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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Crabtee

What is email counselling? An example of an email exchange.


Example of a 500 word client email:


Hi Caroline,


God I’ve had a terrible week. Everything seems to be going wrong all at once. I don’t even know where to start this week.


The feelings of overwhelm are quite intense. I’m finding it really difficult to even pin point what seems to be the most pressing for me, I feel like I have to be everything to everyone and there’s so little time for me in this life.


My mum is making all sorts of demands on my time and I feel like I’m letting her down as I can’t be there for her - I’d like to be there more but this just makes me feel even more guilty than I already do about the whole thing. I thought she’d be happier in the new house but in reality it’s just moved her problems to a new location.


John is working every hour of the week at the moment and I seem to be second thought to him. I appreciate he works hard to give us a nice life but sitting in a nice house is no compensation to being in a relationship black hole. I just feel empty inside. Where’s the real me?


To even write this email I had to go and sit in the car on the driveway - otherwise I’d get pulled into everyone else’s problems. I always seem to be able to fix everything - why can’t I fix the way I’m feeling?


I really feel like I’m being short and losing my temper much more now. It’s not like me to feel so angry all the time, I literally feel like I’m going to blow at someone and that’s not the right thing to do - what will others thing of me if I did that? I’m the fixer - not the problem causer!


I’m trying to think back to conversations we’ve had before and things that helped when I felt rubbish. In fact just writing this has helped me feel more rational so perhaps the problem is me and not everyone else?


My friends always say I’m the rational one and have great advice to give - I love helping people and making others feel better, but no-one seems to understand what it’s like to be me at the moment. I’m fed up!! Really fed up - pissed off in fact. I just put on this brave face and smile at everyone like it’s all ok. I really don’t want to be around other people at the moment - I know I’m actively avoiding everyone so they’ve no idea what’s going on for me. Why would they want to help me anyway?


Now I’ve nearly finished writing this I feel a sense of dread that I’m going to have to go back in the house and face everyone and make everything ‘just right’ for them.


Can you help me get out of this black hole? I know you seem to understand me when others don’t.


Send me some sanity and advice please!


Alison


 

My 500 word response to Alison:


Hi Alison,


Wow it seems like you’ve been having a really tough week. I can really feel the overwhelm in your words in the email this week.


From reading this I can sense so much frustration on your part, you’ve got lots going on and you feel people aren’t noticing you - would that be right?


I could be completely wrong but when you say there’s so little time for you in this life - can I just check out that feeling a little more.  Is that you don’t feel to have purpose, or is that a feeling that you don’t want to be in this life? That feels very important to me - don’t forget there are emergency numbers on my website to help you when feeling in a crisis.


I’m wondering if all these issues you mention are actually your problems or whether you are taking them on because you feel better for fixing things for other people? Does that thought resinate with you at all?


Sometimes we jump in an fix others in order to make ourselves feel better. I’m wondering if in fact when you talk about feeling empty and numb you are using other’s problems to fill this space. It can be really uncomfortable to feel numb. Sometimes our body uses this numbness as protection - it’s too difficult to say what we really are thinking and feeling so we squash it down. Maybe think of it as emotional baggage - are we carrying everyone else’s bags, or are these actually our own bags? Does that make sense?


If I could take everyone else’s problems away and we just concentrated on you how would this make you feel? Would that be too overwhelming?


I can see from your email that you are feeling ‘short’ and losing your temper. I’m sensing a feeling of anger and that you are squashing this. Anger is a really important feeling to acknowledge - it’s your way of knowing that something is not right at the moment. And that’s ok to acknowledge. Does the anger come from a sense of frustration, or maybe resentment or a feeling of being let down by those around you? I’d like you to really try to think about that when you do feel angry. Is it the moment that is making you feel angry or is it that you are projecting other feelings onto that situation?


When you mention that you don’t want to be the ‘problem causer’, is that because you are always the fixer? Why would you be a ‘problem’ to others if you did in fact tell others your true feelings. Is that because you don’t feel valued by others at the moment. Do you value yourself? I think that’s a good place to start sometimes. Can you tell me what you value in yourself? I may be wrong but I think if we can value ourselves then we start to appreciate the ‘real me’ and not the one created to please everyone else.


Kind regards


Caroline

 

Although this is a fictional example I think you'll agree that for my client to write down her problems was in itself a cathartic process. My response gave her the opportunities to explore feelings further in her next exchange with me the following week.

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