I was quite amazed by the first comment reacting to last week’s blog. The person who left the comment was apparently “astonished” and “horrified” and just for good measure actually came across as a bit “Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells”! My amazement was quite strictly down to the fact that a double-standard was occurring and I am perhaps naive enough to believe in this day and age, we should really be past all that.
The commenter was “appalled” that my guest was so upfront and honest about his wife’s tendency to physically and verbally abuse him. Like it doesn’t ever happen? Like, in truth, “only women bleed”? Not true. Fact. Many, many men are abused by their wives and I suspect many of them are too embarrassed to say much about it. But does that mean it doesn’t happen? Of course not. The person who commented had only a few weeks previously written a fairly hefty diatribe about her ex-husband in her own blog but criticised Mennard (who uses a nom de plume when blogging) for placing his wife in the public domain. It was therefore “okay” for her to say the most loveless things about her ex-husband (without his express permission, I should imagine) but NOT okay for Mennard to write honestly about his domestic situation maintaining an acceptance of and love for his wife throughout.
My blog attracts a very slim (but hugely appreciated!) readership. Mennard’s blog has not been splashed across the front page of The Sun. I do so love to keep things in proportion!
So, why am I so anti-counselling? I feel that throughout life things happen to us – nobody leads a completely carefree existence. Nobody. We have choices about how we deal with the “ess-aitch-one-tee” that is inevitably thrown at us. We can keep our own counsel; we can talk to our friends; we can talk to a stranger – ultimately we still have to continue, don’t we? For the most part, probably as I’m only child and I didn’t get married until I was 38 years old, I’m fairly used to keeping my own counsel – although, of course, I chat to friends about my life and in so doing discuss problems I’m encountering. Would talking to a stranger help me? I don’t think so!
I married into a family of counsellors ... probing, nosey, controlling, egotistical counsellors. If I moved at less than 30 miles an hour my sainted mother-in-law would stop me and advise me – whether I wished to be advised or not. She died a few years ago now but her probing and controlling tentacles do sometimes appear to reach beyond the grave!
Not all that long ago, DH decided that as we’d reached an impasse regarding a financial matter, we should go to counselling. We spent a fortune on reaching no solution whatsoever. DH, who had wanted to attend the counselling sessions, got nothing from them at all. I, on the other hand, seemed to “appeal” to the counsellor who armed me with leaflets, ‘phone numbers and advice to become a counsellor myself. I work from home, I own my own business and I am privileged in my time being my own – so I thought, why not?
I enrolled on an Introductory Course and from the outset was quite bemused that most people who were on it were either card carrying heroin addicts or people who were “earning” their job seekers’ allowances. None of them - apart from me (just call me Methuselah!) were anywhere near the age of 40. I didn’t see much evidence of their own life management skills coming to the fore in what appeared to me, to be facile role playing games using concepts so simple that I struggled with boredom.
The tutor (a suppressed thespian if ever there was one) told us over and over again about how a counsellor should paraphrase and repeat back to the person they are counselling what has just been said and how to ask an open-ended question. I thought I might be going mad. Why were my fellow attendees finding it so hard to do what I do as second nature? If I want someone to tell me about themselves, of course I ask open-ended questions. But if they don’t want to tell me about themselves, I’m not presumptuous enough to pursue them relentlessly about it until they do. It’s – after all – their business and not mine. I got out before I started to criticise the damaged people whose lives were imperfect but who believed that they could help others with damaged, imperfect lives. I expect they’ll gain their counselling qualifications and I hope they can help other people because I can’t – not in that way, at any rate.
I only truly have the right to manage my own life – not someone else’s. I’m a Mum and - of course – I have a duty of love and care to be responsible for my son until he’s old enough to be responsible for himself. Do I do that in a controlling way or do we discuss the best ways to go about things? I’m a forceful personality – I could oh, SO easily run his life for him – but would that be good for him? No. We discuss. Sometimes we argue. But we reach agreement on ways ahead that are right for us both and more importantly, he’s learning how to make decisions for himself.
I am not the perfect wife (I’m a sulker, an ingrate and on occasion, a plate-thrower). I’m not the perfect mother either but my little family unit muddles through. We don’t hold back on how we feel – be those feelings good or bad. We’re open with each other as much as we possibly can be. Would family counselling benefit us? I don’t think so.
If I have something on my mind, I write about it – and if it’s still on my mind, I write some more about it. Not everyone can or indeed wants to write to express themselves. There are times when I don’t. I haven’t come across a problem yet that can’t be solved by me or by me in conjunction with those closest to me. And there’s always a stomp across the Common with my dogs to allow me to let off steam – which is something I quite often have to do. The dogs don’t mind however much I rant!
Counselling – to either dole it out to someone else – or to be on the receiving end of it – is categorically NOT FOR ME.