When I first told my Nonna that I was going to be a Counsellor, I was 20 years old and had just switched out of an orientation to teaching stream in university to a Psychology major. With an appalled look on her face and an emphatic inhale, she stated in her thick Italian accent “Why you wanna sit and listen to peoples’ problems?” It wasn’t a question, but rather a statement laced with judgment and condescension. My response was something along the lines of “I can’t explain it”. I suppressed my headstrong must-fight-for-what-I-believe-in feisty inner warrior and simply hugged her.
But her statement sat with me. Not because I doubted my career choice, but rather because it gave me insight into how little my Nonna understood about asking for and receiving help. Raised in a farming family by parents who lived through the depression in southern Italy, then witnessing first-hand the impacts of the second world war, asking for emotional support had never become her go-to coping strategy. For every loss she experienced, (and there were many), she donned her symbolic black clothing and shut off the hurting part of herself. It wasn’t my place to fight with her. I could only love her fully, for she was coping in the only way she knew how.
Yes, the job of a Counsellor is to listen – but it is also so much more. It is about motivating and inspiring people to be the best versions of themselves, to learn how to invite in the change they are so desperately seeking. It is about helping people reconnect with hope after life experience has rattled it. It is about discovering the strength and courage they forgot they had. It is about cultivating resilience. It is about discovering how to be kind to one’s self, in a life where that was potentially never taught or even discouraged. The safety of the counselling office becomes a place to practice holding positive beliefs that just aren’t rooting due to the busy-ness of life. It’s a place to deconstruct shame, to grieve losses, to breathe deeply and fully, and to acknowledge ones’ worth. Every single counselling interaction is a chance to let someone know that they matter, that they are not struggling alone, and to foster hope.
That is why I choose this career, and that is why I love what I do.
In her book ‘Healing from Trauma”, Jasmine Lee Cori outlines the following list of personal resources that help when healing from traumatic experiences. Personal resources are inherent capacities which individuals possess, such as their strength and abilities, healthful activities, the ability to regulate affect, a caring and trustworthy support system, and so forth. Cori additionally states that personal resources are healthy patterns, ones which create a sense of feeling good and accepting oneself in ways that are truthful, and not based in self-deception or indulgence.
If you are just starting your healing journey, or even if you are well into it, please review Cori’s list of helpful capacities below. Each capacity reflects something which can further or enhance our healing. As you read through the list, consider which capacities you possess, and which you might like to develop. How might you build and develop these capacities in your life?
- Awareness: the capacity to recognize what is going on around and within you. Awareness is the key to much healing and change
- Curiosity: the interest to know more, to look at your own experience with free, interested eyes rather than from a stuck perspective
- Courage: the willingness to face what is difficult
- Discernment: the capacity to see what is so. To know when to back out of something (such as an unfolding emotional process) and when to go through it
- Compassion: the capacity to hold your own hurt (and others hurts) with a kind heart
- Prudence: the capacity to make healthy choices for yourself and avoid what is harmful
- Hope: a sense that things can get better
- Humor: the capacity to look with amusement at things that might otherwise get you down, to hold a larger perspective
- Love: the capacity to receive and extend caring, to bond
- Resourcefulness: the capacity to identify and locate resources that would be helpful, as well as fully utilize your own capacities
- Resiliency: the capacity to pick yourself up and try again, to bounce back after being hurt
- Strength, Persistence, Will: the capacity to run the marathon, to follow the journey through trauma and not give up or collapse into a trauma-ridden life
- Trust: the capacity to let go of worry and feel some confidence that things will turn out okay
Check our Jasmine Lee Cori’s book, Healing from Trauma: A Survivor’s Guide to Understanding your Symptoms and Reclaiming your Life.