Finished reading the book “More Than A Chat”, felt its a really good book.
I realize that there are many perspective to Counseling. People’s conception of it.
In-fact if you noticed, some of my previous TOTD is from the same book as well.
Happen to pick out one story that I do think is pretty applicable in my life, and I wanna share it here.
Do drop by at the National Library or enquire with the REACH Family Services Centre on how to obtain the book.
Story 7 – A New Lens
“You become what you think about.” – Earl Nightingale
More Than A Chat: Real-life Accounts of Lives Empowered through Counselling, REACH Community Services Society
Stepping off the escalator that carried throngs of commuters out of the MRT station, Jit Meng found himself wedged in the midst of weekend shoppers sauntering up and down the makeshift covered walkway. A couple, deep in conversation, was exchanging intimate gestures as they walked past. A group of young girls was chirping away gleefully, breaking out in occasional raucous laughter. Lost in the crowd, Jit Meng was pierced with the familiar jab of loneliness, an old acquaintance that had plagued him for most of his life. However, not too long ago, he had learnt a new way of relating to this acquaintance. He remained himself of the intimate friendship and kinship he was privileged to have.
“It is completely fine to be alone,” he reassured himself.
At home in the crowd, he strode on with lightness, making his way leisurely towards a shopping mall. His gaze then fell on a girl sitting on her father’s shoulders. He involuntarily greeted her with a smile and the girl returned his smile with a beam of delight. A flush of warm feeling filled his heart. Yes, he could relish in the good things the world offered and express gratitude for the good things in his life once again. But his countenance and outlook were not like this one year ago when his mind had been filled with only negative thoughts.
Negative Thoughts and Feelings
Jit Meng had just returned to Singapore after spending three years furthering his studies in Canada. He was 28. He found a job as a customer service executive in an information technology company. Though gainfully employed and surrounded by supportive parents, he felt the world he lived in was hostile, where evil seemed to triumph over good. Injustice reigned in him as he pondered over why life did not deal him the fair share of good things he rightly deserved. Questions about why others seemed to have it all but not him loomed over his head. He was cynical about the seemingly good, and pessimistic about what life had to offer. The negativity was so deep-seated that he was not even aware that it was eating him away.
One morning, Jit Meng woke up feeling dejected. He was filled with dread at the thought of going to work, but his sense of responsibility forced him out of bed. As part of his morning ritual, he tuned in to the news on the television. The newscaster was reporting on the development of the Iraq war. Unconscious to himself, he made a cynical remark about the course of actions that was taking place in Iraq.
His mother caught his remark and snorted, “Stop grumbling!”
He was taken aback by his mum’s response for it was unusual for her to snap at him. He had grown up in an environment full of positive assurances and affirmation from his parents. Hardly did he hear his parents complain or grumble about life. They were always loving towards each other and to him. There were few arguments and quarrels at home. He wondered why what was, in his opinion, a fact, could trigger such a reaction from his mother.
The incident prompted him to reflect on his life. In retrospect, he realised that it was his tone of voice that had set off his mother’s reaction. There was a deep negativity underlying his remarks. Where did this negativity come from? As he began to trace the theme of negativity in his life, it occurred to him that he had been beset with many negative thoughts and feelings since his return from Canada. Inadvertently, his negativity had also rubbed off onto his parents, as they mirrored his grumbling and griping. He did not like his negativity, and how it was affecting his world-view and relationship with others. It was then that it dawned upon him that he needed help to overcome his negativity.
The thought of consulting a counsellor crossed Jit Meng’s mind. The first time he had seen a counsellor was during his stay in Canada, He had been distressed over the demands of studies and the strain in his relationship with his aunt with whom he was staying in Canada. Prompted by his grandmother who knew about his distress, he sought the help of a school counsellor to unravel his emotional tussles. As he had had a pleasant experience at the counselling sessions then, he thought a counsellor might be able to help him again. Thus began his search for a professional counsellor, and his road to self-discovery and personal growth.
Accepting Who He Is
In the counselling room, Jit Meng shared openly with the counsellor about his negativity and his dislike of it.
“When did you first experience the negative thoughts and feelings?” the counsellor asked.
The question prompted him to delve deep into his memory bank to recall incidents when he first experienced the negativity. He then realised that his negative thoughts and feelings were not recent. They could be traced back to his younger days. He used to compare himself with his classmates in high school who seemed to have it all. They fared better in studies, excelled in sports and were popular amongst schoolmates. He was envious of them and suffered a blow in his self-esteem.
“But I think I experienced the most negativity during the three years when I was staying with my aunt in Canada,” he said thoughtfully.
Aunty Lisa was pursuing a doctorate at a local university and lived together with a friend. She had kindly agreed to provide lodging for him while he furthered his studies in Canada. This was then Jit Meng saw his aunt’s temperamental and cynical side. Often, he would be greeted by his aunt’s flustered or agitated countenance when he returned home from school. At the same time, he was feeling uncomfortable about the seemingly enmeshed relationship between Aunty Lisa and her friend. They had frequent heated arguments which left them both embittered and angry. Occasionally, Aunty Lisa and her friend would even snap at him and hurl hurtful words his way. Grousing and griping were commonly heard in the house. To be fair, there were happy occasions too, such as whenever they dined out together. However, he was emotionally upset by his aunt’s unpredictable mood swings. For three years, he suffered silently under the tyranny of his aunt. He could not retaliate since he was at the receiving end of her charity.
The counsellor acknowledged that much of his negativity had roots in his past encounters with his aunt. The counsellor helped him uncover the cause of his negativity. Outwardly, he was grumbling and griping but inwardly, he was hurt and frustrated. He obviously did not like his negativity and felt awful about his reactions. He was doubting himself and wondering if he was wrong to feel the way he felt.
“Sounds like you are upset with yourself for being so negative and you don’t like it. You feel lousy that the negativity seems to eat into you.” the counsellor reflected.
“You are right. I am becoming like my aunt. I didn’t like the fact that I am becoming such a negative person,” Jit Meng sighed.
“Jit Meng, you have said and done things that express your negativity. This is what you do, not who you are.”
The counsellor then helped Jit Meng to separate who he was from what he did. His behaviour might be unbecoming but it did not diminish who he was. He needed to learn to extend grace and understanding to others, and to himself. Being the perfectionist he was, he had to learn not to be so hard on himself while, at the same time, recognise that he could continue to grow in inner congruence and learn to express and respond rather than to react. The process helped him to accept who he was.
After the first counselling session, Jit Meng began to apply the insights he gleaned. As he changed his thoughts, he immediately noticed a change in his attitude. He no longer griped in front of his parents and was not as quick-tempered as before. His relationship with his parents started to improve. He followed his counsellor’s suggestions and read books to discover more about the strengths and weaknesses of his temperament and personality. He learnt that, being melancholic, he was more inclined to hold a pessimistic outlook of life and exhibit perfectionist traits. These revelations helped Jit Meng to accept and appreciate his strengths and show grace towards his weaknesses. He acknowledged that he could continue to grow.
Aloneness and Loneliness
Shortly after he began to overcome his negativity, he came in touch with his loneliness. He realised that he spent most of his days alone. Outside of his working hours, he was home most of the time. There were days when he would spend most of his waking hours working on his animation projects. Though he had a few close friends in whom he could confide, his social network was actually rather small. This emotional turmoil prompted Jit Meng to make another appointment with the counsellor. As he shared his feelings of loneliness, the counsellor gently asked, “Are there any benefits to being alone?”
There and then, Jit Meng realised that he did indeed enjoy being alone, as the time and space allowed him to do the things he wanted to do. Through her questioning, the counsellor helped him uncover his needs for aloneness and to separate that from the feeling of loneliness. Though he might feel lonely, he could also reap the benefits of being alone. The counsellor proposed that Jit Meng take practical steps to expand his social network, such as setting aside one weekday night with a close friend or doing things together with friends instead of by himself. An introvert, he would need time alone to recharge, but an appropriate level of social connection was also important. However, excessive extroversion would also tire him out. Thus, he needed to balance his needs for solitude and social connection.
Experiencing Personal Growth
It has been a year since Jit Meng first saw the counsellor. He has exprienced much growth since then. The process of counselling offered him new insights and perspectives to his emotional issues, helped unravel the root issues and change his thoughts and attitudes. It is as if he has developed a new lens through which to look at himself and the world. He is now contented and grateful for what life has bestowed on him. He enjoys his time alone, reading, swimming and working on animation projects. He cherishes fellowship with his family, close friends and community group in church. Asked why he turned to counselling in the first place since counselling has a negative connotation in our society, he quoted from a sermon he heard, “A desperate man is not a self-conscious person.” So the desperate cries of his heart compelled him to seek counselling. He is certainly glad that his cries were heard and stilled through the process of counselling.
Thanks for coming by~