Case #100 - What's the point?

Jill asked - what is the purpose of existence? This is a large spiritual question, and certainly one that is important at some point for most people.

I have my views on the matter, but this was an instance where I did not want to share them in that moment. Firstly, that sets me up as an authority, and I don’t believe I have any greater real knowledge of the question than anyone else.

Secondly, my interest is in starting with the ground of what the client thinks. They will have some kind of cosmology, some kind of framework of beliefs, even if it’s within atheism or agnosticism. It’s important to elicit these beliefs, to draw them out of the client. Sometimes they are a little unclear, in which case an active questioning and open listening process is of support to help them identify what they do believe. Others will have well-worn or very strong beliefs about these questions.

‘It depends’ very much on the client and where they are at as to what a useful dialogue will be. It may be necessary to help them clarify their own belief system. It may be to assist them to deconstruct inherited or old belief systems, in order to find out what currently fits for them. Or, it may be to offer them some of my beliefs, for them to ‘try them on for size’, helping them to clarify their own beliefs - perhaps in opposition to mine.

Jill did outline some of her beliefs about the purpose of life. I agreed in most part with her, but disagreed in some aspects. I brought forward my differences, not in an argumentative or antagonistic way, but as part of creating a dialogue around the subject. I supported her to weigh what I was saying, to find what fitted for her, and to see where she may be open to or interested in expanding her current belief system, or in confronting places of inconsistency or rigidity.

In this way, we can use the context of the therapeutic dialogue to work with such cognitive content - around a topic which can easily get abstract and ungrounded. So it’s also useful after such an interchange to find the implications for this in the clients life, including in the here and now. This helps ground the process.

Posted by Steve Vinay Gunther