With a little help from my friends…

If you can’t see any viable options, it is because You can’t see any viable options. That doesn’t mean that someone else or something else can’t. There are several ways to increase your perception of options, however it is important to understand what options are.

An option is a potential action – that is something that you do or don’t do – that will change your upcoming experiences in this universe. Some changes are internal, some are external. Internal changes are designed to change your perceptions of the world, allowing you to observe and take advantage of alternate possibilities to enable more options, while external changes position events to your favour or disfavour.

It is important to understand that opportunities are a mixture of both internal perception and external circumstances. No matter how positive you frame your mind, if the circumstances do not allow for the option you want, then what you want won’t happen. Similarly, no matter how many times the circumstances occur for the option you want, if you do not see it, or can’t move yourself to use it, then what you want won’t happen.

We enter crisis when all of what we know has not worked in solving the problem we have at hand. Crisis allows us to realise that we either have to change in order to solve the problem, or we need help to resolve the issue. Sometimes we need help to change.

We can use friends, strangers and professionals to help us cope, manage and thrive. I personally recommend aiming for thriving. Thriving is where you have created a feedback loop that continues help you develop and grow. Managing means that you are in charge of your circumstances, in that you use the resources at your command to control the circumstances you are in. Coping means that you use the resources at your command to survive the circumstances that you are in. Often we go from coping to managing. What many of us do is stop there, rather than move onwards towards thriving.

Resources are important to consider. Often we are frivolously expending the resources we have in survival. We waste a lot of important resources, such as money, on things that we don’t really need, such as alcohol and cigarettes. These are just examples and not isolated. For example, I can frivolously expend my friendships on lashing out, which burns them out leaving me with less friends.

Friends are handy, because we know who they are, they know us and, since they are friends, they should support us through rough times. Your friends stick by you. Yet there is a limit to how much friends should really know you and how many times they can support you before they start to wonder if their friendship role has changed to carer role. The important distinction is in reciprocation. Friendship is a meeting of equals, an exchange of ideas and resources, such that you both gain from the interaction.

Consider the friends who help you. What are they getting out of this? It must be something, or they would not continue to assist you. I don’t want to suggest that all friends are gaining something nefarious here, however, if you can’t figure out what they gain from this relationship, consider that perhaps they are feeling good about helping you, and if you succeed, they won’t, which can lead to them sabotaging you later. Has this happened? This is called the shining knight complex, or the rescuer complex. The shining knight wants to save you, needs to save you and likes being and needs to be the rescuer. If you don’t need to be rescued, then what is their role in your life? So they engineer a situation to rescue you in. When you are feeling way down, they can be great. As you start to swim on your own, they will heap you with stones so you need rescuing again. Generally we are grateful until we see the pattern.

Not all friends do this. Those who don’t usually start to pull back and distance themselves from you, leaving you alone and helpless. If this has happened, or you can see this happening, it is time to move on to someone who is not a friend. While you can use the occasional stranger to bounce ideas off, this is not generally the best solution. How much do you want random strangers to know about you? Do you know if you can trust the information you give them? What is their motivation?

Professional strangers, that is counsellors, are people who have to take privacy seriously. You know what the relationship is because you are paying them (or someone is, such as the government, your insurance, your work etc). These people have education to help frame the aid they give you, rather than your friends or strangers who are just repeating what worked for them in their circumstances and hope that it will work for you.

Not all counsellors are built equal. There are some good ones and there are some great ones. Yet even the greatest counsellor is no good to you if what they offer is not what you need.

The best way to find a counsellor that is good for you is to first remember – you are employing them. How would you find a good employee? First you check with friends for them or you may advertise. You read their resume. You will always meet them and interview them before putting them on your books.

When it comes to applying this to counsellors, it is similar but a bit different. You can check with your friends to see if they know any good counsellors, however be careful of your privacy. Don’t use the same one if you can avoid it, but check out a different counsellor from the same company. Read information about what style they use, what their values are and modus operandi. Does this sound like it could work for you? Now meet them and interview them. They may think this is their first session, but really, this is you getting to know them to see if they can do the job. This does mean you have to pay for the interview.

The first session usually looks like this:
5 minutes – getting to know them a little as they tell you how this is going to work and how your privacy is assured
30 minutes – you tell them a brief run down of your history and where you are stuck now
10 minutes – ask them if they have experienced similar emotions or comparable situations – do they have experience. They don’t have to give you details, but they need to understand
10 minutes – you ask them about what their plan is to help you in your situation – not how they are going to fix it for you, but how they are going to help you fix it
5 minutes – you ask them if they believe in you and your ability to succeed

If the interview pleases you, you put them on probation.

The primary goal of seeking professional help is
– to have someone help you find better viable options
– to see the world through different eyes
– to get help to change yourself
– to get help to change your circumstances

It is not
– to have someone rescue you
– to have someone solve your problems for you
– to continually talk about the same problem without acting on it

If after 3 more “sessions”:
– you don’t like them
– you don’t like their technique
– you don’t feel confident they understand you
– you don’t feel they can aid you
Then tell them and see what they do. If you don’t like their response, go and find someone else. You know the system, now use it.

Ensure you do not feel sorry for them. They are professionals. Their job is to help you in a way that is meaningful and useful to you. If they aren’t being hired by you, someone else will hire them, so don’t feel like you are leaving them destitute. You need someone who can and will aid you to recover your life and help you to thrive.

Remember, your employee must always perform on average. Always review your interviews with your employee. Did it go well? Did you gain from the experience? If this is so, then keep them as you are gaining from the interaction. Allow for a single bad session out of every couple. Bad sessions (so long as they aren’t too bad) push you to see things differently. One of my mentors said to me “as a counsellor, if you aren’t making your clients uncomfortable, then you aren’t doing your job”. When you feel discomfort, you are prompted to change your patterns. No change is comfortable. So allow for uncomfortable and frustrating sessions. Just ensure that on average you are gaining from the experience – gaining insight, understanding and making changes.