Photo by Joel Naren on Unsplash
At the age of 34, Francis was a computer programmer who was so unhappy with life that he wanted to run away from his frustration of being a loser. He had in fact graduated from a local University in Computer Science and was still in his first job. At the age of 30, he purchased a one-room apartment in a middle-income neighbourhood and had just purchased a new car. He was fairly good at his work. YET he was extremely frustrated, that he saw himself as a ‘loser’.
Most would find it odd that Francis would consider himself a ‘loser’ given what he had achieved by 34. Francis found himself unduly anxious, full of temper, never even appreciating anything. The word ‘thank you’ seemed not to be in his vocabulary. He felt he was better than most and yet could not perform with the brilliance of some. Yet he would always tell himself, “What’s so big about it? I could have done it, easily.” Yet he never did! He often admired the good looking people and wondered about their nice hair and non-pimply complexions. He envied those who could enjoy themselves at parties and were never in the corner, alone without friends…like he always was.
He was forever reaching out for pain killers to stop his persistent headaches and body aches, which doctors could find no medical explanation for. He was in fact medically fit.
He often admired those who gave brilliant presentations at the office and yet made all laugh at their jokes. He was puzzled at their eloquence and, their memory for facts which gave them the ability to communicate effectively. He on the other hand always tried so hard and performed miserably having to rely on written notes, and not his memory.
He was lonely at weekends and often spent the time sleeping through the day only to find that he cannot sleep at night.
He decided to do something about his condition. He discussed with his doctor and was advised to see a Counsellor.
His story, as it came out in the first phase of Socio-Dynamic Counselling i.e. storytelling, was a sad one. He was one of 5 children, and his father was a carpenter and his mother a housewife, often preoccupied with mahjong not bothered at all with housework. His father was totally apathetic towards the children and they grew up almost unsupervised and without love. He was the youngest. His siblings were always in trouble, either from being beaten up by the neighbourhood gang or with the police. By the time he was 10, his siblings had all left home in search for jobs. The eldest was only 20! In school, he would be the most untidy student, with badly washed and unironed short pants. He never had underwear at all at this age. His hair was traditionally crew cut, so that his dad could save money by Francis having a haircut only once in three months.
Until the age of 12, he never passed his exams and was never promoted. Naturally, he found himself in a class of underachievers where the study was the last thing on their minds. Their bored underpaid teachers were more interested in the private tuition sessions rather than teaching and in fact, took their teaching time to relax and prepare for private tuition, rather than teach their students.
Many times during his Socio-Dynamic sessions he would break down. When asked why, he could never explain. His breakdown sessions were not just a mere few tears, but was deep-seated painful sobs followed by spurts of a mixture of vomiting air and hungrily swallowing air to prevent himself from choking AND HE DID NOT KNOW WHY!!!
A big clue to his personality came from a narration on his first-ever physical fight. Until then he was always bullied. He was punched and pushed around and he would simply tolerate the pain and whimper away in total submission, only to find himself being chased and further being bullied and laughed at! These bullying episodes were for no other reason than the fact that he was an introvert and would be daydreaming, buried with his own painful thoughts of self-pity and underachievement. On one just such daydreaming day, he had ventured into the basketball court, where the more outgoing students were either playing basketball or a game called “hantam bola”, where the one with possession of the ball will hit other players with the ball… and the ball hitting continued, until all the weak ones drop out of the game.
This meek, glutton-for-punishment boy, presented the players with a good target and they were bent on humiliating him. Like a pack of wolves, they took turns hitting him with the tennis ball and he fell on to the rough concrete and badly bruised his elbow with blood running down his wrist. He had long forgotten what pain feels like, but seeing the blood, frightened him and he ran out of the basketball court with everyone laughing at him. That night he cried himself to sleep. Neither his father nor mother had even asked him about his bloodied shirt. They were used to seeing their children bloodied. His father’s attitude was, in the world, if one could not defend oneself, one will be bullied. A fact of life that he wanted his children to accept!
The next day changed his whole life. He went back to the rowdy group in the basketball court and he focused on the leader. When the leader came after him this time, the leader concentrated on his bruised elbow and started hitting him with the ball at that exact spot again and again and again, till the wound opened up and started bleeding! The excruciating pain, the sight of the blood, sent an unfamiliar sensation over his entire body and when the sensation hit his head, his eyes turned fiery red and he did something he never ever did. He fought back! When he finally stopped hitting the leader, the leader was on the ground bleeding and bruised so badly that an ambulance was called for. Francis had vented all his anger and frustration on the leader.
Francis’s world came to an abrupt halt. The leader was lying on the ground bleeding and squirming with pain. His once rowdy supporters had made a line behind their leader and all were quiet in shock. The reason was apparent. The headmaster had come down with a cane. He had called the ambulance. There was absolute silence when the ambulance crew took the leader away. The headmaster said coldly to Francis, “Come to my room now!”
Francis was surprised that he was not scared of the headmaster. He was not scared of the canning. In fact, he was not scared at all! He boldly walked to the headmaster’s room. Before the headmaster could say anything Francis started talking non-stop, slowly and clearly. He told the headmaster that if the headmaster did not discipline the leader and his supporters, he would personally report the headmaster to the Ministry of Education, at their next inspection trip! Francis could not believe his ears, hearing himself talk to the headmaster for almost 15 minutes. He even threatened the headmaster that if he was caned even once, he would see to it that action will be taken against the headmaster! HE WAS DEFENDING HIMSELF!
He stood up in front line of the auditorium and saw the leader and his supporters being caned for indiscipline and he felt a warm glow of satisfaction within him. He was nonetheless puzzled, for he did not know why he felt this strange sensation!
From that time on, Francis became a more confident boy, and as time elapsed he developed into being one of the top students. He graduated and landed in his current job. Yet he still felt himself a loser! Why??? He kept wondering.
Prior to his marriage, episodes with women were bitterly disappointing and he would fall in love with almost every woman he met, all of whom did not even bother to look at him twice or want his company! So he just worked, worked and worked doing a lot of overtime. He knew he was at the edge. He knew he had almost lost purpose and was heading for the dark chasm of depression. Yes, he did think of ending it all, but something told him that he should hold on. Was it the Lord, he wondered? It was then that he summoned enough courage and decided to see his doctor, who had recommended Counselling.
All through the first phase of Counselling, he was apprehensive, as he did not fully understand or appreciate Counselling. He was introduced to Socio-Dynamic Counselling where the concept of man being inherently a dynamo, should use the energy exerted by social interaction, to generate light, to light up his world, interested him. However, he could not ever understand how a man could change his own world. He always felt that the world should change for the man. Little did he know the significance of his ‘hantam bola’ episode!… and that wonderful sensation that he experienced then but never understood why.
His Counsellor observed that, he was ready for the second phase of understanding the process of mental management. By then he had learnt to respect his Counsellor. In the third phase of consolidation with the present, his Counsellor arranged for him to have a joint project with him – line dancing! He often laughed at the others, much older than him, as they danced, loudly counting, “one two three, turn … one two three, kick and one two three, twirl!”. He found he could do it naturally without having to audibly count the beats. He soon appreciated the reason why he preferred to always be alone and not mix freely with people. It requires effort and tolerance, and an ability to respect others. It requires humility. This tremendous effort can only happen, if one respects, oneself. One needs to understand one’s self and recognize one’s self, before one can recognize and respect others.
His Counsellor then changed their joint project. The next project was to join the Singing School. He discovered that he could sing and sing well and his Counsellor picked up the song ‘Green, Green, Grass of Home’, which till today he sings at gatherings, to loud appreciative applause. He never accepted any invitation to sing a different song! He never really understood why his Counsellor picked that particular song.
His third joint project required no effort at all. Each day at am, he and his Counsellor will go to the local Hospital’s Oncology Department and sit there till lunchtime. After two days Francis requested that these be stopped. He well understood, tragedy, pain and suffering of patients and their loved ones, as he had seen unavoidable “non-self- inflicted, emotional non-well-being”, as his Counsellor termed it, with emphasis on ‘non-self-inflicted’.
The third phase with the three joint projects had truly opened the eyes and world of Francis. He was able to reflect on his own experiences and compare them with the hopeful dancing king and queen wannabes, discover that he has some hidden talents and could entertain a crowd with his singing…, and was very appreciative that Mother Nature had not passed a sentence of death on him with no appeal. The impact of the projects was such that he was determined to fully enjoy moments in his life and not deprive himself of the FUN AND SATISFACTION OF LIVING. This paved the way for the fourth phase of Socio-Dynamic Counselling i.e. living with his ‘newly’ discovered self, accepting who he is, refusing to be in denial of himself and constantly recalibrating the management of himself towards a desired and positive outcome.
Today Francis has moved on to a new job as head of I.T, has a beautiful, lovely and kind wife, who is a Financial Controller of an MNC. He is very happy, organizes gatherings, has parties and entertains all with his singing and dance steps and has stopped perceiving himself as a loser. He is much loved and appreciated by his friends. Expensive stem cell facials and a good grooming Consultant, introduced by his Counsellor, had truly converted Francis’s image to one that makes him likeable to all, and most important likeable to himself!
Needless to say, his Counsellor has become his best friend!
At his bachelor party the night before his marriage, he went out to sit at the corner of the balcony and asked his Counsellor to be with him.
“I can’t believe how my life has changed. How different I am compared to what I was. Yet I still don’t know what has caused this change! I never wanted to ask you before, but can you tell me what happened?” he asked.
“You were on a journey, not of your choice and without a road map. You did not recognize yourself. You, with the benefit of Counselling, decided that YOU shall be the destination and you developed a road map to navigate towards your new destination- Destination You. You in fact discovered this destination when you floored the gang leader and defended yourself in the ‘Hantam bola’ episode. You discovered yourself then, but regrettably, you did not recognize the You that you are, then. Now you know! Now you recognize that unfamiliar sensation. The sensation of being YOU!”. The Counsellor then left Francis, glowing with his newly understood sensation. The sensation of being YOU!
Like a bolt of lightning, Francis well understood why his Counsellor wanted him to sing the “Green, Green Grass of Home”.
The Counsellor then walked away, leaving Francis, glowing with his newly understood sensation. The sensation of the wonder of YOU! Francis sat all alone in the dark balcony and smiled to himself. Taking out his handkerchief to wipe his moist eyes, he looked at the sky and gratefully said, “Thank you, Lord, for not deserting me, and allowing me to find myself!”