Times come along when we desperately need to chat to another human being about the big issues in life. It’s usually best to find someone with a limp who doesn’t dispatch ego wisdom from a great height. For, without mutual empathy and brokenness exchange we are only walking into a co-dependency trap.
Of course, we tend to only learn this lesson after many wrong turns on the search for ‘advice’. Nowhere is it on offer more than within the Christian or Self-Help subcultures. Most of the Christian counselling is free, though at a hidden cost, while the Self-Help brand is usually focused on big bucks and lots of them. Counselling has been reduced to a recruitment drive for religious devotees, or a product to be dispensed on the production of a credit card. What would Jesus say?????
My own formative life was filled with regular ‘pastoral’ chats or check ups when I was involved in a hierarchical Shepherding group back in the 70s and early 80s. Taking the late Mr Wesley’s accountability structures within early Methodism we turned it into our own Frankenstein version of pastoral care. Every few weeks or so I’d be piously summed for a wee chat, during which I’d spill my guts about all the issues that were at boiling point in my young psyche-soul. With a beatific smile and bedside manner, my chosen Shepherd would listen carefully before dispensing a few home truths to take with me to ponder over. In our hierarchical set-up, I’m embarrassed to admit that I too played the counselling game, calling up my own wee unfortunate sheep friends for a concerned chat. Now, it was usually over coffee and biscuits but nevertheless it was a co-dependency situation where we marched into others’ personal lives in the guise of a God-given guide.
Looking back I’m amazed at how much info I both passed on and received during my years within the dysfunctional group. It was only years later that I discovered that most other folk just faked it, wearing masks of conformity whilst keeping their maverick nature closely under wraps. Eventually of course the whole thing went belly up, but at the great cost of those involved. Counsellor pastors were eventually revealed to have more internal problems than the folk that they counselled. My own particular counsellor fell into a long adulterous affair long after I had jumped ship. And to think that he had dispensed marital counselling to me and many others during our Shepherding sojourn, as a Model of a good Christian husband.
What I’m really saying is that it is difficult to know what goes on in the deep inner realms of any counsellor. So what are we to do? Well, as initially stated, it’s best to find someone detached from your religious involvement to bounce things off. Sadly many pastors have a vested interest in our continual committment and involvement in their organisations. Of course not all pastoral professionals operate like this but is difficult for them not to project the man/woman of God expertise of their ecclesiastical position. The best counsellors are those who rarely see us and have no association with our particular faith group. At least that’s my take on it.
Though many of us dispense with the bathwater of religious involvement our hurting psyches still yearn for advice. We turn to the Self-Help guru who appears to have it all together with their spirituality-only version of the beatific smile. Successful living is the new product on offer to those of us only too aware of our human frailty. Advice here usually costs and costs big, the justification pedalled is that everyone has to eat. I can understand that angle coming from a fully qualified psychiatrist, but not, I’m afraid for the supposed enlighten of heart. When cash is involved a co-dependency can be developed well by the counselling sell by date. The longer the spiritual input, the bigger the cheque. Frankly I’m appalled at some of the rates that leading spiritual teachers charge their clients for special one-to-one Skype sessions. We can be very gullible while in pain, and open to the smooth seductions of the professional spiritual charlatan. Of course, free material is often available from such spiritual counsellors, though it usually ends abruptly with an appeal for funds. Wisdom is needed in such matters. Best not to believe that all that glitters is gold in the marketplace of spiritual entrepreneurs.
So what do we do? Well, I believe that Divine Love brings along the right people for us to meet at the right time. All the Wisdom that we require already dwells within us. We just need a little encouragement to fine tune our inner hearing and listen to its startling revelations and counsel. Those sent are usually broken or semi-broken folk like ourselves. Those who have managed to limp just a little further along the Path of Life. Usually their input is for free, a gift of Love of which they may not even be aware. The greatest contribution that they can towards our spiritual welfare is to authenticate our own Journey of Self. We usually know in any present situation what we have to do. We only lack courage and the ‘go for it’ reinforcement of our fellow travellers. Generally such relationships are short-lived and for a specific temporal purpose. Divine Love will move us both on before things can turn dysfunctional.
At the end of the day, we are left with a most wonderous Self within, the masterpiece of Source, the One who walks with us in reassuring Presence.