The Epoch Times Publications ~ Living Page
Ian Hibberson is a humanistic, person-centred counsellor in private as well as corporate practice in
He was educated in Philosophy and Counselling at the
Visit his website at www.hibberson-counselling.co.uk
1. Here comes the sun
Published March 2010
Little darling It's been a long, cold, lonely winter. Little
it feels like years since it's been here”.
Spring is on its way again. Flowers are beginning to shoot and penetrate the surface after a long cold and hard winter underground – waiting patiently to re-enter into the ‘upper world’. Plants that have not completely weathered the storm below ground are beginning in readiness to grow. “The wheel is come full circle, I am here”. Things are of their time and conditions are right. Re-birth!
Flowers and plants, if they could at all, might not characterise their situation this way. Not wanting to seem unduly pre-supposing in speaking for all plants - I imagine the plant’s take on this would be that a period underground is an integral and therefore a no less important and essential part of the life-cycle as a flower ‘concluding’ in a beautiful bloom.
We as human beings strive for the
light. Its attainment, or something along that continuum, is commonly called happiness,
contentment, fulfilment, balance - we strive to be in tune with ourselves and
the world we live in. However, our life situations often force us underground,
lay us low and take us down into a period of uncertainty and apparent cold. We
can feel lifeless, isolated from others and ourselves. We lack the Joie
de vivre that should
reflect the fullness of our existence.
Clients, towards the end of counselling, will often mention that, painful though it was, they have come to gain an understanding and acceptance of
the ‘cruel winter months’ as being a necessary pre-condition for coming out the other side. This is also accompanied by an underlying realisation that,
contrary to appearance, positive movement was in fact present and that movement can often feel dormant because it is so incremental.
In counselling it is the role of the counsellor to facilitate creation of the right conditions to enable the client to begin to realise the possibility of
re-emergence from the dark and uncertainty. This hope, initially located on the periphery of awareness is drawn intuitively towards the light.
The corollary to the plant allegory, then, is that we ought, perhaps, to learn to take a more amenable and accepting prognosis towards what
the psychological winter might represent or symbolise. This perspective allows the darkness in as an integral and no less important part of our growth
and therefore essential for signalling change and making ready for the light.
2. Sea Journeys
is nothing more enticing, disenchanting and enslaving than the life at sea”.
Clients very often find themselves in a place and wonder just how they got there. In a reversal of the nature of things it is as if they have suddenly
woken up and found themselves in a bad dream. What did I miss, they ask themselves? It is as though we take leave of our senses, begin to
wade out into the shallows and without noticing the danger (or ignoring it) we begin a leisurely swim out into deeper waters. The sky then darkens
and the sea begins to storm up around us. But still we swim on. It is usually only after many such storms that we wake up – lost at sea and very far
It is just this “lost at sea” feeling, however, that often signals the coming of change and presents us with an opportunity to take stock and to begin
to wonder how we can get back to dry land. A central feature of counselling is the challenge to somehow turn a negative into a positive, to “turn it around”.
Ok, you are lost at sea – what resources do you have at your disposal? Maybe there is a lull in the storm – you spot something – the idea that maybe
you can clamber on to your own “lift raft” might be a useful one. You look around and begin to wonder which way the land lies. You may even try
to relive the process of how you got here in an attempt to trace your way back. Very often, though, the “way back” is not the route you will take to
return to land. In fact there is no way back as such – actually it is the way forward.
A different route, then, is required, one where you begin to examine yourself and the things you have embraced as guiding lights. Some of these
things will be useful as you make the “turn around” whilst some will have to be respectfully left behind and experienced as loss.
Through counselling, we can learn to trust that our own resources and judgements are reliable and that we can lead ourselves back to land.
We then start to get a clearer sense of which direction our values lie in and begin to go with that flow.
As we draw closer to terra firma things may look unfamiliar. This certainly isn’t the place you leisurely waded out from at the beginning.
Yet, maybe there is a freshness and honesty about this unfamiliarity, a newness that signals life can be lived in a different, less damaging and
more meaningful way with regard to yourself and others.
The relationship you have with yourself may have many such sea journeys and turn arounds, hopefully not all of them raging, tempestuous ones.
It may well be, that the fundamental turn-around of negative into positive will eventually lead us to a clearer idea of which is land and which is
the sea in the first place. This may well give us the good judgement to pause and step back.
3. Life Stories
“The best vantage point for understanding behaviour is from the internal frame of reference of the individual himself.”Carl Rogers: Client Centred Therapy
It is an old adage that everyone has at least one good book in them – an autobiography perhaps – a life story. Each of us has a story to tell and
a journey to be made and it’s just like this in counselling – the client comes to tell their personal story and by telling it, they can find more clarity and
effect a change.
The client begins to recount her story – and as it unfolds, it is re-lived. As the pages are turned and she begins to ‘write’ and to experience, she
feels and gets to know her own life more fully. A virtual book that spans the distant past is now being written and its pages are filling up one by
one right into the present moment. Each client has their story. These stories are not short pulpy throwaway vignettes but massive epics that, given their
true weighting, can take on colossal proportions. What, within the counselling room, can be more important than an individual’s life?
Trials, tribulations, bitter disappointment, joy and elation, laughter, tears and pain all come together and play their parts.
If we are experts on anything it is our own personal narratives, our individual journeys that we can speak most authoritatively about.
As a counsellor I accompany my client on this journey – I am listener, confidante and fellow traveller. You can say not only how you feel
but how you really feel. By focussing and externalising your narrative, you can have your ‘internal frame of reference’ listened to without its being judged.
In this way you can “get it out”, release its energy and create some inner space, some room to breathe. From here different possibilities
can be explored, different endings imagined. As a counsellor I try to get a feel for the emotional and psychological landscape the client is describing
and to support the changes they themselves wish to make. I look to facilitating the nascent recognition that they are their own authority, their own expert.
I try to help them trust and value their own judgements.
The book then begins to take on a different shape. It’s not that the book gets re-written in its entirety – after all, the past is the past and cannot be
changed – but our perspective on the past can be changed. The onward journey can perhaps then begin to move to new horizons and the perceived
‘inevitability’ of the ending may not have to be a foregone conclusion.
4. Older young people
Published February 2010
After five years service I have moved on from my voluntary
position as one of Age Concern’s (
Age Concern Nottingham provides a free counselling service for the over sixties. The general ethos and vision behind Age Concern is that older
people should have access to the same opportunities as everyone else in society, that their contributions be valued and their voices be listened to.
Every branch of Age Concern does not have a counselling service and so is not
It is an area of counselling that perhaps doesn’t automatically lend itself in our minds as being commonplace or at least on an equal footing with
other service user groups. The over sixties would have grown up at a time when counselling would have been largely unheard of and in the main
almost certainly stigmatised. They would have also grown up at a time when people didn’t tend to talk as openly about their problems.
Steven talked a lot about loss. Loss of his diminishing independence and autonomy, distance of mother and father and siblings, loss of friends,
the loss of his partner of some twenty years and the gradual loss of himself – ‘the old Steven’. He felt that his world was shrinking and eroding
away at his options and that the things younger, and more able bodied people take for granted were becoming less and less available to him.
I felt a great sense of Steven’s frustration and fear. Steven had a multiple system degenerative disease.
Yet, what stood out over and above Steven’s frustration and anguish and everything he was going through was when he told me
‘I still feel like an eighteen year old inside – I feel as young as I ever did.’ The phrase ‘young at heart’ was never more appropriate and poignant.
Strange, in all my time and experience of seeing client’s at Age Concern this expression of mental vitality in the face of ongoing physical
and mental ‘winding down’ was not an exception but was generally the norm. In spite of all outward appearances this position was stated over again
and again. And here there seemed to be an incongruence between getting old and feeling young. Old or older people can and often do still feel young!
It is then with great privilege that look back up my time at Age Concern and what I have been taught about what it might mean to feel both older
and younger. In the words of the European senior citizens union “If we allow (all of) this to take root in our consciousness, that a person’s real age
is not the one written in his passport but the one expressed in what he does and who he is, then we will have made a great step forward and one
which will be the foundation for a humane and dignified encounter with elderly people in their respective social environments”.
5. Where humanity meets
Published November 2009
Humanistic Person-Centred Counselling was developed by and from the work of Carl Rogers. At the heart of this approach to counselling and psychotherapy is the basic belief that within each human being there resides “...an underlying flow of movement towards the constructive fulfilment of inherent possibilities”.
Counselling swirls and moves like a ghost. It does not have fixed well defined, edges that allow us to predict and point us in the “right” direction
with any sort of validity or premeditated accuracy. As a counsellor you have to learn to be prepared to colour-in over the edges and this goes for the
client too. Children do this quite naturally until they are taught otherwise. The word that comes to mind is creativity.
Clients often enter the therapy room with an expectation that on some level I will “fix it” as if by magic. Well there is magic but the magic comes
about through the power of the dynamic between counsellor and client, and not due to some special power that the counsellor alone possesses.
This inter-relationship is the alchemical vessel. With trust there is an outpouring that fills this vessel – a co-created energy that gives birth to a change.
I have frequently had clients say to me that they don’t know what has happened but that “something” has shifted. As a person-centred counsellor
I attempt to facilitate a co-created situation in the counselling room that optimises trust utilising the core conditions of empathy, positive regard
When all is said and done, though, these are just words. The real work depends on how the counsellor embodies these qualities and how the
client comes to trust and nurture these qualities in themselves. I can explain the change in my client (and in me) in technical counselling terms but
these terms are really only akin to blunt instruments. It is in fact the merging of the underlying energies – and this is the magic – which gives birth to
something new and positive, to the ghost that swirls and moves in its own natural way and finds its own path towards its goal. It ploughs its own
furrow, moves at its own pace and links into something ineffable.
The power of the relationship, then, is what is paramount and called into prominent and therapeutic existence during counselling.
It is in fact what we call humanity – is it not…? Humanity, it seems, cannot be called to attention out of some isolated solipsist position but
is manifested through the other.
As a counsellor I very often feel “as good as my last client”. When someone walks through my door it is with concern and caution that I hope I
shall be able to locate within myself the place where I need to be for this individual, this person, this fellow human being. In finding this place,
a rendezvous below the words where our energies meet, the constructs fall away. We are then left with a connection, a relationship – a location
where we both meet our humanity and where healing can begin.
6. New Years resolution anyone?
Published January 2010
For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"
The New Year is a symbolic time for most people - a time for celebration, a time for seeing out the old and a time for welcoming in the new.
A time for change and a time for, dare I say it, New Years resolutions. We draw a line under some of the old ways and things and look towards
bringing in something new and different into our lives. We embrace the idea of a New Year with a strengthened resolve and an optimism that is
equal to what the coming of a New Year promises to bring. Fortified by the prospect of a pristine New Year we resolve to make a change.
New Year is a time when we take a look at the year behind us and determine to make a few changes or to make a bigger effort to counter some
of the things we don’t like about our lives. A time for an early psychological spring-clean or as one friend put it, to engage with the
‘psychological clutter monster’. It maybe that the pearls of wisdom were not what they seemed and turned out to be broken necklaces.
It is perhaps our hope to bring in and engage with a truer and more authentic message and way of living with ourselves - In short to live
happier and more fulfilling lives.
To this end we make a commitment to resolve to embrace something more improved within us and to access the will power or resolve to
bring this about. Complimenting the resolve toward the new is the idea that we resolve to let something go. The embracing of the accompanying
loss enables us to create a space for the new to move into so we can create new direction and focus and begin to talk about ourselves in a different way.
So in some important and significant sense “.. last years words belong to last years language and next year's words await another voice”.
And so it is with counselling. Clients come looking for another voice- a voice that sounds more authentic to ones inner sense of self.
The seed of resolve can begin to lead us away from last year’s words and ways and begin to grow and move towards a new language
that heralds a fresh and renewed commitment to oneself and a different way to be in the world. We can begin to experience our voice and
presence in the world with a more positive voice – a voice that speaks with our own individual distinctness. Perhaps the most single important
resolve with regard to counselling is the one that a potential client makes is the one to decide to come to counselling in the first place.
This resolve is not dissimilar to the resolve associated with New Years resolutions. We make a commitment and resolve to make an
end to the old ways and to enter into a new and better time ”.. and to make an end is to make a beginning”.
The time that my journey takes is long ...
and the way of it long
I came out on the chariot of the first
gleam of light, and pursued my voyage
through the wildernesses of worlds
leaving my track on many a star and planet.
It is the most distant course that
comes nearest to thy self, and that
training is the most intricate which
leads to the utter simplicity of a tune.
The traveller has to knock at every
alien door to come to his own, and one
has to wander through all the outer
worlds to reach the inner most shrine at the end.
My eyes strayed far and wide before
I shut them and said “Here art thou!”
The question and the cry “Oh where?”
melt into a thousand streams and deluge the world
with the flood of the assurance “I am!”
Rabindranath Tagore - From Gitanjali