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The other day I heard someone telling someone else in a coffee shop that it was good that “so-and-so has come out of their shell”.  It’s a phrase I have heard many times before, to denote someone who is more engaged with life - more sociable, perhaps - who has more confidence and is more outgoing.  All good things, you might think?  Yes, I would agree, if the person in question wants to engage more socially at that time, and wants to overcome an element of shyness or a more reserved nature.  The thing is, as a humanistic counsellor this is a tricky one to consider, as I believe that people should be allowed to be as they are, even if to some they may seem too retiring or standoffish.  We are encouraged to ‘live life to the full’ by glossy advertisements everywhere we look it seems, yet I can’t help but be left with the idea that we are expected to ‘live life to the full - like this’ a lot of the time.


Sometimes clients I see struggle with stigma and discrimination, and have the experience of ‘standing out’ for one reason or another when all they really want is to ‘blend in’ and go about their lives peacefully.  I have met counsellors in the past who encourage such people to “be vocal”, which can often translate in practice into ‘fighting for the cause’, in whichever form that might take.  Some clients may take well to having the role of advocate for a group who is discriminated against, yet for others they may imagine nothing worse.  The point here, I believe, is that when we are who we are, that is of course a unique expression of our identity, as we are all very individual people.  I would argue that if coming out of our shell means having to act in a certain way that may not be of our choosing, it could well be best to pop back inside the shell until the person giving out the orders has moved past.


To be accepted and not judged can be a powerful experience, and can in time free us to live the life we want to.  Knowing that it’s OK to think what we think, believe what we believe and live our life (within our limits) how we’d like to is an important realization, and shouldn’t come with any conditions attached.  A trusting, confidential relationship, free from the pressure to be this way or that, is what I believe every counsellor should offer.  At Ashwood Therapy I aim to provide non-directive, supportive assistance which, while incorporating an element of constructive challenge when helpful, will assist you to grow in a direction of your own choosing.  Then, if you do decide to take a step forward, and away from what was, it will be in your own time and on your own terms.


Rob Oglesby MBACP (Accred) B.A. (Hons) BSc | Ashwood Therapy


Ashwood Therapy provides a discreet, confidential and professional online counselling service by encrypted video call, live instant messaging and secure email.  More details, including tips on wellbeing and information on current counselling session pricing, can be found at www.ashwoodtherapy.com


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Coming Out Of Your Shell

Coming Out Of Your Shell | Ashwood Therapy Blog