RCC, Posted on Jan 14, 2023
Story Of A Counselling Journey At Work
“I can’t believe this is happening again!” Josh wailed, “how is it possible that I can’t stay at a job for more than 2 months?” Josh was on the phone with his brother Tom, an accountant in Toronto. Even though he was humiliated about his work experiences, or lack thereof, Josh found comfort in lamenting to his older brother. “How do you do it Tom?”, Josh asked, “I mean you’ve been at the same company for 6 years now, right?”
Tom answered affirmatively.
Josh continued, “How do you not get frustrated with all the red tape, the office politics, the gossip?”
Tom inquired, “Is that what keeps happening to you, Josh? You get frustrated with the work climate?”
“Yeah”, Josh replied, “I just don’t have the same level of patience as you do, I guess. I mean I can’t tolerate it when I see people being used, or when I believe someone’s being passed over. And then there’s all the nepotism! It’s so unfair that friends of friends of someone’s second cousin gets hired over someone who actually has the qualifications!”
Tom asked Josh if he had made these feelings known to his superiors and or to his colleagues. “Of course”, Josh said, “which is why I’m out of work again – I’m that employee that speaks his mind, that doesn’t put up with any crap.”
A lightbulb just went off in Josh’s brain as he realized the answer to the question he had initially posed to Tom. As this realization struck him, he said to Tom, “Obviously, it’s me, isn’t it? I’m the common denominator. I get so angry! I don’t have the ability or desire or something to just suck it up and go with the flow, head in sand, so I speak up and then, guess what? Goodbye Josh!”
“Have you thought about talking through all this with a counsellor, Josh?” Tom asked.
“What? Well, no, I mean I’m not crazy!” retorted Josh.
“No one said anything about crazy, Josh. I went to meet with a therapist myself awhile back to talk through some things that kept coming up for me. Thoughts and emotions that were making it hard for me to concentrate, to be tolerant, to be kind to myself and others.”
“Wow, Tom, I would have never guessed that, you never said anything,” Josh sounded surprised.
“Well I wanted to keep it private but it really helped me Josh, it put al lot of things into perspective for me. I became a much better human – at work and at home. I’m no longer looking at any external aspect of my life to meet all my needs – no job or person can do that – and I’m much more content with who I am”
Tom (not his real name) was my client several years ago. He reached out because he was working overtime, barely giving any time to his partner and young children, and was experiencing anxiety, insomnia, and mood fluctuations. His partner had encouraged him to seek help, to talk things through with a professional before he burnt out. What he realized was that he was a consummate people pleaser, with a tendency towards perfectionism and he learned that he couldn’t keep up with the inner voice that kept telling him to “accomplish, accomplish, accomplish”, no matter what the cost. Together we explored strategies that helped him learn self-compassion, provided insight into the root causes of his tendencies and interventions designed to teach him to recognize and acknowledge his thoughts and feelings without absorbing or reacting to them. It was important for Tom to also learn that none of the emotions that he shied away from or found difficult – guilt, shame, fear, anger, regret – were bad or wrong; they showed up with a message for him which he needed to listen to without judgment and, if there was something he needed to change, in himself or in his environment, he would and could do that.
Counselling therapy is not just for those struggling with diagnosed mental health disorders. It’s a platform that offers perspective, coping strategies, validation, and compassion. It provides an opportunity for changes to take place in one’s attitude and frame of reference. The messages we receive as children have a deep impact on us and we don’t have to come from a “dysfunctional” family to be negatively imprinted by these messages, however well-intended they may have been. We get subtle (or not so subtle) hints about our marks, our appearance, our athletic ability, or lack of, all throughout our lives. Those remarks, made by a well-meaning parent, were likely intended to remind, encourage, cajole, rouse, inspire, or shake us up. And somehow, for some of us more than others, these get internalized and become truths or beliefs. Carried into adulthood, these messages need to be challenged and examined as for their usefulness and benefit. We need to do this (a process called differentiation) without blaming our caregivers or ourselves. And if an individual has experienced something more than the “average” share of negative messages, then there is even more need to process thoughts and feelings with a trained professional counsellor. The effects of trauma, whether big or small, show up in our bodies, our emotions, and our relationships and, for our whole health, we need to address these.