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Clients sometimes come to therapy to address behaviours they would like to feel more in control of - like drinking, drug-taking, over-working or disordered eating. These can creep up on us over time and start to feel out of control. Addictive behaviours can feel shameful and difficult to talk about with friends or family, and they can increasingly have a negative impact on our daily lives and relationships.
A counsellor can provide a non-judgemental and confidential space to explore some of these issues. Although it's not a quick fix, counselling can offer the opportunity to help with motivation, working out your triggers, how to cope with relapses and learn methods to manage life without resorting to unhelpful habits.
Talking can help get to the roots of why you use certain substances or behaviours to excess and why it feels hard to let go. Your counsellor can help support you along the road to sobriety or just feeling more in control.
Carl Rogers, a founder of the humanistic approach to psychology, said: ‘The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I change' (On Becoming a Person: A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy).
Most clients seek counselling because they feel something is not quite right in their lives, and often they feel that that something is themselves. Exploring their thoughts and feelings, challenging those thoughts which are distorted and unhelpful, can lead to self-acceptance. This is not about escaping responsibility for the parts my clients play in their relationships, rather a self-compassionate understanding of how they came to be who they are. Such an understanding can create lasting, positive change.
Accepting ourselves includes forgiving ourselves, and can free us to fulfil our potential. The writer Maya Angelou wrote: “I don't know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes - it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, 'Well, if I'd known better I'd have done better,' that's all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, 'I'm sorry,' and then you say to yourself, 'I'm sorry.' If we all hold on to the mistake, we can't see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can't see what we're capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one's own self.”
Self-acceptance gives us the freedom to get on with other things, instead of anxiously wishing we were somehow different than who we are.