ACA Blog

Jun 04, 2012

There’s A Reason Why We Have Clichés

[caption id="attachment_4859" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Jennifer Bingaman"][/caption]

I decided to become a counselor about three years ago. I was in the infancy of a new chapter in my life, that chapter being entitled “Happiness”. I had worked my way out of a deep depression through a year of therapy and I was beginning to see the world aglow. Everything seemed new and I found the landscape of my mind to be one that was constantly evolving and exciting. Being happy was the most thrilling adventure I had embarked on yet in my life.

Of course, the chapter of “Becoming a Counselor,” blew my previous chapter out of the water. I became more knowledgeable about myself, I dug deeper into myself, pulling out insights and understanding of the person I was and the person I was becoming. My glasses have never seemed so rosy.

So, now I sit two months from graduation and I am still happy, but it’s evolved into contentment. I am past the stage where everything is new and exciting and I am in maintenance mode. Things pop up now and again, but the new developments are getting increasingly less frequent and I like it. Something strange is happening though and I can feel it. I’m beginning to use and embrace clichés.

Clichés finally make sense to me! Working in addictions, there are a thousand clichés to use with clients every day:
•“People, Places, and Things”
•“Live life on life’s terms”
•“It works if you work it”
•“Keep coming back”
•“One day at a time”
… and so many more. Even the addiction clichés aren’t enough. I find myself saying general quotes and sayings to my clients. A favorite one I have been using is, “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” by Plato. It’s the perfect way of summarizing empathy, but I find myself sounding like a broken record (see, I’m even using clichés in my writing).

With my mind well-organized and my life in a place I am happy with, these clichés are just little reminders of how to live life. They just bubble up in session and I find nothing more appropriate than the message they convey. Unfortunately, by doing my own reflective work, I’ve realized clichés might be the worst thing I can say to my clients. I never understood them until I already understood them. I had to go through the process.

So, how do I convey these rules for living to my clients without sounding like a corny book of poetry or an unrelenting fairytale? I find it works best when the realization stems from the client in the first place, but I want it to have meaning for the client. I want them to write their own clichés for living, not to have their counselor define them.

I think it may just be a lesson in patience. Maybe I just need to wait for the client to discover the clichés in retrospect through experience in reflection, much I like I had to. In time, they will understand the meaning of the words we all use to conceptualize life over and oven again. The words will have a special meaning to them because they discovered them in the process, rather than just having their counselor spoon feed them the rules of living.

Jennifer Bingaman is a counselor-in-training and freelance writer. She blogs about her experiences as a client and a counselor with a few life musings thrown into the mix at The Pursuit of Sassiness

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