Therapy has been criticised for encouraging solipsism. We focus on the needs of the individual in front of us often to a greater degree than anyone ever before, including parents. Counsellors know that if we create a place of boundaried safety, understanding and respect the client is likely to flourish.
Paradoxically, when a person is given total positive individual attention for 50 minutes a week as well as becoming more understanding of themselves they become better able to understand wider relationships. In some sense, a person in therapy needs to become child-like; to have their feelings valued so that they can value those feelings themselves; next to examine their situation with curiosity and respect; then to formulate some kind of plan for the future; and then go out and live it.
In many ways, therapy is a kind of parenting, allowing the client to move from distress, confusion and retreat from the world to understanding and renewed relationship with the world. Relationship is the be all and end all of therapy and ultimately of life.
Once or twice a week I spend a couple of hours listening to a local talk radio station to get a flavour of what people are thinking. Today’s debate was about the proposed tax break for parents, £2000 for every child under 12 where both parents work. Any number of childless people phoned in to ask why they should fund parents, their reasoning being, “If you can’t afford kids you shouldn’t have them.” Never mind that the rebate includes households with a joint income of up to £300,000. When asked who they expected to care for them when they were elderly, to maintain every part of society from midwives and schools to hospices and graveyards, they didn’t see the connection. They were only interested in their own income and didn’t want to support anyone other than themselves.
Last century, Communism was condemned for offering childcare. A mothers place was in the home taking care of her husband and children and often elderly relatives who had previously helped with housework, cooking and caring for children. Now, children live far from elderly parents who are maintained by strangers, childcare has taken the place of parenting and both parents are expected to work. It takes a lot of thought and strength to organise a family so that children spend more than 24 waking hours a week with their parents, a decision that almost always incurs a drop in status and a greater amount of personal satisfaction and contentment within the family.
Therapy gives a person the space and time to move from the infant position of memememe (where we all go when we’re distressed, confused and threatened) to the more adult viewpoint of how others affect us, how we affect others and the most healthy ways of engaging with that reality. We can pretend that other people don’t matter only as long as we accept that other people shouldn’t give a damn about us.
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