In durance vile here must I wake and weep,
And all my frowzy couch in sorrow steep
O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
And foolish notion
Robert Burns, 1759-1796
Like all great poets and thinkers, Scotland's favourite son, Robbie Burns, can get to the heart of human experience in a few words. Looking for an appropriate epithet to summarize the spirit of this chapter I found this marvellous conjunction of what it means to endure despair about our lives and what counselling is all about. Traditional wisdom has it that Burns was being rather scathing about our tendency to think well of ourselves and thus "pride goes before a fall". But his verse could just as easily be turned on its head. The point is that too many of us do not think well of ourselves and imagine all sorts of failings and inadequacies, which can sometimes rob us of the ability to act to solve the problems that inevitably confront us in life. I will never forget the comment made by Beverley Alimo-Metcalfe in a personal development programme; "Think about how you talk to yourself-if your friends said that to you, would you ever speak to them again?" Maybe this is why our friends don't tell us what we need to know about ourselves! However, the point is that we are often our own worst critics and one basic aim of counselling is to prompt us to consider more positive and assertive ways of viewing things. The hope is that this may open up solutions to an apparently hopeless situation. Alternatively, we may be behaving in inappropriate ways-unable to see things from the point of view of others for instance-that may be making life more difficult than it needs to be.
Whatever the background theory or particular technique, counselling has at its heart the desire to give "unconditional positive regard"-the sort of thing your perfect mother would have given you if she could have put herself permanently in your shoes to see the world from your point of view,