may be painful at times.

... it is his own hurt that gives the measure of his power to heal. CARL GUSTAV JUNG The Practice Of Psychotherapy


Friko said...

There are plenty of 'confessional' blogs around, but not many that deal with self-awareness for the sake of it. Or am I getting that wrong? Is confession automatically a tool towards self-awareness?

Blogging can be a means towards getting to know yourself; I too started out with the idea of delving into my history, the lessons I learned, my personal thoughts on matters that come up randomly; our kind of blogging is ego-centric, it couldn't be anything but. Even writing about the books we read falls into that category.

I am interested to learn what you make of it; I did some counselling training and have received counselling myself; both were very helpful. I learned that honesty to myself - not necessarily others - is the main prerequisite for success (if I can use this word) and that is also the main stumbling block for many. Being honest with yourself is quite daunting.

Bonnie said...

What a meaningful project to undertake Robert.

Self-awareness is essential to life and relationship. While counselling must be supported by knowledge, ultimately in any good therapy it is the relationship that 'heals'. Who would ever knowingly embark on a therapeutic relatlionship with a therapist who is not self-aware? (But many do, because there are many therapists out there who have not even been in therapy themselves. Personal therapy should be a requirement of any good counselling programme.)

I know you have a head start in this endeavour as your self-awareness and depth shine through in your poetry and essays on your travels.

You might appreciate, therefore, the link between self-awareness and mindfulness and enjoy these relevant and recent texts:

The Mindful Therapist, Siegel, D.J.

Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, Germer, Siegel, Fulton

I wish you all the best in this exciting, new adventure.

Rubye Jack said...

I love the idea that your blog may move in the direction of a pursuit for self-knowledge. I wanted to do much the same thing with my own blog but found it rather difficult to write blatantly about much that I feel and so tend to write more about the things I derive my self-knowledge from. Being new to your blog, I look forward to what the future holds here for you.

The Solitary Walker said...

Friko, thanks so much for your valued comment. Yes, 'confessional', profoundly egocentric, self-indulgent, up-your-own-ass blogs. Well, I don't like like them or read them. I like blogs that are witty, informative, human, self-aware, world-aware, word-aware, sensitive, deep, incisive, empathic, genuine and honest, philosophical, light-heartedly serious, revealing... Hey, that's your own blog, Friko!

I think 'confession' can be 'a tool towards self-awareness' but, in a public blogging context, and like much in life, it depends how it's done. 'True confession' — with serious healing intent —can probably only be done with a professional psychotherapist. Or with God, in the times when God existed.

I suppose our blogging is egocentric, but in a nice way, I think — in an acceptably autobiographical way, with a sensitivity about not boring others...

Bonnie: your comment here means a lot — specially since it comes from 'the horse's mouth', so to speak! Great to hear from you, and I'm looking out for those books you mention, which I think could be of enormous value to me.

And Rubye Jack: I'm so glad that you are following my blog, and thanks for your comment! We'll see what happens with the 'self-knowledge'. I feel, though, it may already heave been leaking out anyway, in the interstices of all my other posts...

Anonymous said...

Blogging, reading, writing, talking or listening are just instrument we choose to share with somebody else our feelings, ideas and so on. And I think this sharing could help each of us to encourage and enriching our self-awarness. All the best on the way of counselling ! Mick

Susan Scheid said...

From what I've read of your blog, this seems such a natural evolution. Without ever being confessional (Friko's comments are so spot-on, aren't they), your blog has always been suffused with keen perception of the world and your place within it. I don't know that I could say exactly how that comes through, but it's certainly my experience of what you write.

am said...

You did have me wondering what was up with the books about counseling (U.S. spelling) on your reading list!

Cultivating self-awareness in the mystic garden. Sounds good to me. As does a course in counseling.

I was intrigued by your comments about "true confession."

Interesting, the smile on Carl Jung's face and his answer when asked if he believed in God "now."


He wasn't a conventionally religious person, but he seems to have had a concept of God based on "knowing" rather than "believing."

Incidentally, Alcoholics Anonymous is indebted to the ideas of Carl Jung in regard to seemingly hopeless cases of alcoholism. Carl Jung acknowledged that in working with an early member of A.A., he had to admit that his psychotherapeutic methods had failed, and that the only way he could imagine that the man could recover from alcoholism would be to have a vital spiritual experience.

Additionally, A.A.'s 12 Steps involve a "true confession," usually shared with another recovering alcoholic, but which may be shared with a psychotherapist or priest or rabbi or any trustworthy person, generally someone outside of one's family. A.A.'s 12 steps are about getting to know oneself fully.

My eccentric group of friends talked this morning at breakfast time about self-awareness and the Great Reality within! Synchronicity at work again.

I continue to be surprised at how much I have to say once I start writing! Blogging does help clarify ones thoughts and feelings!

Susan Scheid said...

After writing the last comment, I wanted to come back and peruse to see if I could come up with an example of "awareness" shining through your prose, even if the topic wasn't directly you. Well, I'm here to say, it's everywhere. Here is just one fine example in a post chock full of them: "Jeffers recognised the humbling truth that we are just part of the universe, not the centre of it; and that our high-minded ideas amount to very little in the face of raw nature and its extraordinary power and beauty."

Goat said...

Best of luck with the studies and the evolution of the blog! I think a lot of people who've been running a blog for a while start to think about its future direction, or at least look back and notice how far it's deviated from their original concept.

Many bloggers in the early days of the form (if I may be so pretentious) seemed to have given no real thought to what they wanted to say or how they would attempt to say it. They were briefly intoxicated by the power at their fingertips to spew any old crap out into the cybercosmos. I don't think too many of those blogs survived for long.

Your blog is a true survivor and I know it'll keep on going and staying entertaining for a long while yet, in part because you think about it as a form, not just a microphone in a dark room. Looking forward to wherever you want to take us.

Oh, one more thing. Why aren't I successful with women?

Ruth said...

I feel a warm soul smile at this post; you are mirroring what I feel myself in what I post. When I write, I am doing soul work. I just happen to also post it at a blog. I tend not to be terribly direct about it, and approach it more poetically and obliquely. So I will be most interested to see how this goal/idea unfolds for you.

I really ought to study those books myself, as my role as academic adviser has been taking a decidedly more counseling role.

All the best as you pursue this.

The Solitary Walker said...

These comments are fantastically interesting, and I thank you all for them. Counselling is very much into 'feedback', and we bloggers are well used to this (particularly the positive kind!)

Mick: Yes, good quality blogging, reading, writing, talking and listening can all bolster self-awareness — and thus a keener awareness of others too. I liked your inclusion of 'listening'. Attentive listening is perhaps one of the most important, yet most underrated, forms of communication, and so necessary for the creation of a truly empathic response. Thanks for your good wishes.

Thanks, Susan! Sensitive and thoughtful awareness of the self and the world, and the self's place in the world and relationship with it, is certainly the quality of many of the blogs listed on my sidebar, and the quality of most of the books I enjoy reading.

You have always so much to say of worth and interest, am — it constantly delights, amazes and stimulates me! Thanks for your valuable comment about Jung and A.A.

Goat: I agree. I think that to blog long-term you have to put a little bit of thought and structure into it from time to time — but the form is a creatively organic and fluid one, I think. Certainly the 'microphone in a dark room' (great phrase!) approach is a dead-end. (Reason is: it's not communication, just sounding off. You'd be better off putting such solipsistic thoughts into a diary —though nothing wrong with that, I might add.)

Oh, and you ask why you aren't successful with women, my caprine friend? Assuming this isn't a disingenuous remark ... I'll let you know after the 'How To Impress The Female Sex' module on my Counselling course! Seriously, though — have you ever thought about camping in the South of France in summer rather than in Korea in a snowstorm? And packing a king-size, comfy air bed? (No, this wasn't serious either!)

Ah, 'mirroring', Ruth ... heard a lot about this on my Counselling course today. I understand completely what you mean about the oblique 'soul work' going on. Completely.

Laurel said...

Sounds interesting. It would also be interesting to learn more about your counseling course as you progress through it.

George said...

I attempted to post a comment on this posting yesterday, Robert, but it appears that I failed to get through. I probably forgot to type in the word verification.

In any event, I want to add my wholehearted support for the new direction that you are contemplating for your blog. I suspect that everyone in our little circle of blogging friends is interested in more self-awareness. The more we discover about ourselves, the more compassion we have for others—and, of course, the reverse is also true.

Goat said...

The south of France sounds sensational to me right now -- well, not right NOW.

Hope you're keeping relatively warm in the idyllic Midlands!

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks, Laurel and George, for your comments.

Goat, the temperature's just above freezing and it's about to snow! Keeping warm in the house, however.

Grace said...

If I remember correctly, a while back you mention a new direction in your career, does this have anything to do with that? (Sorry, I'm being nosy.)

The Solitary Walker said...

Gosh, well remembered, Grace! That was then and now is now! I think at the time I erroneously thought I would make a good proofreader and copy editor, not realising that I needed people contact! Or that my sight was awful! I'm into the counselling thing right now, and am finding it fascinating.

Grace said...

I thought you were a copy editor already and a bookseller. I am a copy editor, and I have to say, there is probably more money in counselling! However, I would think you need people contact in counselling, too:)

A good friend of mine is a counselor and I always enjoy listening to his work stories. If I went back to school, I would consider moving in that direction, too.

Good luck with whatever you end up doing.

The Solitary Walker said...

Ah, I see that what I said was ambiguous, Grace! Sorry. I meant that editing/proofreading didn't have enough actual person-to-person contact for me.

Last year I started a proof-reading course, but abandoned it, as I found it wasn't really my thing. I was never a bookseller — though I was a publishers' agent for 25 years, and used to visit 3 or 4 bookshops a day in a sales capacity...

Grace said...

Ah, thank's for the clarification. Now, if only I could get clarification on what kind of bird I saw the other day, a cedar waxwing or a bohemian waxwing!