In my role as a therapist, I get to watch lots of people feel better about life.
I am able to observe the steps they take and the difference those steps make for them.
Everybody, of course, is different. What works for you won’t necessarily work for me.
I see many guides around that help you review your year or your life.
Many of them seem self punishing. Many want to invite you to look back and beat yourself up for all the things you didn’t do.
What’s the point of that?
I’d rather use a review that celebrates progress, and connects to your hopes going forward.
In this post, I’m going to show you 5 areas of your relationship that you most need to keep track of.
Then I’ll show you the 5 questions that will help you create the relationship you most want in each of those areas.
I call it the 5×5 approach to enriching your couples relationship.
We all have a gremlin. It’s that voice that tells us things that don’t help us. The voice that has us feeling scared or self conscious or silly.
Whenever we least need it, it pops up and starts yabbering.
Let me tell you about mine. As you know, I am a musician in my spare time. The singing psychotherapist, if you like.
She was an acclaimed writer. But she had writer’s block. There was nothing she could do to get her creative mojo back.
Her psychotherapist was a writer too by the name of Irvin Yalom.
So he suggested an exercise for them both, in an attempt to inspire her.
At the end of each session they would each write up an account of it.
My clients teach me things. They’re a smart bunch.
If I did therapy the old fashioned way, I’d likely miss their wisdom. It would all be about clever old me.
The benefit of a collaborative approach like mine is that it makes full use of the smarts you have too.
They say that the left brain is for language and logic, and the right brain is for creativity.
That’s a bit simplistic because the left and right brains are connected. They talk with each other.
Unless, of course, you have had split brain surgery.
Some epilepsy sufferers who have severe grand mal seizures undergo split brain surgery. It severs the connection between left brain and right.
Feeling down in the dumps on any given day is something everyone will recognise.
We all wake up sometimes and think “uggggh”.
We all have a bad day from time to time.
Sometimes that bad day happens tomorrow too, and the next day, and the next day.
Now it’s a bad week.
I’ve been so busy recently that my house cleaning regime had fallen by the wayside.
Sometimes, something has to give.
As things got messier, they also got more overwhelming to face.
I decided that, no matter what, my bathroom floor was getting mopped.
Of course, I knew this wasn’t enough.
At the heart of therapy is change.
When people come for counselling, they are almost always seeking out some form of change.
They may want a change in their life circumstances. They may want to change their actions. Perhaps they are fine with both, and simply wish to change how they think about them.
The aliens had captured Sisko. They were more evolved creatures than us humans.
For instance, they experienced time differently to how we do.
They experienced it simultaneously. Past, present, future – to them, it was all one.
They decided to kill this lesser being, who moved through time in a linear fashion – one moment after another.
Sometimes, we need to have difficult conversations. Someone is doing something that we don’t like. We need to address it in the hope of making it right.
It’s not easy to do. They’re not called difficult conversations for nothing.
But there is a way of doing it that is more likely to result in getting your needs met without conflict.
It doesn’t matter how old you are. Your brain is 310 million years old.
That’s when lizards first appeared. Give or take 10 million years.
The brain of a lizard isn’t too complex.
It just keeps it alive. All its focus is on survival.
It keeps the lizard breathing. It gets it to seek out food.
When I begin talking with a new client, I am keen to find out what they want from therapy.
This is useful for two reasons.
It focuses our minds on how they’d like life to be.
It also tells us when the client is ready to stop coming. Without knowing what they want, we could keep meeting forever.
The Beatles were in the middle of recording what many regard as their finest album – The White Album.
It’s my favourite Beatles album. More than that, my favourite record full stop.
But Ringo Starr, their happy-go-lucky drummer, couldn’t take it any more.
Here’s something weird.
Give someone a normal milkshake, but tell them that it’s a diet drink, and their gut behaves as if the drink is low fat. Even though it’s full fat.
Here’s something even more weird.
A patient wakes up from knee surgery. The doctor say that they’ve done the operation. The knee gets better even though the doctor only made an incision in the skin.
Human beings love stories.
We have been telling them for millions of years.
In prehistoric times, sitting around a fire telling stories was our Netflix.
Stories allow us to learn from new experiences without having to go through them.
As they unfold, we ask ourselves what we would do to overcome this.
I remembered recently that, when I was a little boy, I asked for a typewriter as my Christmas present.
I was very young. I don’t think I’d hit the age of ten yet.
Looking back, it seems an unusual gift request from a small child.
But I always enjoyed writing.
When the handle on my living room door stopped working, it was very frustrating.
I’d try to turn it but it wouldn’t shift.
I was locked out of my own living room.
I called a handyman.
When he arrived I told him what was wrong. When I turn the handle, nothing happens.
There are different ways of talking about problems.
We can talk of ourselves as having a problem. We hear this a lot.
“Jean has a problem.” “Neil has a problem.” “Arnold has a lot of problems.”
Or we can talk of wrestling with a problem.
“I’m wrestling with this problem at the moment.”