5 minute read
Hi, I'm Samantha and I'm a BACP Registered Counsellor.
This is a slightly different “About Me” than usual. It’s a mini case study that I hope will give you a flavour of how I work with my clients, as I very much use what I’ve learnt about me along the way to help my clients move forward in their own lives.
I started my counselling journey 10 years ago, when after an enjoyable career in London living the life of a true City Girl, redundancy led me to review my life. Work had been great but my personal life was a different story.
I'd experienced anxiety and panic attacks in my early 20's as well as a major bereavement where grief overtook my life for a long time. I ended a long term relationship at the start of my 30's, went straight into the next one which resulted in my beautiful daughter but didn't work out. At the start of my 40's, I found myself a Single Mum with a toddler to bring up and there followed years of largely unhappy relationships that always seemed to be "complicated".
This was definitely not how I'd imagined my life turning out. Here I was, an intelligent, caring person who just seemed to be making some really bad life choices, especially when it came to relationships, and would constantly find myself wondering why it all kept going "tits up" for use of a better term! I was desperate for things to change and made the decision to begin my counselling training.
When training to become a Counsellor, it is part of the course that you must complete a minimum of 50 hours personal therapy - it was such a daunting thought but it was a complete game changer. I began to understand why I'd made certain life choices that had gone so pear shaped and why I never seemed to feel good enough about myself compared to other people. I learnt so much about myself that I'd been completely oblivious about.
It's well known that one of the stereotypes of a Counsellor is someone who says "tell me about your childhood" but let me tell you now, you don't need to have experienced obvious traumas in childhood to be affected by your upbringing as an adult. I had a happy childhood but I learnt that my perspective of some of the beliefs I'd been taught as a child had unconsciously been brought into my adult life. Unbeknown to me, I was re-acting old beliefs that just weren't relevant anymore.
One of the simplest ones I can give as an example (and one which is still so common in many adults today) would be that watching Mum and Dad work as a unit to bring up our large family; watching my friends' families all include a Mum and a Dad and unconsciously picking up the messages from Disney and TV, one of my beliefs was that you grew up, found a partner who would look after you, had children and then "lived happily ever after." I believed that you needed a partner in order to be happy. If you didn't have a partner, then it wasn't normal, wasn't part of the status quo so whenever I wasn’t in a relationship, part of me felt like I didn't belong and wasn’t “good enough.” And I STILL believed that at the start of my 40's!
So, despite the fact that I'd been a successful career woman and had been bringing up my daughter on my own since she was 2 years old, I was so busy searching for this perfect partner to "look after me" so that I could eventually live happily ever after, that I was missing the fact that actually, I was doing pretty okay by myself. I spent a long time dating, looking for the one who was going to make it all better, when all along, if I'd just stopped focusing on finding someone to make me happy, I might just have seen that it was MY job to make me happy and to look after myself and I was doing that in the background anyway. I had actually built myself and my daughter a pretty good life! Sigh......
There are other beliefs from my childhood that have contributed to the issues I’ve experienced as an adult and I'll mention a couple of them in a bit, but what I would like to stress again is that none of them were caused by obvious trauma. Yes, there are many people whose adult problems can be linked to trauma in childhood, and I do work extensively with these issues in my client work. However, I’m trying to dispel one of the beliefs around therapy that you must have experienced a terrible childhood to be affected by mental health problems in your Adult life. It is not always the case at all.
To make for an easier read, I’m going to really condense two other old beliefs of mine that have caused me untold issues as an adult. I’ve always felt not quite good enough compared to other people. When I look at what I’ve achieved up to this point, you might say this was quite ridiculous, and I’d now agree with you! However, rewind back to the start of my life.
A child born with really bad eye sight who, before the age of 14 had suffered countless pairs of really bad NHS and 70’s style glasses with huge magnification – my Mum should have gone to SpecSavers! Anyway, this built a belief about myself that I was ugly. Add to that the fact that our family were brought up in a strict religion that excluded us from many of the usual things that "normal" kids did in life, and not only did I believe I was ugly, but also different. Add to that the fact that I was the youngest of 5 children and, I’ve got to confess, the spoilt one who everyone looked after / teased in equal measure, and another belief was “I’m helpless on my own, I need someone to look after me to be okay.”
Now, let’s forward to me as an adult. On the outside, you would see a beautiful, blonde, smiley young woman who laughed and loved life, had lots of friends and had fun. However, behind the facade was the voice of younger Sam who constantly reminded Adult Sam that really she was ugly, different and helpless, despite evidence to the contrary.
Adult Sam was admired by many of the opposite sex, except she couldn’t see it. She was still busy subconsciously listening to her younger voice, the one who believed she was ugly, different etc. So, Adult Sam rarely had the confidence to pursue the men she was really attracted to, she just mostly settled for those who paid her the most attention. This belief does not make for successful relationships!
When Adult Sam decided she wanted to work in London, she was beside herself with excitement. She got a job in the City, met her first love and life was just fabulous BUT then she started to get anxiety and panic attacks. Why? Because she was again subconsciously listening to the voice of younger Sam who was telling her that London was big and SCARY, that being in love was new and SCARY and that she wasn’t capable of dealing with all these changes, really she was helpless and needed looking after - despite the fact that Adult Sam had managed to get the job, get the man and was ecstatically happy thank you very much. (For more on anxiety, see the section on Anxiety & Panic Attacks).
So can you see how we can unconsciously bring the beliefs from our childhood into our adult life and they can wreak chaos without us realising.
These days I’m pleased to say that Adult Sam (that would be me) has worked on challenging that younger voice who told her she was ugly, not good enough and different and is a successful counsellor working with people just like me. Intelligent, outwardly successful people who know the kind of life they WANT to lead, but who find anxiety, stress, lack of confidence and fear are stopping them from getting there.
I now happily work for myself in private practice in my lovely home town of Southend-on-Sea, Essex, doing a job I love and enjoying healthy relationships with the important people in my life. Little Sam’s voice still pops up now and again but I recognise her voice now. I reassure her that she is NOT ugly, different or helpless, that she IS good enough and she quietens down as I carry on moving forward into each new stage of my life.
Take a look at my Facebook Page for inspirational quotes, beautiful photographs and relevant memes.