Co-Counselling: A Doorway to Self-Directed Healing and Transformation

I have been practising Co-counselling for over six years, and as a result I am equipped to process emotions, identify and resolve patterns of belief and behaviour that get in my way, and am able to create my own positive future. These and other outcomes are directly accessible by learning and practising Co-counselling.

I became aware of Co-counselling as a result of the Essentially Men programme, the skills learned being a core to the programme. As I learned Co-counselling my capacity to work with myself and support others increased; I became more emotionally competent. Now, as a facilitator of Essentially Men programmes it is a vital part of my tool-set.

When I first attended training I realised I was harbouring significant anger and was distancing myself from women because of a then recent betrayal by a woman who had been a dear friend for many years. Consequently I would not allow women close to me, and I was failing to form and maintain intimate relationships. I carried so much distress that I didn’t know how to act differently. As a direct result of my Co-counselling training I was able to identify and dislodge patterns based in fear, grief and anger, and opened up to new possibilities. I was able to re-engage with women in an open, wholesome way, and that led to healthy relationships.

The ability to identify my core needs, the distress associated with them not being met, and discharging the built up energy, has enabled me to autonomously direct my own healing process. I have become my own healing detective, able to find a symptom that indicates a blockage in my own flow of life, and track back to the source and resolve it.

Far more than focusing on and healing past hurts, Co-counselling supports and encourages actively creating positive futures. Validations are core to the practice, tapping into the positive truths we hold about ourselves, and expressing them, perhaps reversing what may be a lifetime of self-criticism. Action planning is used to map out next steps. Celebration magnifies the positive experience of success and acknowledgement. These are founded on authentic connection with self, and not on the fabricated distress of a lifetime of pain. Learning the skills and practices of Co-counselling is liberating and enlarging, and enables you to write a new script for your life. I have for mine.

More than at any time in my life, I am now living the life I always wanted. I am married to the woman of my dreams. I have written the book I had known was in me. I am increasingly working in the way I have always dreamed of. I am manifesting my purpose and vision more fully than ever before, and I know that more is to come as I continue to open to myself and allow my essence to emerge with greater freedom and passion.

I have learned that how I feel is not hard-coded. I can change my experience, my attitudes, beliefs, patterns of behaviour, and even how I feel. I am captain of my ship, navigator of my life, and that I have proven I can withstand storms with a certainty that comes from knowing and loving myself. And Co-counselling has assisted me to achieve this.

If you are struggling with self-limiting beliefs, burdened by pain that seems unrelenting and overwhelming, are deafened by your own internal voice of criticism, or want to shape a better future, I encourage you to add Co-counselling to your toolset. It is personal and portable, can go with you wherever you choose to travel. It will assist you to feel and experience life more fully, so that whatever you believe and want to create can become a reality. It will bring you into community with others who are interested in creating a better planet by creating better selves, themselves, and then living their purpose more fully.

Me and My Shadow

Me and my shadow
The shadow in one of it guises

A recent experience reminded me of the power and potency of my shadow. I don’t mean that dark outline on the ground when a light is shining. The shadow I am referring to is the collection of behaviours, beliefs, attitudes and traits that have been hidden within.

As we grew up we learned that some behaviours, no matter how natural they were, were not socially acceptable. Children playing with their genitals quickly learn they shouldn’t. Or that they need to keep their clothes on. Temper tantrums are generally ruled out, as are many other behaviours. We learn that our life is easier when we comply with social norms. Those parts we bury as we socially comply are collectively referred to as our “dark shadow”. We also have a “light shadow”, which is where socially acceptable behaviours that we did not feel safe to display are hidden. Examples might include playfulness, innocence and creativity.

As I have become acquainted with my shadow over the years I have been shocked by some aspects and surprised, even disbelieving, of others. My shadow’s repertoire includes common themes of anger, sexuality, and power, common themes throughout society, though the specifics vary person to person. The environment we grew up in shaped our shadow. One shadow character I have become acquainted with is the Seducing Assassin. She beguiles the man in power and kills him before he gets his sexual desires met. That character embodies all the elements of power, sexuality and anger. At the other end of the scale my shadow includes the Potent Virgin, a young, vital woman committed to protecting her chastity for marriage, and is totally equal to resisting all pressures and recognising all subtleties from others wanting her to relinquish it. What? I have feminine shadow characters? Yes, or as the psychologist Jung named them, anima. And women have animus, the masculine portion of their psyche. We all have mixtures of masculine and feminine energies that comprise our shadows.

Recently I found myself in a situation that awoke me emotional to:

  • Fear and powerlessness in the face of overwhelming aggression directed at me from someone of superior physical strength;
  • Rage felt for someone who betrayed my trust and abandoned me; and
  • Helplessness when confronted with suicide attempts of a loved one.

I was very aware of my emotional responses as they arose, but it was the emergence of part of my shadow that caught me by surprise. I found myself in a political debate, something I normally avoid like the plague, and was in a thoroughly “take no prisoners” mode of debate. I was unflinching in ripping apart what I heard, and had no tolerance for anything I judged as illogical or unfounded emotional fluff. I found myself suddenly manifesting a part of myself I had long ago, 30 years ago in fact, buried and decided was not how I wanted to present myself.

Now, I recognise that part of my shadow has emerged and as an energy it has legitimacy, providing me with a greater repertoire of possible responses and approaches over the artificially restricted ones I have used. There is power in the energy; there is nothing that dictates how that energy is applied. That is choice.

This experience has reminded me that nothing of my past is lost. Everything I have ever been is still part of who I am. That is only a problem if I have a lack of acceptance for who I have been or who I am. Generally, I am okay with who I am. I am okay as me with my shadow(s).

How are you with your secret, hidden parts? Are you able to integrate the energies that emerge, as and when they do, productively into the rest of your visible psyche?

The FACT of Life

Father with son in play
Supported learning process

Life is full of its surprises and moments. There are some that catch us off guard, with only subtle differences from other situations where we have succeeded against all odds, yet in this instance we come crashing down. From the outside observer it could almost feel random, yet within us there is something new and uncharted that makes the result no less shocking but perhaps less surprising.

We have roles we develop from the moment we are born. Survival functions include eating, eliminating waste, learning and coping. We might have a role of “playful eater” which our parents sometimes found funny, and at other times got angry with us, perhaps because that moment seemed less cute, especially as they were in a rush to go out. The “Inquisitive Learner” is something toddlers are well known for, getting into everything.

As we develop and experience life, we develop roles for each context of life that we encounter, the collection of roles comprising our personality. As we enter a new context we may be able to borrow capacities from similar roles, but there is a period of vulnerability as you familiarise yourself with new areas of development, particularly when there are areas of functioning required in the role that you have not developed. Each role can be underdeveloped, embryonic, adequate, or overdeveloped in some aspect.

Each role consists of Feelings, Actions and Thoughts, and are used within a Context. FACT is an easy acronym for remembering them. When we lack a fullness of expression across any of the feelings, actions and thoughts, we are underdeveloped. Where they exist but have not achieved adequate expression in the given context, they are embryonic. Those that we over rely on, that are patterned behaviour, and that therefore get in the way of us fully, spontaneously and creatively living life are overdeveloped.

Whether moving into a new position at work, starting a new relationship with someone, embarking on a new adventure, or seeking to learn a new skill, we have many unknowns and among those there are roles we will need that we don’t fully embody. That is a great time to consider your preparedness and the possibility of some form of coaching support that can provide you assist you bring to the fore and strengthen those roles that you need to succeed. In a new situation you don’t know what you don’t know, and to have someone that can assist you gain the FACT of life can be a fantastic way to walk with confidence into new environments, responsibilities and relationships.

Speeding Ticket

Confusing speed signs
Confusing speed signs

I cannot claim confusion as this image could certainly create. I was on the Northwestern Motorway on a beautiful, clear Saturday morning doing 100km, and I was photographed by a speed camera and a ticket was issued, a large fine for 30km per hour excess speed due to the temporary speed restriction signs. I did it! And then the mind goes to work and creates fog…

“I was in a line of traffic and everyone was doing the same speed… revenue gathering, not enforcement.”

“There was no one working… it was not a matter of safety… more strength to the revenue gathering argument”

“What about the traffic show on TV a few weeks ago where the motorcyclist got stopped by a traffic officer doing 100km in a 30km temporary signed area, and was let off… unfair! Impartial speed cameras just click away and there is no mercy, justice only. Grrr!”

I then imagine all the individuals in the other cars that sunny Sunday morning, all now having received their infringement notices, and all on their own in their grief, anger, frustration, or whatever else they may be experiencing. What fog are they experiencing? It is an individual experience even for a commonly share situation.

I notice my resentment, and know I am struggling with all sorts of stories in my head about fairness and justice. I feel powerless against the impartial machines that snap photos irrespective of what is going on around them, and it takes me back to a period of my youth with an authoritarian stepfather where powerlessness was a frequent experience. I feel angry because I have to pay money, and while I may slow down in the future out of fear of the machines, my 100km per hour was exactly on the speed limit for the motorway I was on except for… that temporary sign. I feel annoyed about the supposed teaching moment, one that has much less potency being confronted with a piece of paper a couple of weeks after the fact than having the ‘taking to’ by a police man at the time.

Of course I could write and argue the point with the New Zealand Police. Would that work? Or perhaps marshal all the other invisible, individually grieving drivers, and create a collective that makes this a bigger social issue.

All of this is fog, clutter that gets in the way of clarity, with feelings that are often rooted in past experience, regurgitated for this one. Much of this is irresponsibility in action, looking for the excuse to put blame for the result on someone else, and the sooner I claim and own responsibility, the quicker and easier my life will become. I still have to pay, and speed cameras will still be snapping tomorrow. At the end of the day (or of this episode) I have to own I was speeding, was snapped doing so, and either choose to follow an appeals process or pay up and let it go. The quicker I get to that place the quicker my life can literally move on to more important matters.

What raises clouds of fog for you? What do you do to process and clear it?

Relationships of Trust

Trusted jump
Trusting child leaps to an adult

When you have a relationship with someone that is full of trust and honesty, fantastic things can happen. Trust is akin to feeling safe. You are able to jump into the scary unknown with assurance that you will be okay. A trusting relationship provides such a safety net in which you can work through your emerging fog in safety. Being able to fully express what is up for you, knowing the other person will not take it personally, and that they will listen without judgement is liberating. It enables you to be open, vulnerable and honest, walk where you might otherwise fear to tread, and as a consequence unearth and resolve older, deeper emotional and mental patterns. This is a significant purpose of relationship. Remembering that whatever arises from within you is your own, not the other persons, to work through, enables clear lines of connection in the relationship, no matter what you are working with.

I have such a relationship in my marriage. We have had some significant and robust discussions that required trust on both our parts, and strengthened our trust as a result. Often the sharing is much smaller but the act of sharing still requires trust, and is still beneficial. The act of giving myself permission to share what is going on inside is a major freeing step to take. Recently I awoke from a restless, dream-filled night, felt quite anxious and full of shame, and was able to share this. A burden shared really is a burden reduced, and my experience was an immediate lightening of my mood and I had a fabulous and fruitful day. In the past I might have carried my mood throughout the day and suffered for it.

Whether a partner, friend, or trusted community, it is worthwhile finding someone you can fully, freely and safely express whatever is going on for you, and be received without judgement. The act of choosing to be witnessed in a vulnerable state provides relief to the soul and a chance to expand into new space.

My Heart Hurts

“I feel fragile and sad. What shall I do?”

Responses vary but many people have a natural response of putting the hurt behind them, looking for the positive way forward, and getting on with life. That’s a great capacity and skill to have. There are times when parking our current feelings and getting on with life is crucial. However, anything overused can be problematic. An alternative, and one not so commonly espoused, is to take some time and be a friend to the part of you that is hurting, or angry, or confused, or whatever it is, and love that part. Ask that part of you what it needs, what it is afraid of, and as a loving friend deeply listen. Loving yourself in those moments of distress and intimately connecting with your feelings and needs, can have potent and lasting healing power, and is a fabulous means to building a meaningful relationship with yourself. It has an integrative benefit where the often shamed and isolated part(s) of you learn to trust, connect and be with the rest of you. Resilience and power can develop more fully in that environment.