Understanding the Counselor: Knowing What We Bring to the Table

When my kids spilled a drink at the table, I used to get so mad! It was super frustrating to me. A few years back, I started to ask, why do I get so mad at that? After all, I have seven kids. It’s kind of part of the deal. In fact, at one point, we had six kids aged seven and under. The odds of drinks being spilled were extremely high. Moreover, if the drink spilled, we could simply clean it up with a towel. It really wouldn’t hurt anything. Why did it bother me so much?

For a long time, I had a hard time figuring that out. I really didn’t know what story I was telling myself. I couldn’t figure it out, but I knew that it was dumb. So, I made the effort to try and not get so mad at spilled drinks. I decided that I would not get angry any longer when drinks were spilled at the table. I would just get a towel and clean up the mess. It was hard. I had to check myself regularly, but I made progress, even though I really didn’t know why I reacted so strongly to these things.

It’s amazing how hard it can be to understand ourselves. It takes a lot of work. Yet, when we try to help others, we are bringing ourselves to the table. Our emotional life will have a strong effect on the way we counsel others.

How does this work out? Let me give a couple of examples. Imagine a strong extrovert, someone who loves to get out there and talk to people. Now, let’s say that someone who is also an extrovert comes and complains about someone who doesn’t want to go out and prefers a lot of quiet and time at home. Without self-consciousness, it’s easy for the extrovert to just join the side of the other extrovert. “I can’t believe people are like that,” he might say. Continue reading “Understanding the Counselor: Knowing What We Bring to the Table”