• Sally Turberville Smith Dipl. Psych, BA Hons,


    Counselling & Psychotherapy Nutritional/Lifestyle Coaching

    Willesden Green, NW2

  • To Do Or Not To Do?

    1st May 2018
  • To Do Or Not To Do?

    Why are decisions so difficult?  Why do we often refuse to take responsibility for ourselves and act?   Why do we stay stuck in what we know is a negative cycle that undermines both our mental and physical health?  Why is it so hard for us to accept that it is only us that can change the world we have created?  As the Existential psychotherapist Irvin Yalom says ‘change is the business of psychotherapy and therapeutic change must be expressed in action – not in knowing intending or dreaming.’

    Most clients come into therapy because they recognise that something they are doing or their way of being in the world isn’t making them happy or fulfilled.  They recognise that at some level they need to change but are reluctant to ‘be the change’ they want to see.  Sometimes it feels like their ‘will’ or sense of purpose has deserted them and very often they are stuck between alternating feelings of anxiety and depression.  It is the job of the therapist to listen and ask insightful questions which can help the client release the blocks in their life story, or what I call ‘the sticking points’ in the narrative they tell themselves. 

    Much of our ‘stuckness’ has to do with what happened to us when we were young and as I get to know my clients I work with them to ‘uncover’ the beliefs and life scripts that we all form about ourselves and how we see the world.  Very often it is our low self-esteem and accompanying fear of the unknown as well as fear of our ‘greatness’ that is blocking us.  After all who are we to be brilliant, talented and gorgeous!

    As children our preferences, thoughts and feelings may have been invalidated or ignored, or we may have been constantly told what to do.  As a result, we often grow up not really knowing what our real needs and wants are, or we have little faith in getting what we want or zero practice in making our own decisions or learning to cope with failure.  Staying ‘safe’ (as we had to learn to do as children) and keeping our work-colleagues or bosses happy (like our parents) becomes our priority.  We end up as people pleasers stifling our own needs, invariably suffering aches/pains and digestive complaints because we can’t stand up for what we think or want for fear of rejection.

    If we didn’t have care-givers who were emotionally attuned to our needs, helping us regulate our emotions, we may have developed ‘a false self’ or a self that lacks the capacity to be alone, or one that can’t manage difficult feelings without turning to addictive substances or activities like work and sex.  We find it impossible to give ourselves the space and time to make a decision, to allow for a period of sitting with ‘not knowing’ – and that is a decision in itself, before we are ready to decide for ourselves what we want to do.

    In therapy we explore many of these issues.  Did we feel securely or insecurely attached to our caregivers?  Did our parents or do we have masochistic traits that might mean guilt gets in the way of our decision making?  We look at our family scripts, our position in the family and the roles we have inherited.  We discover what we learnt about being in relationship from our parents’ relationship.  We reflect on how decisions were made in our family, for example who tended to hold the power and how anger was expressed or not expressed. 

    Ok enough of the ‘presenting past’, it's time to practice being assertive, get to know ourselves better and decide at last to act!  We will now realise how much time we have wasted behaving as we have!!

    To decide one thing means to relinquish something else.  ‘Decisions are very expensive – they cost you everything else’.  As Yalom says ‘decision challenges one’s myth of personal specialness and threatens one’s belief in the existence of an ultimate rescuer’.  We have no choice but to accept personal responsibility and existential isolation and the sooner we recognise this the better.  ‘Decision is a lonely act and no one can decide for us’.

    It is the job of the therapist to help clients recognise ‘that every decision has a visible conscious component and a massive submerged unconscious element’.  For example, staying sick can be thought of as a decision – there are payoffs to being sick. 

    Ultimately it is facing the fact we may still be operating out of our old childhood programming with conflicting motivations that cannot be simultaneously satisfied.  I often tell clients that ‘what we are not changing we are choosing’. It’s a good one to remember anytime we feel like things or people out there are preventing us from moving ahead with our lives.   We must behave in a way that we admire and fully accept the boundaries of responsibility rest with us and us alone.

    If you are struggling with any of the issues I have highlighted above such as a challenging work situation or an intimate relationship that is causing you distress please call me on 07870 671981 or email sallytscounselling@gmail.com to arrange an initial consultation. 

    Together we will lay-out the pieces of your personal jigsaw and help you recover your wishes and self-belief.  You will realise that you do in fact possess the key to your own personal power.  You just need to locate it, unlock it and rattle it!





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