The Counselling Shed
Last week, whilst I was driving my car, this track was played on the radio: ‘Still Fighting It’ by Ben Folds.
I’d not heard it before. It floored me: stopped me in my tracks. I have since downloaded it and played it repeatedly.
I find the lyrics to the first verse to be so moving:
Good morning, son
I am a bird
Wearing a brown polyester shirt
You want a coke?
Maybe some fries?
The roast beef combo’s only $9.95
It’s okay, you don’t have to pay
I’ve got all the change……
and it then to goes into a great Chorus that talks about how everybody hurts and struggles with growing up.
I love the lyrics because they are so down to earth. I mean what other song can you think of that speaks about a roast beef combo only costing 9.95?
Often in my work with clients, at some point in their counselling journey, we explore inner child work together. This pioneering body of work was developed by John Bradshaw in the 1990’s.
The basic idea is that many of us, perhaps all of us, get wounded at various stages of our childhood. Maybe something traumatic happened when you were 6 years old; or maybe you had a difficult experience and/or incident at School when you were 12; or maybe, when you were a certain age, your parents or caregivers did not act towards you in the way that you needed them to, maybe they never did; or maybe the conditions of the culture that you grew up in were not nurturing, supportive, encouraging or challenging in the way that you needed it to be.
Whatever, it was for you, the idea with inner child work is that these wounded inner children do not go away but lie within us, as part of us. And, at some point in our adult lives it is helpful to make contact with them again, we need to pay them some attention, so that we can redress the wrongs and attend to the hurt.
Now the lines in the song that really get to me is when the Dad, who is singing to his son, says ‘It’s okay, you don’t have to pay, I’ve got all the change’.
What often comes up in inner child work with my clients – and this applies particularly to men, but also to many women, is that they were called upon from quite a young age, to do a certain task, or to take on a certain role, or to take on responsibility for this or that: certain things were expected of them but at the same time, and this is key, these responsibilities, tasks and/or roles were never explained or modelled to them. In an ideal situation, a task or role would be modelled or demonstrated first, or at least explained, so that the child could see, understand and then internalise what was expected of them. They could be confident in knowing what to do.
Instead what often happens from being called upon to take on a responsibility from too young an age or without adequate help and support, is that the child ends up feeling abandoned, alone, out of depth, or stupid – like they are not clever enough or not capable enough.
They might also feel shame – someone has asked me to do something, and I don’t know how to do it. The message I am being given is that I should know how to do it but I don’t and so I must be stupid or something. And because help has never been offered I do not know how to ask for help.
This all comes out for me in this song – when the Dad says ‘It’s okay, you don’t have to pay’, it’s not your responsibility to pay, that is my responsibility.
Boys then, but also girls, can carry the legacy of this into adulthood: such people have no expectation of things being made clear to them and they seldom feel that they have a right to ask for help.
So, if you are someone that feels out of depth in a working environment, or in other areas of your life, maybe you have taken on a new role or responsibility or you have taken on a new job altogether, do you find that you are able to ask for help if things are not clear? Or do you struggle along on your own? If the latter, do you then end up secretly harbour feelings of not being clever enough, or capable enough…. do you feel that something must be wrong with you?
The idea of asking for help never occurs to a lot of people: because they never had the help they needed when growing up.
I think this is true particularly for men because there is such a pressure put upon men to appear to capable, competent and confident and to not show any signs of weakness – but is does apply to many women too.
And these feelings – the feelings of not being enough – are often accompanied by huge levels of shame – the sense that there must be something wrong with me. But that is not the case. There is nothing wrong with you – and working with my clients I can show them this.
So, all of this from this one song lyric!
Thank you Ben Folds.
I am always in appreciation of musicians and song-writers who create these amazing tracks.
Take care all of you.
If you find that you are feeling out of depth and are secretly harbouring the shame of feeling that you are somehow not enough, then as I always say, don’t go on struggling all on your own. There is no need to. Help is always available to those who ask for it.
If you are looking for help then get in touch now for a chat.
M: 07757 859650 or E: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Ah…. this all starts to remind me of Harry Potter:
“Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows