Reflections of a Nulife Counsellor

“Sometimes, you have to look back in order to understand the things that lie ahead.” ― Yvonne Woon, Dead Beautiful

Reflection gives us an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos, untangle and sort through observations and experiences, consider multiple possible interpretations, and create meaning. We hope to create a platform for learning through the sharing of collective themes based on daily practices and ponderings from the NuLife community.

Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life:

Social work, to many, represents an industry wrapped around the poor, providing them with services so that they can meet the basic living needs to survive. To me, however, it serves as a productive outlet for me to channel my passion for helping others. It’s the job of the generalist social worker to work with a variety of clients to provide individualised services to help the client meet the basic needs to live in our current society. The generalist social worker also thinks critically and is well aware that every client’s needs will be unique. So, it’s our job to assess each situation and find a solution, be it with social assistance, financial assistance, public welfare, rehabilitation, therapy, consultation, counselling and etc.

Becoming a social worker means that we know that what we do may never amount to a high salary or a vast privilege of power and prestige but we work in the human services industry because we have an ambition to help others who are at a disadvantage in life chances and social mobility. Those going into the social work field have done so from facing certain experiences in their lives and possessing certain characteristics that greatly contribute to their success in the field.

From my perspective, I have witnessed poverty and the effects it has had on children residing at my constituency in the 1980s. Many children come from poor families and difficult home-life situations and as these children grew into teenagers and young adults, they rebelled. Some became involved in the juvenile justice system, developed substance use disorders, or dropped out of secondary schools. I have witnessed the cyclical transformation of these children who grew to become the exact image of their parents, often leading unsuccessful and abusive lives. It is these witness accounts that drove me to pursue a career within the social work profession.

I have seen, endured, and overcome many experiences and obstacles in my own life and from that I have grown to be passionate about what I do. I have gained resilience which I believe to be the most important attribute a practitioner can possess within the human services. Some may argue that having gone through traumatic experiences can cripple you from maintaining professional composure if placed in certain situations but I argue that with every inch of my being – because I have never been a stronger, more passionate, and caring woman than I am now from conquering the hard times that have arisen in my life. I believe that as long as you know your limits, you can use the resilience and empathic understanding to your advantage.

I have been in this field for years because I believe it’s not only my civic duty but also my calling to help my community and those in poverty to the best of my ability. I have dedicated myself to pursue a career in social work because I believe it’s my calling, my sole purpose to serve as a contributing member of society.

It’s not something to be simply described in black and white but if I were to try, this is how I would best describe my determination to pursue this field: some individuals encounter certain moments in their life, where everything they have overcome makes sense, as if every experience they have ever had in their life has led them to this very moment. I started exploring possible career paths, and when I stumbled upon the social work profession, everything just “clicked.” Every difficult experience and all the hard times that I faced and conquered just so happened to lead me to this very moment, the epiphany that made it all worth it.

This is what I was meant to do, social work, and when I started working in in this field, it only verified that this was the profession I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

To me, social work is not as much of a profession as it is a complete and inexplicable part of who I am. – Holi

Tips for Parents

As parents, you would all experience your children using less-than-constructive methods of persuasion. Whether it’s picking fights to cause a distraction or faking sick to avoid schoolwork or chores, children are endlessly inventive when it comes to getting their own way. Unfortunately, this tenacity can lead to parents feeling frustrated, exhausted, and helpless. As a result, many start giving in to their child’s tantrums and demands—and the behaviour continues to escalate.

To maintain, a healthy balance of authority in your household:

  1. Keep your expectations realistic. No one likes to be told “no” when they want something. As such, your child is unlikely to outgrow the tendency to try to persuade you. Don’t react to this with immediate frustration; it is perfectly normal, healthy behaviour. Instead, repeat your answer of “no” calmly and consistently if you have decided that you really mean “no.” Eventually you will wear out your child, not vice versa.
  1. Do not justify your refusals. You don’t owe your child a lengthy discussion about why you said “no” to his request (a short, simple explanation should suffice). Your child probably will not understand your reasons for saying no—nor will he care. All he will hear is that the debate is still open… And all he wants is to find a way to change your “no” into a “yes.” You will therefore simply be wasting your time if you try to placate him or get him to agree with your decision. Let him be upset about it, let him calm down, and refuse to negotiate later.
  1. Be firm—but always stay calm. If your child repeatedly attempts to appeal your decision, you must learn to say “no” with force and finality. Do not let your child frustrate or exhaust you into changing your answer to “yes.” If you are feeling overwhelmed by his behaviour, call for a “time out” and separate yourself from the situation until you can once again say “no” evenly and confidently. Remember, if your child provokes you to display anger, there is a chance that you will feel guilty afterwards and indulge him by way of apology.
  1. Decide how flexible you are about the issue at hand before discussing it with your child. Not every request has to be met with a “no” in order for you to parent effectively. On the contrary, sometimes it is good to allow your child to exercise his communication skills by discussing a matter you’re flexible about. (If your child sees you as being completely rigid and unyielding, he may eventually rebel to assert his independence.) You should, however, establish clear boundaries in your own mind before negotiating with your child, e.g. how much are you willing to discuss the issue? What do you expect from your child in order for him to earn a “yes” answer? (This might be something as simple as a respectful tone or as elaborate as good test scores for the next month. What matters is that you know exactly what you want from your child beforehand.) If your child violates these boundaries, close the discussion and disengage—do not keep negotiating.
  1. Be prepared to become more lenient over time. As your child grows older, you will need to become more open to granting “yes” answers in certain areas. Make sure that your “no” answers are kept consistent with your child’s level of development, otherwise he will not be able to grow effectively. It is, for instance, completely appropriate to forbid a four-year-old from going to the park alone but a fourteen-year-old may need greater freedom in order to explore his independence. Do not let your fears, anxieties, or need for control interfere with your decision-making in this area.

While your child needs limits, he also needs to know that you are not his enemy. With practice, you will learn how to effectively balance firmness with patience and kindness.

Talking With Someone Who Has Cancer

Feelings of sadness, anger, confusion, and helplessness come with a cancer diagnosis. For the person who has been diagnosed with cancer, it is helpful when friends and family members provide a comforting presence and practical support. It is often difficult for others to know what to say or start a conversation with someone who has cancer. However, staying in touch is always better than staying away. Here are some tips to help you show your support:

  1. Take your cues from the person with cancer. Ask the person with cancer if they would like to talk about the experience. It is best to allow him or her to decide when to talk and how much to share.

 

  1. Show support without words. Your body and facial expressions can also convey your message of care and support. Keep eye contact, listen attentively, and avoid distractions when talking. One important way to provide support is to share some silence without needing to drown it out with chatter.

 

  1. Choose your words carefully. Make sure to acknowledge how difficult this experience is for the person. Carefully choosing what you say can help you show your support without being dismissive or avoiding the topic. For example, it is better to say, “I don’t know what to say” than to stop calling or visiting out of fear.

 

  1. Practice active listening. This is a technique that professionals use to show respect. It is a helpful way for you to show that you are connecting to the person’s words and feelings. To be an active listener give your full attention, avoid thinking about what to say next, or hurrying the conversation and forcing it to a conclusion.

 

  1. Use caution when asking questions. Phrase your questions carefully and consider the number of questions that you ask in a conversation. People with cancer are often asked many questions by their friends and family members, and it can become tiresome.

 

  1. Make sure it is okay to give advice. Before you offer any advice, ask if it is okay and be prepared to stop if you are not encouraged to continue. If you feel prompted to make a suggestion, ask for the person’s permission to share it before proceeding. Unsolicited advice may cause unnecessary stress.

 

  1. Be honest about your feelings but do not overburden. Communicate feelings you may be experiencing—such as fear, anxiety, anger, or disbelief — in response to the person’s cancer diagnosis. But try to be brief in your explanations. Spending too much time expressing difficult emotions you are feeling may overwhelm and upset the person with cancer. If you struggle to maintain your composure, give yourself some time away to calm your feelings before talking again. You may find that meeting with a counsellor helps you process and manage your emotions.

 

  1. Talk about topics other than cancer. Talking about usual topics may help provide a sense of balance. The intent is not to distract your friend or family member, but to help him or her maintain usual interests and connections and take a break from difficult conversations.

 

  1. Encourage the person to stay involved. Help your friend or family member decide how to stay involved in his or her typical activities and continue old routines. Those steps help many people with cancer cope during a time that includes many unfamiliar experiences. However, a lack of time or energy from cancer or its treatment may prevent some people from usual activities and routines.

 

  1. You may be able to help your friend or family member prioritize the activities they want to do and delegate other tasks. For example, you can suggest that your friend or family member saves energy to attend his or her child’s soccer game or school play while asking for volunteers to help with household chores.

 

  1. Ask if practical support would be helpful. Offer specific examples of ways you could help during cancer treatment. Ask if those suggestions sound helpful. Ideas include running errands, caring for pets, driving the person to an appointment, or picking up children from school. This approach is better than saying, “Let me know if you need any help,” because some people have a hard time asking for help. If many friends and family members volunteer to help, you may offer to coordinate everyone’s efforts. Some online communities provide tools to help manage everyone’s involvement.

Reflections to indulge in as a Helping Professional 

 

As learners and professionals embarking on the helping journey, we will often find our beliefs, perspectives and experiences evolving in resonation to the spectrum of cases that we come across. Albeit the challenges, we find that these personal narrations navigate the path towards a self-fulfilling journey as a helping professional. It is pertinent that whilst rendering assistance and support to those in need through collective expertise and knowledge, helping professionals take the opportunity to engage in the much-needed self-reflection and to do some soul-searching that would provide them with new insights and make profound discoveries about one’s own limitations and strengths. It is in these reflections that one may find clarity for a difficult decision to make or endorsement of a shared view or practice.

 

We would like to invite those intending to or already serving in the helping profession to ponder on these reflective themes that endeavours to strengthen the learning journey.

 

Ambition and Happiness

A desire to get ahead seems natural. We want to be famous or rich or powerful or popular. We would rather that others envy us than we envy others.

 

But ambition can cause us to focus so much on the goal ahead that we forget to enjoy what we have got right now. Maybe we are not the richest people we know, but we live pretty well. Maybe we are not the most popular person in the world, but we have friends who delight and support us.

 

I will do what I can to achieve my goals, but I won’t let my ambition keep me from recognising the good things I have in my life right now.

Trust

We worry about being taken advantage of, so we keep our guard up. We protect ourselves. We’re suspicious of people we don’t know very well.

 

It’s good to be careful. There are people who would cheat us if they could. But being cheated is not the worst thing that can happen to us. Worse would be to let our mistrust make us bitter, cold, and withdrawn.

 

I am smart about protecting myself, but I want to be open to people and experiences as well.

 

Changing our lives

Some call it visioning. Others call it dreaming, reframing, visualisation, positive thinking, or cognitive therapy and still others just do it and don’t call it anything. It’s the art of deliberately picturing something that we desire – a behaviour, goal or outcome – so that it’s more likely to come about.

 

Thinking alone isn’t going to make something happen, of course. But once we have a vision, we can begin to act in ways that will make the vision become real.

 

I have a picture of how I want my life to go. What do I need to do to make it happen?

 

Wanting more

How many things do we need to make us happy? Fewer than we think. In fact, doesn’t it sometimes seem like the more “stuff” we have, the less happy we feel? More stuff means more that we have to take care of, more that can suddenly go wrong on us, more clutter around us.

 

We can’t get everything we think we want, but we can readjust our thinking to find happiness in the riches we already have.

 

It’s a good day to count my blessings, rather than the number of blessings I wish I had.

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