1. What is Self-Counseling?

1.1. Writing and Reading

Self-Counseling is a way of counseling you can do all by yourself, which was created by Yasumaro Watanabe, an associate professor at Tamagawa University in Japan. He made Self-Counseling for people to solve their problems and have a better communication with other people. As I mentioned in my initial letter to you, it is used mainly by mothers raising their children. Self-Counseling is done by writing a description of a certain encounter with other people, according to some rules and by reading and analyzing it. In "You will see what children think", Watanabe says, "I rediscovered that writing with reality leads me to the way to change myself. (...) When they don't write, there are many mothers who think that they understand their children's feelings. But after starting to write the description, they notice how much they didn't see in their children's behavior. (...) They also notice many other things through reading over their description many times."(Yasumaro, Watanabe, 1985: Kodomono-kokoroga-mietekuru, Tokyo, Sunmark Press, p.18 \par All translations are by me.)" In short, the purpose of this Self-Counseling is to discover something you didn't notice by writing and studying/analyzing/reflecting on the description.

Usually, from the word counseling many people imagine that a counselor and a client sit facing each other and that a counselor gives an advice to what a client said. In other words, it consists of talking and listening while Self-Counseling consists of writing and reading. Self-Counseling is also usually done by oneself. Then, what is the difference between a talking and listening counseling and a writing and reading counseling? In "Self-Counseling", Watanabe lists the following three points.(Yasumaro, Watanabe, 1990: Self-Counseling, Kyoto, Minerva Bookshop, 14-15)

There are also some other advantages of writing:

1.2. Self-reflection

In "Self-Counseling", Watanabe says, "Self-Counseling is a kind of self-reflection to look back on yourself in your daily life. There are many ways to reflect on what you've done; it depends on where your eyes are aimed," (Watanabe: Self-Counseling, p.21) then he classifies self-reflections in "What is myself?". (Watanabe: Zibuntte-nandarou, p29)

  1. self-reflection to gratify one's wants
    1. self-reflection to make sure of one's existence
    2. self-reflection to confirm one's reason for existing
  2. self-reflection to be free from one's wants

1.2.1 Self-reflection to Gratify One's Wants

In Watanabe's words, 1.(a)"self-reflection to make sure of one's existing" is said to be "self-reflection for accomplishing one's purpose." (Watanabe: Zibuntte-nandarou, p.24) He explains that "If your action was appropriate for fulfilling your purpose, you will evaluate yourself positively, but if it wasn't, you will do so negatively. (...) The only concern is if your action was effective to achieve your purpose or not. This is a limit of this self-reflection." (Watanabe: Self-Counseling, p.22) In other words, that means when you evaluate somebody, your concern is likely to be whether that person acted effectively for you. As long as you think back on yourself from this point, your judgment will be based on only achieving your purpose.

It is said that Japanese people tend to reflect on themselves in this way because of the recent high competitive society. There is a tendency that if you graduate from one of the prestigious universities, you are most likely to be thought of as a great person. I heard that some mothers tell their children that be friends with a bright student, not one with bad grades. So, some children sometimes think passing the entrance exam as the most important thing in the world.

Watanabe also says that 1.(b)"self-reflection to confirm one's reason for existing" is said "self-reflection for going along with one's standard." (Watanabe: Self-Counseling, p.25) He explains like "We can look back on ourselves from the point of whether our behavior accorded with a norm. (...) Norm here means the specific behavioral pattern others expect of you." (Watanabe: Zibuntte nandarou, p.25-26) you to act like a high school student, this is a norm they give you. You evaluate yourself or others positively if you or others acted along with the norm you have. This self-reflection, however, has the similar kind of limit, because the only concern is whether your action accorded with the norm.

About those two self-reflections, Watanabe says, "In self-reflection for accomplishing your purpose, your goal is to accomplish the purpose YOU made. In this meaning, it can be said that this self-reflection is individualistic. (...) In self-reflection for going along with your own standard that was formed by the norms others expect, it can be said that this self-reflection is group-oriented. (...) Between those two self-reflections, there is something common. In self-reflection for accomplishing your purpose, you try to make sure of your existence by accomplishing your purpose, and in self-reflection for going along with your standard, your try to confirm your reason for existing to be along with other's expectation. In short, both of them are for gratifying your wants. At the point of being locked in one's wants, it can be said that they are uncommunicative self-reflections." (Watanabe: Zibuntte-nandarou, p.27-28}

These wants can be a fear, because human beings always try to fulfill their wants: natural wants like hunger, social wants like belonging and cultural wants like self-fulfillment (According to A. Maslow's hierarchy of needs, there are five steps: 1. hunger and thirst, 2. security, 3. belonging, 4. appreciation and 5. self-fulfillment). When people can fulfill their wants, they feel comfortable, but when they can't, they feel uncomfortable and uneasy. Watanabe says, "When we can fulfill our natural wants, we can evaluate ourselves positively. (...) We tend to evaluate ourselves unconsciously by whether we fulfill our wants." (Watanabe: Self-Counseling, p.27) He also said the same thing about social wants and cultural wants, then concludes: "I think human beings' ultimate wants are self-evaluational wants that we made to evaluate ourselves as highly as possible or not to evaluate ourselves as low as possible." (Watanabe: Self-Counseling, p.31) That means we feel uneasy when we have to evaluate ourselves negatively, because we are not fulfilling our wants at that time. Do you remember what the two self-reflections were based on? Purpose and standard. When you are achieving your purpose or when you are going along with your standard, you are happy, because you can evaluate yourself positively. But even so, you always have to keep worrying about the purpose and the standard for fulfilling your self-evaluational wants.

1.2.2. Self-reflection to be Free from One's Wants

Then, how can you be free from your wants? The third self-reflection, one to be free from one's wants, is the answer. Self-Counseling belongs to this self-reflection. Watanabe says, "Now we need to pursue another way to evaluate human beings, which surpasses the evaluation according to an attribute or achievements. I would like to name this new way to evaluate the evaluation of existentialism. This is a principle that as long as we are human beings, we accept one another's existence unconditionally. When it comes to be possible, we can truly become calm. Then, for the first time, we will be able to be active not for escaping from anxiety, but for living with others with love." (Watanabe: Self-Counseling, p.48)

Dividing Line is something very unique in Self-Counseling. When you write a Self-Counseling description, this line divides you and others and helps you to think of yourself and others separately. There are many people in the world, but their characters, ways of thinking and sense of values are all different. There is nobody who is exactly like you. As you have your own purpose and standard, they have their own purpose and standard. When this line helps you think yourself and others separately, you will be able to accept them as they are out of your own purpose and standard.

Self-Counseling also helps you to discover yourself and your real wants. When you think of yourself, a fixed idea on yourself sometimes bothers you; you think of yourself subjectively. As I mentioned about writing and reading before, you can be objective through Self-Counseling. After you become objective about yourself, accept yourself all as you are or as you were to be free from your self-evaluational wants. Everything you said, thought and did is just yourself. Don't reflect yourself like "How terrible I am, because I was lazy," because as long as you think like that, you are just possessed by negative thoughts. In this case, accept yourself like "I was lazy at that time," then you can go to the next step to think why you were lazy. By going to the next step, you may discover something you didn't notice before.

For example, suppose there is a mother who wants her son to go to Harvard, while her son wants to be a musician and doesn't study as hard as the mother expects. Thinking her son's going to Harvard as something great is just her own standard. If she doesn't notice that, she will force her son to study, because her own purpose is her son's going to Harvard. In this way, she will never have a chance to think why she wants her son to go to Harvard and whether it is the best thing for him. In fact, her unconscious aspiration might be that she wanted to be thought as a great mother whose son goes to Harvard. If she notices her unconscious wants, she will never evaluate or judge her son by whether he studies hard or not.

I think Self-Counseling is like drawing a map of an unknown town. Don't you feel nervous when you come to an unknown town without a map? But once you can see the whole town on the map, don't you feel more relieved? The better map you have, the more comfortable you feel. I will show you how to draw that good map in the next chapter.

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