Do I have a ‘probelm’?

I came across this image (on the left) while researching something and it brought much needed amusement to my day. I wonder what sorta place this is. Clinic? Pharmacy? Fortune Telling? If only we have a one stop shop like that in Singapore where we can seek help for all and sundry including the all encapsulating phrase ‘women’s probelm’. Jokes aside, this is something that I’ve heard a fair bit from students. Not the ‘women’s probelm’ bit, but some students have told me that they have hesitated from coming to talk to me because (and I quote)

“if I come and talk to you, that would be admitting that I have a problem”.

I know the textbook response to that for all good and empathetic counsellors is to nod very slowly with a very slight smile on the face and say in a very gentle tone conveying understanding and compassion, “yes…I know…it can be hard for some people to approach a counsellor to talk about their problems”. BUT honestly, my inevitable response would be something more like

“But don’t we all have problems? I have LOADS of problems myself!!”

Thankfully students would usually laugh out loud when they hear my response. Thank you for being so forbearing and easily amused. My point in saying that though, is not to tell YOU about MY problems (which would be a textbook no no for counsellors to do) but to illustrate the irony in the statement that students make about how if they talk to a counsellor it would be admitting that they have a problem. Because the truth of the matter is, life is hardly a bed of roses. Pretty far from it. We all go through life fraught with difficulties and problems – issues with friends, issues with not having friends, issues with loved ones, with family, with not knowing what the future holds and occasionally freaking out about it, with self-esteem, with weight, with emotions that occasionally go into a swiftly downward spiraling vortex etc etc etc. A grand majority of the time, we adeptly deal with it on our own or with the help of friends and family, we suck it up, take a breath and the problem comes and goes, new problems present itself, we take another breath. Repeat all of the above. That’s life, really.

So the whole concept of ‘admitting to a problem’, is sorta like an ostrich that plants its head into the soil at the first sign of trouble and pretend that everything is a-okay because now that trouble is literally out of sight. So what I’ll really like to say is

“We all have problems. And that’s okay. That’s being human.”

Talking about stuff can help tons. I talk to my best friend and my husband all the time about the problems I face, like the fact that I was really inexplicably tired this morning and almost couldn’t drag myself to work. They listened, gave me loads of imaginary hugs over text and cute ‘line’ stickers, and now at 11.30am, I’m feeling miles better. I like this article by Psychology Today that’s really well worth a read.

“There will always be problems in our lives, but sometimes we don’t have the capacity to handle them all by ourselves. Getting a 360-degree view is impossible when all you can see is what’s going wrong. And talking with another person can give you perspective.”

So go on. Give yourself the permission to share your stuff with someone this week. Doesn’t have to be me. It might make your week ahead much more bearable. 🙂


3 Comments Add yours

  1. happy709 says:

    Hi Ms Low, im currently a jc1 in yjc and im just curious, what if someone told you that they did not have that good of an experience with counselling before and hence hesitated to approach you because of the fear of the counsellor or the process?

    1. Joan Low says:

      Hi happy 709, yeah unfortunately sometimes people don’t have a positive experience of having approached a counsellor before. What can I say…counsellors are flawed human beings too. I’d say though that counsellor-client (student) fit is one of those trial and error thingy. Some people may not like the way I work or talk to students, some people may find it works for them. I think the question to ask is what was it about the counselling experience that the person didn’t find ‘good’ in the past, what is it the person thinks he/she needs in order for it to be a helpful experience and communicate that clearly to the counsellor. Because ultimately it’s about what the student wants to see different in his/her life, and what he/she finds beneficial to talk about. The agenda is really up to them. 🙂 When we see it that way, maybe it will help with the fear bit? Sorry i very long-winded…..

      1. happy709 says:

        That’s true! Nah,you aren’t long winded, thanks for the explanation! It’s really helpful😊

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