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How can Counselling help? - The 'Bad Day' Analogy

It doesn't matter whether a person is a believer in the benefits of counselling, someone who refuses to believe in it or a person that is undecided, there is one question they all tend to ask..

"How can talking about things help?"

I have already done a post on what therapy is like, which you can read here. However, this post will try to explain how it can actually help.

Think of a time when you have snapped at someone or had an argument and the trigger was something actually quite small. Maybe, on reflection, the triggering incident alone did not justify your reaction, but it was 'the final straw'. It was the last annoying thing in a series of things that happened in a bad day and you just snapped.

So let's look at the things that made this day stressful...

For starters you go to the post office. Very long queue, as usual, but that's ok. You have nothing else that's pressing or urgent to do. Then somebody rushes into the post office, walks straight to the front of the queue and doesn't even acknowledge what they've done. No apology or asking permission. You say nothing and nobody else does either but there is lots of tutting and shaking of heads.

You finally get out of there and head to the shop where you need to return a pair of trousers. However they will not refund you because you don't have the receipt. You were sure it was there in the bag but it's just not. You're going to have to either go home and look for it or keep these trousers that you don't really want.

You leave the shop, get back to your car, only to find a parking ticket. You're 4 minutes late and it's now going to cost you £65 for the fine.

You're angry and frustrated at all of these things that have happened. That ignorant pig in the post office, the condescending shop assistant and the overly officious traffic warden have combined to make your life hell today.

You're still furious when you get home and your stress levels are through the roof.

You just need to sit down and try to relax. You put the kettle on and then notice there are no teabags. Your other half walks past you in the kitchen at this point and declares "I used the last one earlier and thought you were out shopping getting more".

The person that dare use that last teabag is now on the receiving end of all the anger and frustration that has been building during the day. You really let them have it.

You're normally a very quiet and calm person but now you're acting like someone that's barely recognisable. Totally out of character. The tirade that befalls this poor recipient of your abuse is totally out of proportion and completely unjustified. Ok, maybe it was a bit thoughtless to use the last teabag and not even send a quick message asking if anyone was getting more, but does that really warrant that person being called selfish, insensitive and unloving at very high volume?

Now let's look at exactly the same day but with one little addition. You still have the post office, shop and parking ticket incidents, but when you get home, you sit down before going to the kettle and your other half notices that you don't look quite right and asks you to tell them about it.

You relay the story of the selfish pig in the post office and your partner tells you that he has done the same thing himself. It was the time he heard that bad news about his mum being ill and he was in a complete daze. He didn't even notice the queue because his mind was too transfixed on other things and he felt terrible afterwards when he realised what he'd done. Maybe the person in the post office had something like that going on?

You then tell about the trousers you couldn't return. "That's strange" your partner responds. "Didn't I see you put the receipt in the bag? In fact, didn't you say that you'd just slide it in the pocket of the trousers so it wouldn't fall out?" The penny drops and you go and get the bag. Sure enough, there's the receipt, folded neatly in the back pocket of the trousers.

Finally you break the news of the £65 parking fine and how disgusting it is for four measly minutes....In steps your other half again. "I was reading on Facebook the other week about a local traffic warden that got into trouble for being 'too lenient'. Apparently he was letting people get away with being a few minutes over their time but he was then threatened with the sack if he did it again. I wonder if it's the same person?"

It's as if all the plights of that day now have a different perspective. Maybe the post office man did have a plausible excuse? Maybe I need to admit I made the mistake with the receipt and maybe the person that gave me my ticket was actually a really nice person and realy did wish he didn't have to issue the ticket.

Conversation over and you walk to the kitchen. NO TEABAGS! Are you still as likely to go crazy with anger and frustration? Or are you more likely to see it for what it is. A minor annoyance that just requires a little reminder to perhaps mention it next time we run out.

After the chat that helped you see things differently you reacted to the teabag incident more reasonably. More like yourself. The conversation allowed you to examine what had happened during the day and have a different view of of it, meaning that you were acting more like you, and not some unrecognisable version of you that had been distorted by the day's events.


The only difference is that instead of looking at events that day, you're looking at a bigger picture. Things from the last year, the last decade or your entire life.

If you are attending counselling then something in your life is not right. Maybe you're acting in a way that feels unlike you. Perhaps you're finding it hard to cope at the moment whereas previously you were more than capable of dealing with what life throws at you.

Whatever it is, you feel that something is amiss and you want to work out what it is and then try to change it.

You may be acting this way because of things that have happened in the past. Major events such as bereavements or relationship problems can affect you for years to come if they are nor correctly dealt with. If things play on your mind they are going to affect how your mind works here and now.

Are you still blaming yourself for something? Are you carrying guilt around with you? Are you still struggling to accept the loss of a loved one? These are the sorts of things that, if left unchecked, can fester inside you and then cause negative reactions years down the line. Sometimes so far down the line that it's hard to make the connection.

"Why are you shouting at me and being so unreasonable just because we've run out of teabags?"

"Because somebody pushed in at the post office hours ago!!"

It sounds ridiculous, but it could be true.

Examining areas of your life through effective talking therapy may allow you to accept things from the past by seeing them from a different perspective. Maybe you've been blaming yourself for something but now realise it wasn't your fault. Perhaps you will find ways to forgive people or incidents in your past that have been troubling you. It may even help you to just tell your story so that you no longer feel alone in your situation.

The repercussions that ensued as a result of the bad day could be rectified just by talking about it.

Expand the day to include your whole life and maybe the tough time you have at the moment could be rectified by examining the things that have happened before it.

Counselling can help

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