Awareness and listening
If you recall any times in your life where you’ve been deeply heard and accepted by another, I imagine these moments of quiet connection were special ones.
There are many wonderful counselling traditions. Phil Mollon, a highly experienced clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, reminds us that whatever approach is used, the ability of the therapist to listen deeply and empathically is the foundation stone of effective therapy:
'I feel it is best for us all – in our diverse fields – to lower the hype about ‘psychological therapies’. They are all helpful to some extent with some clients – but none have all the answers. The most important skill of the therapist is to listen – to listen deeply and with his or her whole being. Whilst the client may not consciously know what needs to be addressed and in what way, if we listen carefully and patiently enough, some part of the client’s being does often know – and may, if we are lucky, convey this knowing to us in one form or another.' Phil Mollon
'Smile, breathe and go slowly.'
Thich Nhat Hanh
Putting awareness in the driving seat
I see listening, awareness and mindfulness as very similar. We can listen to others with acceptance and openness to what they're experiencing. Awareness involves doing the same thing with ourselves. Awareness is a healing light that can show us what's going on and help us make wiser choices.
As your ability to listen well to yourself grows through counselling, mindfulness and/or other practices, you’re choosing to put the vital quality of here and now awareness in the driving seat of your life. I see learning to do this as both the way and the goal of helping, hence why asking what's in the driving seat is the first healing reflection. It's a simple idea but, like many important principles, putting this reliably into practice is a lifetime's work.
All counselling activities have the potential to cultivate awareness. However, these stress management practices emphasise mindful awareness.