November 2012 Reflections





This month I have been thinking a lot about gratitude.  I have been aware that it is Thanksgiving in the United States and that this is a time when people think about what they are thankful for in their lives.  Although this is not a time we celebrate here in Australia,  I believe there are some things we can take from such a day.  A couple of weeks ago a member of my extended family was diagnosed with cancer and I was reminded that this can happen to any one of us at any time.   I found myself feeling grateful for my own good health and how easy it is to take this for granted until it is threatened. 

Earlier this week I spent time talking with one of my clients who was going through a difficult time.  This previously healthy, active young woman recently found out she had a serious incurable disease which affects the joints and causes her constant pain.  She was struggling to adjust to the impact this had on her career, her daily activities and on her relationships and was experiencing loss and grief.   She was fearful of the future and how her disability might affect her life goals.  As we talked,  I asked about the things she valued in her life.  Initially she focused on the things she could no longer do like before, but then gradually began to identify other important things that she valued and were still present in her life.   These included her relationship with her partner, her family and friends, her love of nature and her commitment to use her skills and experience to help others.   At the end of our session she realized that she had many things in her life to be grateful about and she was feeling less consumed by her disability and felt more able to focus on the present and to appreciate what she had in her life at this time.  This is not to suggest that she will not experience frustration and sadness as her condition gradually deteriorates, but that she will develop the ability to appreciate what she has and not concentrate on what she may be losing. 

In this modern life where there is so much emphasis on consumerism and aspirations, it is easy to overlook what we have in our lives.  One of my favourite writers Tara Brach, the author of Radical Acceptance, who writes about gratitude, generosity and acceptance, talks about how we often fixate on what is wrong, missing or insufficient rather than making a space for taking in what is present and good in our lives.  

The tendency for people to work longer hours, the pressure to try to compete with others in terms of income, size of house or type of car owned or any of the other symbols of "success" can get in the way of what really matters.  Our health, the love and friendship we give and receive from others, the beauty of nature and being able to enjoy our environment, are much more significant than any of the things we can buy. 

A couple of weeks ago we celebrated Remembrance Day, when we were reminded of the young men who gave their lives in war.  The fact that we live in a safe and peaceful country, free from the daily fear of bombing or other attack is something we all take for granted.  However, we only have to pick up the newspaper or turn on the TV to see that life is not like that for many people in other parts of the world. 

As Christmas approaches, let's enjoy the "silly season" and have fun.  Try not to stress too much about buying the "right" present or serving the "perfect" meal, but focus instead on being grateful for what we have and valuing the relationships and opportunities we have in our lives and letting those we care about know how important they are to us.

If the ideas in this Newsletter have hit a chord with you, you may like to do an exercise to identify your own list of things you are grateful for or appreciate.  You can start by taking a piece of paper and make a list under headings such as people you care about, animals in your life, experiences/learnings that have changed you, aspects of nature that impact positively on you or favourite objects that evoke feelings of gratitude and appreciation in you.  What else can you think of?  Let yourself fully explore gratitude and see how it impacts positively on how you see the world.

December Special Offer

As a special Christmas gift to all new clients, I am offering 30% saving on the initial session during December.  Please tell your friends/colleagues about this if you think they would benefit from counselling either relating to personal issues or career direction.