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.

Walking the Talk

It is all well and good espousing a way of being, and suggesting there is power available as we engage with others in a love-based responsive way and not from a fear-based reactive mode but putting the philosophy into action can sometimes be really challenging. Recently I hit one of those “character building” episodes.

Hair-pulling turmoil
Hair-pulling turmoil

Having spent significant energy redesigning and redeveloping my business web site I met a series of roadblocks to going live that related to supplier misrepresentation or incompetence. One example was a hosting provider, before sign up, stating I would be able to load my site and test it prior to going live. This proved false. After signing up I loaded my site and was then told, on asking how, that I could not view the site without changing my domain pointer to the new site, effectively putting my untested site live and taking the live site on-line. Misrepresentation!

Having found a suitable hosting provider and being ready to go live I then approached my original, then current, provider and indicated the steps I wished to follow for an ordered transition. On their recommendation I decided to leave my Domain Name Server (DNS) record with them. When I cancelled my hosting account, in line with their recommended change to my approach, they destroyed my DNS record. I had no email or web site. All gone.

Within hours of losing my email and web site I flew out-of-town with my wife on a holiday to attend a wedding and had significantly reduced capacity to follow-up and pursue a solution. I found myself anxious, furious and frustrated, with bouts of powerlessness and helplessness. I work in the IT and Telecommunications industries. If I were to cause a client severe (or any) inconvenience or was negligent in any way then I would be held liable, and would be expected to resolve any issues with all expediency. Not so for a large supplier with a small client. They showed no interest in resolving the situation, and had plenty of excuses. I found my emotional turmoil magnified. It turned out that I was without a web site and email for five days. The provider updated my file to include “sorry” but there was no personal acknowledgement.

At the height of this crisis I was totally without my power, consumed and crippled with emotional turmoil, leaving me in a highly reactive, fear-based state. What to do? This was a thoroughly unhelpful and unproductive way of being. I could not positively resolve my hosting issues, and was not enjoying my holiday.
In my book “Appreciate the Fog” I write about power-based, thrive responses (Assert, Attend, Act and Authenticate) that are positive alternatives to the fear-based, survival reactions (Fight, Flight, Freeze and Fabricate). I was well and truly reactive, not really even surviving. The key question for me was “How do I reclaim my power?”

For me, in that moment, awareness that I needed to shift was key. My second aid was to share my struggle and that I wanted to reclaim my power with my wife. She listened, allowed me to vent as a way of clearing myself emotionally, and then asked, “So what can you do now?” Great coach! Within minutes I was in a place of clarity, had taken a couple of small actions that positively moved things a little and I was largely free of my turmoil. I had reclaimed my power, and I had a great weekend. Yes, I still had to wait for the Telco monster to take their steps and resolve their incompetence, but I did so in a better place than if I had remained worked up. It can be difficult walking the talk, but it is worthwhile.

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?

Stirring the Pot

I was chatting with my wife Juanita after she returned from a psychodrama training session. She had enjoyed playing the role of a dog. The dog loved their owner, but felt peaceful as it stayed outside the dramas occurring around it. I remember when I learned for myself that I habitually took an idea and stirred it up in my own mind. This had the effect of making my mind very busy, gave the false impression I was doing something useful, and it destroyed any possibility of peace. I realised that even when I could be peaceful I would habitually stir things up to keep my mind busy. Sometimes it felt like I was being dragged by a herd of wild horses, and they were in charge of my life.

Wild and untamed horses
Wild and untamed horses

This is the mechanism used when you worry, the endless and repetitive process of pouring over “what if” scenarios in a mind numbingly unproductive manner. The mind is busy but no new information is introduced. It eases when the mind gets bored with the process, though in true worry the mind moves on to a different topic, even if only subtly so. It is colloquial to say “I feel worried”. However, worry is a state of mind, a mental process, not a feeling. Feelings that underpin worry include scared, anxious, petrified and any number of other expressions of fear. And beneath all of that is a question the mind is attempting to answer. Similar processes occur with grief as the mind seeks to locate meaning from amidst the hurt. An element of relief occurs when some new and satisfying way of framing the pain is identified.

I learned I could step out of those processes, worry and grief, and bring myself some space and peace. The mind will still want to find its way out of the state, but introducing space, and watching the process from the outside, can provide a powerful way for reigning in the untamed mental energy. It can help if the question the mind seeks to answer can be identified. Often the driving question has absolutely no merit. Or from the sideline, and in a loving way, you make the observation to your mind that it is caught in a another fruitless pattern, and invite it to stop. Meditation is a useful tool for developing the capacity to observe the mind without buying into its story.

Another side to this is being able to recognise when someone else is working from a place of worry, grief or other form of mental drama, and making your own conscious choice to not participate. That does not mean you cannot support and assist them. In such moments you are able to retain your peace and objectivity, and often introduce a clarity that flees from the scene if you engage and join in with the other person’s process. As a project manager I have had a number of occasions where team members have told me that my calmness enabled them to feel calm, otherwise they would have been panicking and unable to work with the significant issue that needed resolution.

Find your way out of the places of fruitless ruminating. Tame your mind and learn to create more spaciousness and peace for yourself. Master the ability to not join others in their unproductive urgency. Learn to truly be the master navigator of your life. Become the loving, non-judgemental dog that loves and accepts without contributing to or joining the unnecessary drama. Allow your mind to settle, and peace to distil. Tame the wild horses that run wild through your mental space. It is a fantastic leadership capacity because from such a place you’re better placed to gather facts and objectively assess the situation and what it needs, and hold the space against unnecessary and often manufactured urgency. Someone else may be playing a drama. Someone else may be anxious and worked up. You choose what you engage with as an autonomous and self-responsible being!