Warmth Empathy Dedication Respect Acceptance and Genuineness .... and exhaustion and tears

So my counsellors course at Lifeline via my parish,  is proceeding nicely.  Sometimes scary, sometimes enthralling, sometimes confusing, sometimes witty, but never ever boring. 

Having survived the Personal Growth portion of the course ..... which is somewhat like walking through a minefield whilst simultaneously having your eyes poked with a fondue fork and as an aside someone hitting you in the chest, I emerged wiser, stronger, more confident, as witty as ever but just with waaaaay less baggage, out the other side.  I also cried ..... the volume would have filled 6 medium sized buckets.  

Now comes the nitty gritty ..... the learning of the skills needed to be a counsellor.  Contrary to popular belief, in the real world, we don't just go out there, grab someone who looks as if they need a helping hand, slam them into a chair, mumble "whatsa matter" and dish out a lot of unsolicited advice, give them a slap on the rump and say "now off you go and smile".  Only now did I realise the hours and work and theory and practice and practice and more theory and more practice and role plays and more role plays that go into moulding us into possible counsellors. 

And this is a no holds barred thing.  You have to lift up your head, speak out, think in your head, think out aloud, share, ponder, comment (even if you feel you may be waaaaay off base), don't worry a qualified counsellor will be there to nudge you and assist you.  Flick, our ever fearless leader and counselling guru, would also remind us that we have to look at the person's feelings, feelings and more feelings.  And at the same time I must remember to listen, whilst keeping my mouth closed and my inner voice still until such time as they are both needed.  This is a skill I am working on .... because man that inner voice is vociferous!!  In between all this we do drink coffee, eat copious amounts of fattening comfort food and chat and laugh.  A lot.  

Now the role play thing .... the first time was scary.  Not Bates Motel / Psycho 3 scary, but the kind of scary that turns a confident, out there, never at a loss for words person into a babbling, unsure, glancing at the counsellor for assistance whilst looking a bit like Bambi in headlights kind of person.  It was hard, we kept forgetting to focus on the feelings, we scrambled around for questions to ask, how to phrase them or how to get them across correctly.  At some stage in the role play I did actually want to slap the person on the rump and say "oh pull yourself together for heavens sake".  But I refrained.  Luckily she was a classmate. 

This week we moved into Empathy.  An area I feel way more comfortable in.  And I think it showed because I behaved way more intelligently.  And the weirdest thing happened ..... when it was time to do work in our little groups, suddenly all the 9 previous hours came rushing out of my mental filing cabinets ... and I knew what to say, and how to phrase it and so the starting bits of skill we have been taught ARE there .... in my sub-conscious, filed away, just like Jorika told me it would be. 

So I know I am going to get the hang of it more and more as we go along .... I mean I learnt how to drive a bicycle once before, and a car ...... at 45 I learnt how to be a Corporate Fundraiser, and that was damn hard.  I learnt more about my parish office and how it functions than ever before.  Okay I never mastered the piano and I suck at singing and I cannot get a souffle' to remain uncollapsed ..... but hey this Counselling thing ..... I am in it heart and soul ...... my determination is frightening because I know I can do this and practice makes perfect. 

So in the meantime, I read my notes over and over, I speak to myself in my head all the time .... am I listening ... or am I just hearing ..... am I giving undivided attention ...... body language ...... what signs do I give off.  So sometimes I find myself like this.  Sit down opposite a friend .... she starts telling me something ..... I relax my arms and body, whilst trying not to look if I am slumping or have a hangover, I then lean forward with an open expression and maintain eye contact, but without, as Sonja would tell me, staring so intently that I freak my friend out.  I say uh huh uh huh regularly, I focus on her feelings, I watch her body language, oh no .... she folded her arms .... I am losing her, Follow follow ... Sonja would say whilst Lucky cheers us on.  I smile, in a sharing you are kind of safe way, without looking like the Joker from Batman ..... and eventually I say ...... "I am sensing that you are excited" ..... to which she replies ..... "I am, this is a damn good cappuccino, but what the hell are you doing?".  Flick would be proud.

So we have about 15 hours of training still before us .... and we will fly and sometimes we will stumble and graze our knees, we will laugh and sometimes, like with me today, all this emotional intensity will be too much and we will cry the buckets full again.  But as my close friend and mentor tells me (and boy I give him reason to have to remind me a lot) ... "be gentle with yourself" ...... and I have to remind myself to breathe, and grow, and sleep!!!  And he helps me to talk through the good and the difficult sessions .... the sounding board and sometimes, poor friend, the emotional punching bag. 

But one day I am going to make a difference to people's lives .... just watch me. I know it is in me somewhere. 

till next time, 
c'est la vie 

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