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What on Earth is Confluence?

Updated: Feb 7, 2022

I was desperate for something to read recently, and went looking for a book in the boxes in the shed. I still have quite a collection, despite giving hundreds away to charities. I tend to keep gifts, and many seem to be Psychology-related.


I found an old one on counselling and being counselled, and felt drawn in that direction. Although much of it's contents were covered in my degree, and I've used the concepts for most of my life, I enjoyed the simple way the concepts were explained. And it's good to be reminded sometimes ...


A time to talk, edited by Felix Donnelly

There was one part which focused on four elements across two continuums. The first continuum was nurture/support versus challenge. The second was confluence versus contact.


So, the jargon needed explaining!

To make a client feel safe, a counsellor/therapist firstly makes them feel supported and nurtured. Okay, that seems easy. We welcome a person with verbal and non-verbal cues. Cut to the open and relaxed body language, warm tone of voice, and open-ended questions with reflective listening thrown in.


To challenge a client, we still need to make them feel safe, but point them toward erroneous thoughts and behaviours. Challenging calls for leaning forward, sitting square, and asking more direct questions. When you apply nurture/support and challenging, you see how they are on that same continuum.


Do you have to be someone's client or therapist to use these techniques? If course not! They are tools we use in relationships every day. But what of the other continuum?


Confluence and contact feel, for me at least, much more jargonistic. Why can't we just say what we mean?


Confluence is about "going with the flow". We can all think of a relationship (including friendships, and relationships with family or colleagues), when we've just gone along with it. We've gone along for the ride. We've stuck with it because we don't know any other way. We've stayed quiet because we've not wanted to hurt the other person's feelings. We allow the other person to continue being a certain way, because we love them and care about them.


I like to think of the other end of the continuum, contact, as bumpiness. We bump into one another. We rub each other the wrong way. We butt heads. We posture. We say how we really feel, in that moment, and it can get heated. That bumpiness is "contact". It's the astronauts igniting the rocket for take-off, and what happens next is anybody's guess!


When you think of your relationships, when does the road get bumpy? When life gets tough, that's when more bumpiness happens. Our fuse becomes shorter. We say what's been bothering us for some time, because we stop biting our tongues.


When things in life are fine, we're more likely to go with the flow. Ah, now we see where I'm going with this!


Things in life have been rough lately, haven't they?

Have loved ones snapped at you? Or have you done the snapping? Is it time to challenge, or time to nurture (and if it's time to nurture, is that self-nurture?)?


In a relationship, we'll support the other person, and hope they support us (nurture/support). Sometimes, we'll stand up for ourselves and say how we feel about how we're being treated and how we'd prefer to be treated (contact). We go back to going with the flow, hoping that our request has sunk in (confluence). We realise nothing has changed, so we not only repeat our request (contact), but we also ask the other person things like, "Don't you really care?" (challenge). If they do, they will make amends, and if they don't ....


That's a relationship.

In terms of counselling, coaching, and therapy, those techniques are all employed with a particular end in mind. The bumpiness of contact is utilised specifically to encourage growth, as much as support is used to bring about rapport. Challenge and confluence, too, have their place.


It makes me think of a tarot called The Tower. This is a card which, in some situations, can herald a cataclysmic breakdown, a rebellion or revolution, or a messy divorce. Among others things ... the meaning of the card, the take-home message, is that everything that has served it's purpose will be torn down and only the things you need will remain. Don't worry.


I repeat: What you need will remain. You have strong foundations, you can trust that those will continue to support you. Think of what you still have, and be glad and thankful.


It's a tough card. It requires a lot a reflection and soul searching. It expects us to stop going with the flow, and stand firm in the shoes we're left with.


Can you do that? Just for a little while longer? The sun will come out again ...



Just ask yourself, "Do I want every aspect of my life to be a 10/10?" Well, it's never too late (unless my diary is full).


All you need to do, to book in for your first coaching session, is choose! You probably know at least 3-4 people, who have come to mind while you've read this post. Why not buy them a gift certificate for their birthday? It doesn't matter where they are, because coaching is actually best when delivered over the phone. And there's the absolutely fantastic 8-Week Breakthrough Results Program, if you are really committed to living your most authentic life.


Now, maybe you need some other tools - such as books, meditations, meditation school, a tarot and oracle card reading, or to consider what kinds of transitions you need to make in your life (Ahem. I am Certified Results Coach, and you can book a free strategy session over the phone, anywhere in the world).


Feel free to like, comment, and share ...


Please remember, if you like what I have to say, please feel free to purchase books and meditations, and to leave a comment! Two happy reviews on Amazon and other online retailers earn subscribers a 50% discount on their next book (if both are purchased from this website).



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