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February 20, 2018

Sardines - a Counseling Metaphor

By Dr. Richard Boyum

On frequent occasions, I have clients who want not only everyone to like them, but also everyone to like each other. They burden themselves with trying to make everything all right. A technique that works for me to change this behavior is as follows: I ask the client if there is a food they do not like. In a recent session a client said "sardines." I asked the client why he didn't like it and he said, “just because it doesn't appeal to me," I then asked, "is there any thing you are willing to do to make sardines more desirable to you." The answer in this case and in almost all the cases is "no”. “There are too many other foods to enjoy. Why bother with sardines?" I then ask the question, "have sardines done anything to you that make them inherently bad?" The answer is, of course, "no." I then ask, "are you aware that there are some people who like sardines?" The answer is, of course, "yes."

I use this as an example metaphor to help individuals understand that some things are liked or disliked just because of the way they are. You can still be respectful and understanding of a situation, but you don't have to like a person and/or situation...like sardines. The client that I mentioned above, in each and every situation he runs into where he is trying to make people like each other or trying to make someone like him, simply thinks of "sardines," and then he can let go and understand that some things are the way they are because of the complexity of human tastes. See if this doesn't work with your clients.