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Getting to know you.

Counselling — admin @ 11:15 am

Here at Counselling Connections we stood for a few minutes this morning looking out over the garden. We are lucky to have a large green garden with trees and shrubs and secret nooks and crannies. The lawn, however, is, to be honest, a little mossy and in need of some gardening expertise. This latter point causes a slight shudder when thoughts turn to firing up to old lawn mower again one more time. This act is the renewal of an annual rivalry now entering its eighteenth year. The lawn mower, you see, has developed a personality; a wilfulness which will only submit to a knowing adversary and only after testing that adversary’s resolve to the limit. It may need a little attention with an oily rag, perhaps a new spark plug; definitely a fresh drop of oil and then and only then will it cough and splutter into life raising it’s objections in clouds of grey and white smoke which take ten minutes to clear. Once these preliminaries are dispensed with it will work but only on condition that it is not asked to do too much. Wet and long grass is for young mowers and ours is seventeen which in lawnmower years is about a hundred and nineteen years old.
The thing about this relationship of course is that it is with an inanimate object. Albeit that anything that has an internal combustion engine can appear to take on human, often feminine, characteristics it is still only a machine. But we grow fond of them; think of a relationship with an old car. There is tremendous satisfaction to be got from the annual ritual of starting up a cantankerous old lawn mower for the first time. And for all that it would only cost a few hundred to replace this would seem like an act of disloyalty to an old comrade with whom many campaigns have been endured. This is perhaps an example of projecting human characteristics into different situations where we then master them and become secure in our position with the outside world. How this works with family pets is the subject of a whole different discussion which we’ll save for another day.
A wider look at the fun we have in our relationship with our lawnmower has us thinking about ways in which we adapt to our environments. Sometimes these can be enriching but it has to be said that perhaps also they can be maladaptive and facilitate unhealthy behaviour. For example, replace the cantankerous lawnmower with an equally contrary relation, say a grandparent. This fictional relation may live in the family home and may have been present when the children of the family are quite young. These children will learn to adapt to the vagaries of mood of the older person. This could be a vey positive addition to the child’s life growing up as they forge a relationship with an older person outside of their parents. Children make allowances for and learn to help the other to cope and lean how to be in a relationship with another.
The same ability to adapt which is a natural part of living in a family group is also brought to bear in situations where the other person, whoever that may be, is a malign or negative influence. For whatever reason this person may be jealous or nasty and the people around them can be forced into to trying to placate their moods. When this happens on an ongoing basis it can leave unhealthy coping or adaptive strategies in place in the minds of individual family members. This is something which we have to be careful of in relationships. It can create patterns of bad relationships which are repeated and which often cause people to seek therapy to learn how to change. It is possible to track back through old relationships to see where adapting to others may have caused us to allow respect for ourselves to be shelved. Becoming aware of this in ourselves is the first step on the path towards a new assertiveness which, though it can be difficult to practice to begin with, can lead to fuller more respectful and enriching relationships.
Counselling Connections, Dundalk.

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