Living Therapy - Counselling, Training and Supervision in Southampton Living Therapy - Counselling, Training and supervision in Southampton

Doors to Self-Understanding – Part 1

Watch out for the traps you lay for yourself!

Think about how you react to difficult situations. Do you worry or panic? Or try and think your way out? Or do you go straight into action? Most people will react in at least one of those ways and whether we know it or not, we’ll react in one way more than the others, regardless of the situation. In other words, your first reaction to a difficult situation is likely to consistently be feeling (e.g. worrying about it), thinking (trying to come up with solutions) or doing (trying to do something practical). Think of these three kinds of reaction as “doors” to the problem - it’s likely there will be one door through which you prefer to go into most problems.

When you pick the best door, things often work out OK. But when you pick an unhelpful door, more problems are likely to arise. To help understand this, think about a simple example: You are rushing to get on a train for a very important appointment; just as you dash onto the platform, the train pulls away – you’ve missed it by only a few seconds! Consider the following reactions; are there any that make you think, “Yes, that’s me, that’s the first thing I’d do!”

1.You feel enraged; perhaps you even shout out. That means you’ve gone through the feeling door.

2.You immediately start planning an alternative way of getting to the appointment on time. That means you’ve gone through the thinking door.

3.You do something to show your frustration; perhaps you throw down your suitcase, or march up to a train guard and complain. That means you’ve gone through the doing door.

Which one of those three reactions above would be the most helpful to you in the situation described? Which door would you, personally, actually go through in that situation?

Of course, life isn’t as simply as I’ve described it; I know your reactions to difficult situations can’t be reduced to three, simple doors. Nevertheless, you can think of the three doors as a useful approximation to what really happens, just as map is a useful approximation to the actual streets of a city.

Now you can try this for yourself. Think of a difficult situation that you’re in at the moment, or that you’ve experienced in the past and answer the following questions:

1. Which door do you tend to use for that problem? Is it feeling, thinking or doing?

2.How well is that working out for you?

3.If it’s not working so well, what might be a better door to choose?

Repeat this for a few problems in your life, until you’ve got a good idea of what your preferred door is and what it might be like to use the other doors instead.

Now you’ve got an understanding of the three kinds of door, it’s time to explore what happens next, once you’ve gone through your preferred door to a problem. We’ll cover this in the next article in this series.

2nd July 2015