Open to experience?


'Life In A Lava Lamp' - Levity III Luminarium,...

‘Life In A Lava Lamp’ – Levity III Luminarium, Bangor Open Air Festival (Photo credit: Kristofer Williams)


It started with a phonecall in my dayjob:


Caller: Where do IT services put contact details?

Me: I don’t know- I don’t work in IT services

Caller: then how do we know where they go?

Me: we don’t. What do you need to know?

Caller: I need contact details to display on this webpage

Me: I can do that for you.


Now, had the caller called and said what they *needed*, I would have been much better placed to answer, without that conversation going round in circles (which it did for some minutes before I was able to work out what they wanted).


This got me thinking about myself, and whether I am good (or not) at asking for what I need. Essentially, I’m not. I try to be, and I try to be honest and open about my needs and desires, but it can be really hard.


It seems to me that it’s linked to Rogers’ becoming a fully functioning person: – Openness to experience. The more I try and be open to experience, without being defensive, the more I become a fully-functioning person. But it means putting down my defences, and my defences are where I find it hard – as a client said to me: ‘I don’t want to have to owe anyone anything – I will get hurt’, and I suspect that’s a lot of people’s experiences. Certainly, it’s been mine in the past, and it’s hard to put that down as an adult.


I see myself thinking on ridiculously small things – like ‘I really fancy chips for dinner’, but if my partner is cooking, I don’t feel able to express a desire for that always. Because somehow it’s better to want chips and not have that desire met through not asking, than it is to ask and have that desire not met. I’m thinking too much there and rationally, I don’t care, but somewhere inside a small part of me feels that it was important to ask so there had better be a REALLY good reason why chips aren’t forthcoming. And there would be. But still, I can’t always risk it. I don’t even realise I do this all the time.


Fred, bless him, told me in supervision last time that he felt I accepted critical comments on my practice well. And I do. In THAT situation, I am open to the experience and do not feel the need to put up defences against it. There can still be a lot to lose in supervision – the desire to be seen as a ‘good’ trainee, the good working relationship we have. But somehow, I go in with the bigger picture in mind and it seems ok to be told ‘it seems to me that possibly you need to consider X situation with your client’ and it’s a BIG thing.


I see it in other areas in my life. There is some .. upset going on in a part of my life. I am trying hard to remain open to the experience, but actually, a big part of me just wants to snap back. For me, it is when life feels ‘unfair’ that the openness to experience disappears. When it’s supervision and my supervisor is much more experienced than me, that’s fine. When it’s my reading of a situation over another’s and I feel put in to the ‘bad person’ corner, it is MUCH harder to be open to that experience. Of course, what it really needs is much less of a general ‘open to experience’ label and much more of a ‘what’s going on for me when this happens?’ experience. And this is where I fall down – this is one of those things I’m trying to address in my personal therapy. It’s a long long road.


So for me, it’s two-fold. One must be able to ask to have one’s needs/desires met, and at the same time, one must be open to the experience of receiving ‘no’, and to be able to work out what’s behind the response to that.


All of this makes me think back to my own clients and their paths down this road and the monumental tasks some clients set themselves, often subconsciously, in order to try and get further towards (generally) happiness or peace. If this is where I am, with two years of reading Rogers’ theories behind me, how much harder does a client, with only themselves to guide themselves (and me, beside them) have to work to achieve the same things. Some days, I’m in awe of my clients.


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