Everyday I’m Puzzlin’

I have loved puzzling ever since I can remember and almost to a point of it being problematic. When I start a puzzle I have a hard time stopping until it’s complete. My love for puzzles is so great that in grade 8 my parents bought me a “Roll-O-Puzz” that I have to this day for rolling up puzzles that are taking up precious dining room table top real estate.

It means that sometimes I don’t start a puzzle until I know I have time, but it also means that sometimes I am plagued with guilt about not getting around to doing all the other things because I am so focused on figuring out the puzzle in front of me.

When I think about my passion for counselling, I think it’s a lot like doing a puzzle. I love to figure things out. I love to make connections and find ways to get the pieces to fit.

When I initially meet a client I feel that that initial meeting or two is much like opening a puzzle box and looking at all the pieces and then slowly starting to sort them out in a way that works best for a client – flip over all the pieces to the picture side, sort the edge pieces out, sort like colors out, etc. In time, what unfolds without even realizing it is I am working with my client on a beautiful puzzle of their life, coming alongside to see where the pieces we have laid out fit – because they all do into this glorious, wonderful mosaic that is each individual life.

There are some principles about doing puzzles that I have learned:

  1. You can’t multitask while doing a puzzle. Doing a puzzle requires concentration and focus, you are looking and searching for pieces – trying to fit pieces together – you need to remember what you tried so you don’t frustrate yourself going back to try to put the same two pieces together over and over again.Similarly, counselling requires focus, when I am with my client, or doing some processing work myself, I don’t have distractions around. Trying to do anything else would take away from the delicate and intricate work we are doing during the therapeutic process. Concentration on organizing the pieces and seeing how they fit together requires total concentration on my part.
  2. It requires patience. Depending on the number of pieces you have in your puzzle box, your puzzle may take 5 minutes, or it may be something you work on for months at a time, coming back to it every so often when you have an hour or two of time you can focus on it. Trying to rush through a puzzle misses the point completely of doing a puzzle. You are not going to force pieces to fit together, they either fit or they don’t. Doing a puzzle slowly and methodically, in my opinion, is the best way and the most enjoyable way, to get a puzzle put together. Similarly in counseling, the way forward that works best is to go at a pace where you don’t feel you are trying to get the puzzle pieces to fit together with help from a hammer. The way forward in counselling is to let the process unfold like a puzzle. There are times when concepts will seem to come together effortlessly – like doing the edge and then there are other sessions you will work away at and if you’re lucky – you get once piece together, but man, when you get that one piece to fit it feels so good and it means that there is one less piece to put in going forward.
  3. Each time I sit down to build my puzzle after having some time away, things seem clearer, fresher……after staring at the same pieces for a while sometimes getting up and taking a break helps everything to reset. When I sit down the next time I feel like I’m seeing with refreshed eyes, and I try to fit pieces together I didn’t see before.

People come to me with their puzzle boxes, and I have brought my puzzle box to my counsellor before. When I come with mine, it can feel daunting and overwhelming. It can feel like a 5000 piece puzzle with pieces so scattered and small I don’t know where to begin. And yet through the therapeutic process my counsellor and I or myself and my client begin to make sense of the pieces. Through a relaxing, calm, therapeutic session we try things on and out, we attempt to put pieces together and find that some fit on the first try and others are going to take a while to piece together. I leave every session feeling like progress has been made, be it 500 pieces put together or just one – there is momentum and it is forward and you can start to see the picture a little clear each time you sit down and let yourself go into the beautiful work of puzzling your masterpiece.


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