“I want a sticker!”

Image courtesy of Mister GC at
Image courtesy of Mister GC at

Before I trained as a counsellor, I was a dentist.

On this particular day, with her mother, a confident 8 year old walked into my surgery, “I want a sticker,” she said.

Reassuring her that she could choose a sticker at the end of the appointment I asked if she would climb up onto the chair.

“No,” she said firmly, “I want a sticker!”

I repeated my message that stickers would be available later and that more than one could be rewarded as various tasks achieved.  (I would award a sticker as small steps towards a bigger goal were reached).

“But, I WANT A STICKER NOW!” demanded the 8 year old as she stamped first her left foot and then her right.  Her mother watched on and smiled at me awkwardly.

Again, I repeated my message nicely but firmly.  A sticker would be awarded if she sat on the chair and let me look at her teeth using the little mirror.  She could even watch me using the handheld mirror.

“NO! I want a sticker!” She stamped her feet indignantly.

I decided to negotiate down and suggested that if she let me look in her mouth with a mirror whilst sat next to her mum (i.e. not on the dental chair) then a sticker would be forthcoming.

“NO! I WANT MY STICKER NOW!” she shouted.

Unfortunately, this little lass did not get her sticker as she refused to get into the chair or let me look in her mouth.  Her mother did not feel able to encourage her and I certainly was not in a position to force her.

In life, it is not uncommon to either “have to do” or “want” things that we feel are out of reach.  For this eight year old, sitting on the dental chair was a big ‘ask’.  It might have a big ask because she was afraid but too anxious to say so.  (Many people who are scared hide behind aggression and perhaps she expressed that through her demand for a sticker).  Or, was it a big ‘ask’ because she was used to getting her own way and I was asking for a change of behaviour that was a step too far for her?  Or some other reason entirely?

The point is that perhaps encouragement and strength from her mother, or a different, more realistic goal set by me would have meant she got her important sticker. bplanet
Image Courtesy of bplanet

What about you?  When you are faced with a task that is out of reach or even, just out of reach, do you find yourself demoralized, irritable or become demotivated?  If you can, surround yourself with people who will encourage you, not mollycoddle you or chastise you but will be there when you need them.

Try to make small steps in the direction of a goal you want to achieve and make sure you reward yourself with that ‘”sticker” when you do so.

Perhaps, you need more support.  If you feel you would like to explore difficulties with a counsellor then contact me to arrange an initial free session.

Newcastle Counselling, meeting you wherever you are in your personal journey.

Superman Visits the Dentist Akarakingdoms

Working as a dentist, I met some really interesting people from a wide variety of backgrounds.  One of my favourites was when a three (and a half!) year old Superman came along with his parents for his first dental check-up.

He had come to see me because his parents felt that it was important that they instilled good habits about the importance of looking after teeth.  They had had negative experiences of dentistry as children themselves after needing teeth removed due to eating lots of sweets.

When I first met Superman, he was three and a half years old.

From his perspective, walking into a strange smelling room with a bizarre looking chair (or might it be a bed) and seeing two unfamiliar faces was a very scary thing.  He looked around the room with big eyes: he knew there was something in those drawers behind the weird chair-thingy.  He might have been 3 & a half years old but he wasn’t stupid.  What was it that might be in those drawers?  His x-ray vision failed him – they must be lined with lead.

As he scanned the room for more danger, he spotted a small silver tray on a small, odd looking table.  This, covered with a white tissue, looked like something to keep a close eye on.  It probably wasn’t as dangerous as the unknown contents of the lead lined drawer, but you could never be too careful.

Now, everyone knows that pressing buttons is fun… and just as there is a strong urge to want to check paint wherever there is a sign that reads, “wet paint,” buttons that aren’t supposed to be pressed can also be appealing.  Superman had spotted buttons.

I invited Superman to press the buttons.  The chair (or was it a bed) moved!  This wee Superman had not yet acquired his flying skill and this provided him with a taste.  He discovered that it could go REALLY high and that he could lie him down and the chair would sit him up again.  He began to see that there could be an upside to visiting this peculiar smelling strange room.

Whilst on the chair, Superman’s bravery skill kicked in and he pointed at the funny looking things with long wires next to the chair.  I explained to him that I didn’t have the ability of super-strength blowing, x-ray eyes or super strength but I did have some other cool stuff I could play with.

I asked him if he would like to play with my favourite… a water gun that also blew air super-fast.  We managed to get a little wet, as did his parents!  It was fun.

Now, it was time to fly whilst I counted his teeth.

Superman climbed back onto the huge chair (or was it a bed) and opened his mouth super wide.  We gave him some special glasses so that his laser vision didn’t burn a hole in the ceiling.

Superman lived up to his name and kept his mouth super-wide so I could count his super teeth.

Tragedy struck…

… You see, in order that their son not repeat their experiences, Superman’s parents had never given him sweets.  Instead, he was given a box of raisins, often a couple a day for good behaviour or just for a treat.  What they didn’t realise is that raisins are full of sugar.  Whilst it is natural sugar, as far as bacteria in the mouth are concerned, there is no difference.  Many of the teeth in this Superman’s mouth showed signs of decay.

Over the next few visits, Superman and I perfected the skills of shooting accurately with the water and air “gun”.  He got to feel the ticklyness of a special cleaning brush and play with a miniature “spoon.”  Using his super vision to look in a mirror, he saw how his teeth changed and that it was okay and at the end of each visit, chose his reward sticker.

Whilst coming to see me, Superman developed another skill: the confidence that coming to the dentist was okay.  This was a skill he passed onto his parents who decided to come back for check-ups of their own. Vectorolie Vectorolie

Sometimes, we all wish that we were Superman.  I know I have wished that there was a super hero in me, especially when faced with having to do something I am scared of.  Unfortunately, most of us don’t have a secret superhero costume hiding in our wardrobes.  Most of us, facing difficult tasks have to wear our superhero costume in the guise of everyday clothing.

Perhaps, the next time you have to do something scary, think what “superpower” you could take.  Maybe it’s a magic piece of blue-tac you can fiddle with, magic controlled breathing or a hanky sprayed with a familiar smell.

Finally, remember even superheroes aren’t invincible and need help from others.  Don’t forget the inner super-power of courage to ask for help; from friends, family or professionals.

Finally, finally!  If you are having a hard time and feel you would like to explore this with a counsellor then get in touch.

Contact Newcastle Counselling

Newcastle Counselling, meeting you wherever you are on your personal journey.

Clouds and Me

Perfect cumulus clouds over Beadnell.  (C) L. Keyes 2012
Perfect cumulus clouds over Beadnell. (C) L. Keyes 2012

I love clouds.  In fact I am a member of the Cloud Appreciation Society.  I also love the colour blue, so I am in heaven when there is a beautiful blue sky punctuated with clouds.

Looking at clouds fuels my imagination as if I was a child.  I can spend hours spotting dragons, elephants, faces and a whole host of other things hiding amongst the cumulus clouds.  I love the wispiness of cirrus clouds and the way they seem to “chill”, relaxing in the sunny sky, (unlike cumulus which can be still or rushing around depending on how their mood takes them).  Today I saw a cirrus cloud that closely resembled a giant jellyfish!

It is important to find time to relax.  This is not something that comes easily to most of us and is a skill that needs to be learned.  For me, I love to watch the clouds.  They engage a different part of my imagination: a fun part, a contemplative and reflective part and a part that enjoys the wonder of nature.  These distract me from the thoughts in my head, providing me with breathing space from the speeding world I find myself in.

Clouds are a simple thing, and fortunately, in the UK are usually present in abundance!
What simple thing can you find to help you relax or distract you from the busyness of your mind today?

Contact me to arrange an initial free appointment