Counselling, Inspiration and the Financial Times
Therapists tend to take inspiration for their work from many different sources. Reading inevitably features highly in that list prompted in part by years of professional training. This aspect of a therapist’s Continued Professional Development (or CPD as it is known in the jargon) usually involves text books and counselling journals but occasionally that sense of being enthused can come from an unexpected location.
This was indeed the case for me earlier this year when an article in the Financial Times (FT) encouraged moments of reflection. I mention ‘unexpected’ as the FT has a reputation of being a rather dry, indigestible financial read.
Certainly in the past when the journal was solely targeted on those who were looking to understand the financial markets, that reputation would have been justified. More recently however the presentation of content particularly within the FT weekend editions, seems to be aimed at a wider audience and provides an informative and entertaining read.
Of course the basic capitalist partiality still strongly predominates within the pages of the FT. On occasions the content can also seem to veer away from the measured objective reporting one might expect from a highly regarded news source. Some have seen the Brexit coverage as a rather extreme example of that bias.
Nevertheless despite this type of anomaly the FT presents as an informative journal which looks to engage rather than lecture. This certainly occurred on a personal basis when I read an article in the FT on 5th January this year which was written by Jason Butler.
The article carried a by-line, ‘This year find joy in rejecting materialism’. The thrust of the article was that materialism per se and the relentless quest for more does not always result in an increase in the feel good factor. Happiness does not automatically follow wealth accumulation. There is not an inevitable correlation between enhanced affluence and a state of happiness.
The article contains interesting reflections on the possible internal drivers influencing those who seek fulfilment through excess consumption. There are also some insightful observations on issues around control on spending which will resonate with many therapists whether working with clients using strategies such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) or deeper approaches including psychodynamic work.
There is of course a slight irony in the appearance of Butler’s article within this particular newspaper. There is a level of basic material security which is necessary in order to enable emotional well-being. Readers of the FT are unlikely to be visiting food banks to support their children or searching for that much needed winter coat in a charity shop. Those who study the FT whether at the weekend or during the daily commute may be some distance in terms of economic stability from those for whom homelessness and hunger take a relentless toll in terms of emotional strength as well as physical robustness.
Nevertheless with the implicit assumption that a certain basic level of well-being has been attained the writer encourages his readers to look beyond the constant and all-consuming pursuit of more. There is an acknowledgment of life which is not dependent upon possessing the latest gadget or the next release. Continual acquisition does not always equate to well-being.
There are echoes of ideas from other directions and Mr Butler acknowledges some sources. The psychological background to relentless acquisition has long been a focus for psychotherapy. To acknowledge and celebrate what we already have rather than look to immediately satisfy materialistic desires is also found in contemporary ideas from mindfulness through to some contemporary cognitive therapies.
Mr Butler’s article is however a refreshing and stimulating read. Free from jargon, his words encourage reflection and embolden the reader to consider an alternative perspective to perpetual material accumulation. To find this well written piece nestling within the pages of a journal which has an understandable interest in continued economic growth is unexpected. That element of surprise enhances the arguments presented.
And a final thought. Despite what some may think professional counselling is not about advising people what to do. As a therapist my role is to help clients to develop and to find the pathway to walk that is right for them. Within my counselling room in Chichester, West Sussex my task is not to direct anyone into taking a particular road but to encourage self awareness, ease emotional distress and support personal development. This time however I will make a slight exception.
If you become aware of growing irritation at the advertisement for the holiday you cannot afford, recognise a feeling of annoyance that the house your desire is out of your reach and experience incandescent rage that the car you want is a vehicle you are unlikely to ever be able to buy, then it may be helpful to seek out and glance at this article.
In fact the highest accolade I can provide is that it is almost be the equivalent of a good therapy session.
But for those readers who may be considering therapy please note – I did say ‘almost’!