Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Counselling and politics - hopes and dreams in context.

On the day of the US elections, I've been thinking about politics and what it might mean for ordinary people. How relevant are politics in our everyday lives?

As individuals, we have hopes and dreams for ourselves and others. How these play out is in part determined or limited by ourselves, and in part limited by the society in which we live. In counselling, we can take a look at ourselves, maybe discover there is more to us than we previously supposed. This can be hopeful and empowering; but where do we go from here? To pretend we can do anything we wish is patronising.

Whatever we may be capable of achieving, there also need to be opportunities within our society in order to realise these ambitions. I am not arguing for a 'nanny state,' where we are passively looked after, with no responsibility for ourselves. I do feel however that we need to care for each other in a co-operative way. This can work at an individual level and in the way we are as a society, including its politics.

Of course politicians can make all kinds of promises which play on our hopes and dreams - it gets votes.  Being able to deliver on these promises is another thing. With limited resources, we may not be able to do everything we want. This means making choices we would rather not have to make. In politics, there have to be choices and therefore priorities, although what is the priority may change over time.

In prioritising one thing, we may have to face the loss of some other possibility. Just when we choose something really good, at the same time we are not choosing something else. We can feel sad at the same time as feeling good. We feel conflict within ourselves. This can make us stuck and go round in circles, not wanting to make decisions. This happens for us as individuals and in the field of politics. Nobody wants to say 'No we can't do that, even though it's a good thing to do.'

However, accepting the potential losses in difficult decisions can allow us to become unstuck and move forward. It can be painful and challenging; but it is also liberating. It means that we can get on with our lives. We can make plans and look forward to the future in a realistic way.

Lin Travis Counselling Services