The oft spoken observation made by therapists is that clients come into counseling too late and leave too soon. When one of them finally breaks the impasse and signals for help, the damage is severe, sometimes irreparable. And by the time a couple arrives in therapy, they have spent many months, even years, attempting to resolve their issues in the same unfruitful ways, the effect of which is to create deep ruts in their communication and scars in their relationship. Embarrassment, fear, shame, pride, old wounds–there are many reasons why they are reluctant to seek help from outside the marriage. As counseling progresses, pain may increase as unresolved issues are uncovered, new ways of being and communicating are explored. A client may lose heart and simply quit.
When I meet with them, I offer hope. No one who sincerely wants improvement is beyond redemption. My mantra is: Dum spiro spero–Latin for “As long as I breathe, I hope!”
So, imagine you’re sitting with me, having worked up the courage to admit that your efforts to effect change in a given situation have failed and that you “need input.” Having listened to your story and gotten a grasp on your dilemma, I will say the following to you:
“I can help you. You’ve done the right thing in reaching out. I believe I can bring you some good things, if you will commit to a new way of problem solving and conflict resolution. It’s taken you this long to get to this point in your life and relationship…it’s going to take some time to undo the damage and to come into a new way of being–with yourself and with your partner/family member. It will take commitment, effort and time. I will make the commitment, the effort and the time and I invite you to do the same. My suggestion is that we make a six-session commitment to this process, come hell or high water. You may feel indifferent, disappointed or even disillusioned with an apparent lack of progress, a potential deepening of pain or no obvious light at the end of the tunnel. But if you allow me to be your guide, we’ll make some headway. In our sixth session, we’ll evaluate our progress and make decisions about continuing. Are you up for it?”
If you’re thinking about getting help for your relationship, why not connect with me? I’ll hold out hope for you until you have hope for yourself! Connect with me, Clair Jantzen, for online counseling. For an in-office session, call 236.420.4360 or book it yourself online at Third Space Mind Counselling.
“My father was an avid birder and lover of nature,” said the son in his eulogy. “He watched birds, counted them, gathered eggs from their nests, blew them out and placed them in a special box. On his excursions through woodlands and plains both here and around the globe on his diplomatic missions, he collected insects of all kinds and mounted them on pins in shadow boxes. He’d pull out these treasures and let us kids ooh and aah as he explained their mysteries and wonders. As my father lay dying, I asked what had become of those special boxes we had loved so much and, with a twinkle in his eye, he said that the birds’ eggs he had donated to a museum for others to enjoy, but that when he opened the insect box, it had turned to dust.”
I’m a good father, too. An excellent father. But as intentional as I have been, I have always told people that my kids would have every right to sit in some shrink’s office and and complain, “My father, he…”
As I have examined my life and the disconnection I often felt between me and my own father, I saw how often I felt the loss of what could or should have been between a father and a son. I missed him as he traveled the world. I yearned for softness in the midst of stern discipline. I ached for presence when I felt his physical and emotional absence. I railed and complained and demanded more.
Then, in looking into the eyes of my newborns, it became clear that I would no more be able to deliver that perfect blend of form and freedom, of toughness and tenderness that I had sought, than he had been. My children would need to forgive me for my imperfections, for my sins of commission and those of omission.
It came as no surprise (but most certainly, with a great deal of chagrin) when my daughter, now an adult and happily married, asked her counselor father for a referral, as she had some things she needed to process about her relationship with me!
We have all received wounds from our parents. Some wounds are more severe than others, but abuse is abuse; failure is failure. The fallout is brokenness and pain. I have had to sift through the years of being the son of an imperfect man, to identify all that was worth cherishing and that which was rubbish. The cherished eggs–the incubators of life–I have placed in the museum of my heart. The bugs–the glitches in the system–I have allowed to turn to dust. Maybe you will find some peace, as I did, as you ponder this metaphor and face the disappointments on your own journey.
Should you want to address some of the disappointments you have felt in your life and would like to speak with a counselor, you may connect with me at clairjantzen.ca. I would be honored to walk with you.