As It Is or As I Am – the Art of Becoming

A journey … towards … being

Tag Archives: congruence

The Art of Asking, Changing and Becoming Me

I love having a bath. At least, usually, once a week I take a bath. Generally I soak for at least an hour. During which I may read, meditate, ponder, dream, imagine, pray, visualise, compose poetry. Being secluded brings more ideas and feelings, than come at other times. Which is where a large part of this entry comes from.

I’ve not blogged very frequently the past year or so. A while ago I changed the blog title thinking it would prompt more entries. It has had the opposite result. There have been things to blog, yet as they didn’t seem directly related to counselling I’ve not made them. So today I’m changing the blog title again. Now it will simply be “The Art of Becoming Me – Neil”. Or perhaps, “The Art of Becoming Me”, or maybe “The Art of Becoming Neil”? Or even “The Art of Becoming… ”

The idea being the door is open to blog about anything, not feeling limited to purely counselling matters.

There is always though an overlap. Being a person-centred counsellor embraces all I am. Being more open about everything, is consistent with the concept of congruence, one of the three primary qualities of a person-centred counsellor – unconditional positive regard, empathy and congruence – ideals I aspire to each day. Aspire to, yet no doubt never completely reach. A line from Amanda Palmer’s book “The Art of Asking”, my bath reading, fits here, about the purpose of life being for:


I didn’t take note, at the time of reading. Note taking not too easy in the bath 😇 If I later find it I’ll edit this post to add an exact quote here.

A lot of thoughts have risen from the book. Recommend it.


Can the essence of the book be summed up in a word? Perhaps, connection is one word I’d choose. Another, vulnerability. Trust and faith are others. And of course, asking:

Some days it’s your turn to ask
“Some days it’s your turn to be asked

     “Asking for help requires authenticity, and vulnerability.
     Those who ask without fear learn to say two things, with or without words, to those they are facing:
     I deserve to ask
     You are welcome to say no.
     Because the ask that is conditional cannot be a gift.”

Some other words or phrases that stand out for me:

“Conditional love is:
     I will only love you if you love me.
     Unconditional love is:
     I will love you even if you do not love me.
     It’s really easy to love passing strangers unconditionally.
     They demand nothing of you.
     It is really hard to love people unconditionally when they can hurt you.”

“You can never give people what they want, Anthony said.
     What do you mean?
     We were lying by the side of Walden Pond in Concord, two towns from Lexington, where we’d crested a ritual of ambling around the circumference of the water, then lazing under the trees with a picnic for a nice long grok.
     People always want something from you, he said. Your time. Your love. Your money. For you to agree with them and their politics, their point of view. And you can’t ever give them what they want. But you —–
     That’s a dreary worldview.
     Let me finish clown. You can’t ever give people what they want. But you can give them something else. You can give them empathy. You can give them understanding. And that’s a lot, and enough to give.

On their own the words quoted above may not mean much. Read the book and hopefully they will. You will no doubt take different things from it than I did. And that is okay. And perhaps that’s another principle, idea, concept, of the book – difference is okay.

Not everyone will like Amanda’s writing style. If you have read and valued Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly”, then the ideas in “The Art of Asking” should resonate with you.


ACC (Association of Christian Counsellors) Summer School 2014

Elim conference centreThursday evening arrived at the Elim Conference Centre, nestled in the heart of the Malvern Hills. Reason being there to help a friend teach Focusing-oriented therapy Friday to Sunday, inclusive. This was part of the ACC (Association of Christian Counsellors) Summer School 2014.

I was there supporting John Threadgold. The teaching went well. Great feedback was received at the end of the course. As it was a Christian environment I was a little concerned about my being as a Latter-day Saint. The organisers knew and were happy with that, with the proviso that I did not use the opportunity to “proselyte” in any way. Such a stance is only to be expected, a request though not necessary for myself, as there is nor would be a feeling to do so, as a counsellor it would be unethical to use any similar environment to do so.

The course had six people on (five women and one man, consisting of one married couple)  from various parts of the UK.

So we come to Saturday evening, following two days of intense teaching and experiential work, it was thought a “cheese and wine” evening to relax a bit would be in order.  I turned up with John (a Quaker), having brought  some fruit juice.  The question inevitably came: “What Church do you go to?” My answer “The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons.” Greeted by a “Wow” – a friendly wow, not an offensive one. Then went on to have some great conversations with the man, who was a minister. I’m not quite sure if he was once a lay minister or a full time one, but he now working in “regular” employment. Unlike past times, this was a very welcoming experiencing. So much so the next day, Sunday, attended the worship service, held after breakfast. Having planned to go from arriving, the evening experience cemented that decision.

It was great. After a brief introduction,  followed by a prayer, we started singing, being led by a guitar playing man, with all the words displayed on an overhead projector.  Not just the one opening hymn, we would usually have in an LDS Sacrament service, but three. The meeting was then open for anyone to pray out loud. I suppose this would be similar to sharing of testimonies on a Fast sunday, though not for so long. Communion was then available. Four people (two women, two men) stood at the four corners of the room to distribute it. This was said to be a practical solution, rather than the usual passing it down the rows, was due to the type of room the meeting was held in. Bread was broken from a loaf in front of those who approached them, which included myself. And before anyone goes off about this bring disrespectful, I was invited to do so. After communion, further singing, a wonderful 20 minute sermon based around Peter walking on the water. Interesting comparison to most talks in an LDS Sacrament meeting, the only quotes were from the scriptures, whereas additionally we would usually throw in one or two quotes of the Brethren. The meeting was concluded with more singing, then a prayer. An hour in total. Wonderful. Anything to learn? I think the simplicity was wonderful.







“If it irritates you, perhaps you might prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to show you why”


Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability

Last week I posted the video of Brené Brown: Listening to shame, saying I would post her other video, on vulnerability. As mentioned this video was recorded in 2010, whereas the “shame” one was recorded earlier this year. So here it is:

Interestingly it was also posted on the following person-centred forum:

However, I first came across it from a Linkedin group:

I find both videos enlightening, to the extent that last week I purchased Brené’s book: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to be and Embrace Who You are. This can be a very scary thing to do. In a short summary, it is having empathy, unconditional positive regard and congruence toward and for ourselves. In other words accepting and loving who we are. Not necessarily being content but acknowledging where we are and NOT destroying ourselves because we’re not perfect. For many, many people this can be very hard to do, particularly for members of the LDS Church, with an ideal of being perfect. This is not the place for a theological discussion on the subject, expect perhaps to say that while there may be a goal for perfection, it is often sought inappropriately, leaving people with immense guilt and stress which is avoidable. For me this comes back to Carl Rogers statement, shown on the right and side of this page: “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

Brené’s book gives ideas on how to come to terms with where we are. An interesting part is her take on love:

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection. Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them—we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed, and rare.” (bold highlight added by myself).

The question, for me, that seems to flow through the book, so far, is: how can I love you, if I do not really love myself? Also, how I can really accept your love, if I do not love myself?

Post edited at 18:30 GMT.

Brené Brown: Listening to shame

Brené Brown gave  a TED talk, in December 2010 titled: The power of vulnerability.  In March 2012 she gave the talk embedded above: Listening to shame.  Both are great. for me the talk above is more powerful.  It is 20 minutes long, though very, very, very (enough very’s there :)) worth your time. Particularly to anyone having a struggle with any feelings of guilt and / or shame. I would attempt to outline the talk more but feel that would deter from her message.  Take the time!!  I’ll post her previous talk another day.

New blog title …

Felt to change the title of my blog today.  It now makes more obvious my membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Such membership was always available in the “About me” page, so whilst never hidden, it is now more open.  Why the change?  That I cannot really put an explanation, thought or feeling to at the moment.  Perhaps it will spark more interest?  Perhaps not.  Perhaps the opposite?

Time to state again that this blog is about me, not any clients I see, whoever they are or may be.  Part of me is being a member of the LDS Church, so is that where the title change comes from, a desire to show more openly to the counselling world and others who may read this blog that I am a member of said Church?  Should it matter to make such known?  From much of the Press recently about Mitt Romney it would seem some think it does matter.  Whilst the blog is about me, mainly in connection to person-centred counselling, other aspects of my life no doubt come through.  Now a main part openly does.

Of course this then raises the question of “parts”.  What is a part? Do all the parts add together to make a sum great than the individual parts?  Can we really have parts or roles?  As mentioned else where here, being a person-centred counsellor is not a role that can be put on and off as one enters or leaves the counselling room.  So being  a member of the LDS Church is not something that can be put on or off as one enters or leaves the chapel each Sunday.  Then comes the question of what does it mean to be LDS?  Perhaps another day with ample time to write, I’ll answer what it mean to me to be LDS.  A quick, very short answer is being congruent, having empathy, and unconditional positive regard for all (qualities vital for a person-centred counsellor) – being filled with love.

“Dependency and the Person-Centred Approach”

Months ago I said I’d answer this question – so answer it I will, though it will be from my own perspective as from my reading, browsing and searching have not yet discovered much that relates to the subject.  Apart from the quote to the right from Brian Thorne: “If therapy has been successful, clients will also have learned how to be their own therapist“.  The implication I take is that is you no longer need a therapist, there is no dependency.  That of course is the ultimate aim, hopefully the end result of any counselling that has taken place.  Before that is reached there will no doubt be some type of dependency.   Ideally there should be none, as any relationship between a person-centred counsellor and client should be as equal as possible.  There will no doubt be some inequality, but that should be very limited. Through the attributes of acceptance, empathy and congruence the client will hopefully see the counsellor not as an expert or the expert, in knowing what the client should do or be, but as someone who is there to assist the client in getting to know them self more, to discover things that had either been deliberately, or unconsciously hidden. The object being to come to terms with who they were, who they are now and who they wish to be, recognising that we are never static in our being, that “The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction not a destination.”  This links for me with another statement from Carl Rogers: “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”  As I come to understand where I have come from, where I am, then I can more powerfully change my future, if I wish to.

Reading this over, it probably doesn’t really answer the question asked.  Ah, well … maybe next time 🙂
As always, any thoughts or comments appreciated (or further questions 🙂 ).

The Power of Being Human in Counselling and Psychotherapy – A Seminar with Professors Brian Thorne and Dave Mearns

On Saturday, the 16th April attended the above seminar. Have read/studied many of their books it was great to sit with them in person and listen to them discourse together.  Even had the opportunity to meet them after.  Brian Thorne signed three books I purchased whilst there.  Is that too much worship status given him, to want his signature?

It’s difficult now to recall with detail all that was said – it did last from 09:30 until 16:30 with a short lunch break. It did not drag though as some seminars can do.  Time seemed to fly by. All in all, it confirmed my feeling that the person-centred approach to counselling id the one I am more suited to or should that be is more suited to me?  The whole concept of the client knowing what hurts and what needs fixing seems vibrant for me.  Yes, it may take time but the fixing being done by the client, with close  accompaniment by the counsellor, is then more permanent, so that old demons are less likely to come back and haunt later. My notes are at home now, so will add some specific quotes later.

For me one of the key insights and indeed blessing was to see two people with very different approaches able to work together so well. Brian the committed Christian, Dave the commit atheist. And work together, not just for the odd day but, for 36 years.  Acceptance of each other, empathy for each other and congruence shared over that time.

Marriage Gems … love everyday

Some ideas of keeping and increasing love each day for your spouse.  It came from

There maybe those who read this blog who think marriage is not for them.  Would suggest that if you want a relationship with someone marriage is the way to go.  Without the commitment there is a higher chance of a couples splitting up.  Marriage doesn’t guarantee a long-lasting relationship, but it does increase the chances, particularly if both partners are committed to each other and put effort in.

From a person-centred view this may seem a bit too directional.  It is offered for anyone who wishes to use the material.  No compulsion 🙂  Running through the article are the three core principles of person-centred counselling – congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathy.

If a couple can be and  live these qualities their relationship and marriage with be blessed.

“If therapy has been successful, clients will also have learned how to be their own therapist”

The title of this post is a quote from Brian Thorne in chapter 3 of Person-centred Counselling: Therapeutic and Spiritual Dimensions (Counselling & Psychotherapy Series). “If therapy has been successful, clients will also have learned how to be their own therapist” – note the word also in the sentence. This is not the only way to determine if therapy is successful, as only the client can really know that.  It seems to me though one of the key aspects of good therapy or counselling.  Surely, the aim is to help the client help themselves, both in their now and for their future.   To create a dependency on the therapist, either deliberately or otherwise would be cruel.

The paragraph continues: “It seems that when people experience the genuineness of another and a real attentive caring and valuing by that other person, they begin to adopt the same attitude toward themselves. In  short, a person who is cared for begins to feel at a deep level that perhaps she is after all worth caring for. In a similar way, the experience of being on the receiving end of the concentrated listening and the empathic understanding, which characterises the therapist’s response, tends to develop a listening attitude in the client towards herself.  It is as if she gradually becomes less afraid to get in touch with what is going on inside her and dares to listen attentively to her own feelings. With this growing attentiveness, there comes increased self-understanding and a tentative grasp of some of her most central personal meanings. Many clients have told me that, after person-centred therapy, they never lost this ability to treat themselves with respect and to take the risk of listening to what they are experiencing.”

It seems we are not talking of any particular tool or method being taught the client, but the at the change  comes out of the relationship with the counsellor or therapist and the relationship the client develops with themselves.  This is not to say there may be times when a particular tool or method should not be taught.  As Brian also says, in the same chapter: “I suspect that clients who are in the grips of behaviour disorders, such as phobias or obsessive compulsive neuroses, are unlikely to be much helped by person-centred therapy unless, that is, they conceptualise their difficulties as being an outcome of their way of being i n the world.  If, as is often the case, they view their disorder as a disability to be cured, then they are more likely to be rewarded by a visit to the nearest behavioural therapist.”

2nd Term diploma summary

A busy term, leading to changes.  With each evening felt closer to each of the other students.  There were, however, two main turning points.  First was the feedback sessions, which we had to both give and receive.  Giving was the more difficult.  I just didn’t feel I knew enough about each person to say much of worth.  Having gone into the second year of this diploma course I’d only had 6 months of opportunity to get to know the other students, whereas they’d had 18 months to get to know each other.  Of course, the same applied for each of them relative to myself, only having known me for 6 months.

As I persisted feelings came, with words to express them.  There was though one individual whom I could not just get anything.  I confronted a choice – make something up or just agree with what others were saying. As others were sharing their feedback, kept trying to feel for myself. Nothing came. After everyone else had spoken, to keep congruence, I took a deep breath and said something along the lines of: “I’m really sorry, but I don’t feel I know enough to say anything – nothing has come to me”.  What at face value could have been a negative experience, both for the other person and myself, turned into an opening of hearts.  After the feedback had concluded, in the break, I approached the person expressing my apologies for not saying anything of value to her.  There was no bad feelings, just a welcome and appreciation for being honest about my feelings.  The person then shared a great deal with me.  I am convinced had I not been congruent, this sharing would either never have taken place or been delayed by weeks or months.  This experience confirmed to me the need for congruence “with kindness”.

After this experience my feeling is I became gradually more open with the group during PD time.

Receiving feedback was great – must admit to being pleasantly surprised by people’s comments.

We also had a residential weekend, which was a wonderful experience. As I try to isolate one experience or event above another, for me, it was the ad hoc moments that contributed more to my personal development and growth. I recall two occasions when I sat talking with individuals where we each shared more than previously with each other. One in particular started as a general chat about life, slowly moving deeper, then, all of a sudden for me, tears came as I realised something or rather had something reinforced to and about my whole self. Tears of joy I would add 🙂  Wonderful.

Another memorable experience was working in a small group of 4 for a presentation.  It allowed the seeing of different sides of each other.  Unlike working in some groups over the years  there were no egos.  We were all open to each others ideas, feelings and thoughts.  There seemed full acceptance of each other. Yes, of course, there were occasions when someone thought another person’s idea was not the best.  Yet, that was able to be explored and examined.  Because of the acceptance I was able to express congruently my feelings, as were others.  It was a great opportunity to demonstrate Carl Rogers “way of being”, that the core conditions cannot and are not just to be turned on for the counselling room, but are becoming or perhaps have, in varying degrees, become part of my life.

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