Sometime I notice differences between being a therapist in Aberdeen vs a therapist in Dundee. Clients from the latter (not all) often action change more quickly than clients (not all) from the former. I wonder whether there might be something underlying that?
I recently went to hear Pauline Sanderson speak. She’s an adventurer who, with 6 others back in 2006, completed a cycle of 8150 miles, starting at the Dead Sea in Jordan and continuing on through Syria, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India and Nepal to Tibet. As if that wasn’t character building enough, the team then traded in their cycling gear for climbing equipment and over the next 4 weeks summited Mount Everest. They were the first team in history to complete the world’s longest climb (8,430 meters from the Dead Sea to the peak of Everest).
One of the first questions Sanderson asked us all was – ‘what’s the no. 1 thing that stops most people fulfilling their purpose?’. Answers like, money, fear and family commitments were offered up and we were told that each was somewhere on the list, but not at the top. Surprisingly (to me) Sanderson revealed: ‘the no.1 reason we don’t reach our dreams is: too much comfort’.
That triggered a whole number of connecting thoughts for me.
When I trained as a Human Given’s Therapist back in 2011 I remember Joe Griffin, the co-founder of the institute, being asked ‘is there a theme that runs through your toughest cases over the decades you’ve been a therapist?.’ The room fully expected to hear that ‘addiction, relationships, or depression’ might be most difficult to treat. But no, again a surprise response (for me) from Griffin was ‘my hardest cases almost always involve: entitlement’.
And this theme has been borne out over and over again in my own practice; clients from privileged backgrounds, raised from childhood to expect the world to conform to their expectations, over time, when that doesn’t materialise, can turn to drink, drugs or depression in response. When they seek out help, strategies for change agreed inside a session prompt little or no change because these clients have an extraordinarily complex web of ‘reasons why not’ and ‘here’s why that wouldn’t work for me’.
To some extent the same applies to women or men who have experienced comfort for an extended amount of time in later life – they’re financially sound, in defined relationships, reasonably physically healthy – yet super-unmotivated. They’re often clear about what they’d like to see be different in the future (extended travelling, new career, relationship changes, charitable work, more learning) but are fearful of taking the first step. Over months and years of compromising they experience increasing frustration. This can then show through excessive drinking, smoking, exercise, affairs, gambling, comparison with others (at work, school, with wealth or fitness), over-focussing on children or partner, big reactions to seemingly small things (re-decorating again!), apparently constantly super-busy – the list is endless.
In Human Givens therapy, there are 14 emotional health factors that a therapist will measure with every client they work with. One of the questions on this initial audit is: ‘Are you being mentally and/or physically stretched in ways which give you a sense that life is meaningful’. It’s this one response that I’m now becoming super-aware of – not just for my clients but in my own life too (we’re all work’s in progress).
The questions I’m now asking myself are: ‘Am I using my present comfort to excuse me taking risks’; ‘Is it really true that other people are benefitting from me staying as I am?’; ‘Could doing nothing actually be more damaging that doing something’: ‘What am I most scared of … and what if I go ahead and start that thing anyway’?
What would your answers be? And if you’re interest in the full 14-question emotional audit -just get in touch.