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Hard Work Before Glory Work

By Saira Sabzaali, Ph.D., RCC

Editors note: BCACC is pleased to welcome Saira Sabzaali, Ph.D., RCC, a presenter at Wired Together: Self, Science, Society conference.  Taking place in Richmond from November 1-3, 2019, this exciting conference brings together Registered Clinical Counsellors, counselling therapists and allied professionals for discussion and exchange of the most cutting-edge knowledge, insights, issues and ideas in the world of counselling therapy. Dr. Saira Sabzaali’s presentation, titled “Tired of Caring: A Transpersonal Approach to Compassion and Burn-Out”, takes place on Day One of the conference. Early bird registration is available until July 5, 2019. Learn more here.


A couple years ago, I taught my son to do the laundry. I am an equal opportunity employer, and I think all my children (aka mini-helpers) should be able to eventually manage a household. His favourite part of doing the laundry has always been pouring in the liquid detergent and fabric softener. He calls the detergent the “yolk”. Another feature of our washing machine is that the buttons all have different tones, so when you are punching in the settings, it sounds like a little song. So of course, he also loves pushing the buttons.

For the past few years, whenever I was doing laundry, he asked to “put in the yolk and press the buttons”. Sometimes I let him, because I’m a mom and it’s a reasonable, doable, non-life-threatening request that teaches him something.

But sometimes I didn’t.

Sometimes I didn’t because secretly, I love pushing the buttons.

On those times when I was really wanting to push the buttons, I would say to him, “If you want to do the glory work, you have to do the hard work.” And that’s how he got interested in learning to load the washing machine on his own. Hard work first, glory work next. There is no point pouring yolk and pushing the buttons if there are no dirty clothes to wash.

Ok, so what does this have to do with counselling?

You have to do the hard work to get to do the glory work.

People seek out therapy when they have tried everything else they can think of and nothing has really worked. Most people (except counsellors) come to counselling as a last ditch effort to make sense of their problems and get through them. They know how they want to feel. They can imagine what it will feel like to pour that yolk and can almost hear the delightful sounds of the buttons. What they forget is that the hard work comes first and they will have to face that incredibly smelly pile of dirty laundry before anything else.

We can’t bypass the hard part and reach happily ever after. It simply doesn’t work that way.

I had a friend reach out to me a while ago about her relationship with her husband, and how she was so tired of saying the same old thing year after year. She felt she wasn’t being heard, and she had come to the end of the line: she wanted to separate. We talked a little bit about what that would be like for her, and then I shared a little bit of what I have been learning lately about the male brain.

  • Did you know that women can read facial expressions and tones of voice that don’t even register in the brains of men?
  • Did you know men, from before birth, are wired to learn with their eyes and bodies more than their ears?
  • Did you know that women can hear and distinguish two sounds simultaneously while men concentrate on one sound and everything else becomes white noise?
  • Did you know men bond with each other by doing activities together women bond with each other by talking?

A lot of this is basic brain-wiring! Of course, there are always exceptions and outliers, so not everyone will fit into these simplified differences, but, in general men’s brains tend to be more like other male brains than like female brains.

The first thing is to do the hard work of realizing you can’t change anyone else’s brain, especially when they pretty much came like that. Only they can change their brain. You can change your own.

The next part of the hard work is being willing to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, to try to see a situation from another perspective.  Maybe he is just tired and needs to numb out with tv. Maybe she’s spent the day speaking to no one but the children, and wants to have a grown-up conversation so her brain doesn’t turn to mush.

Maybe you both need different things in the exact same moment.

Seeing it from the other person’s perspective helps us to stop taking things personally, and have more compassion and understanding for the ones we love.

The last part is changing your actions and thoughts. This actually impacts your brain! There are certain beliefs you have been carrying around for years that you may not be aware of. When you challenge that default brain setting, you actually create new pathways in the brain.  Therapy helps a lot at this point (and even earlier!)  because you are working with a professional who has loading dirty clothes down to a science.

Once my friend and I chatted about all these things, a light switch went on. She is now doing the hard work of trying to understand where he is coming from and acknowledging all the demonstrations of love he shows regularly. She is starting to decode his love language, and trying to understand things through his eyes. I think they have a while to go before the yolk and buttons, but the key is to stick with the hard work. It takes time and persistence, but eventually, the glory work will follow.

So what is the glory work? The glory work is where you start to realize that everything you see around you can be interpreted in several different ways. The glory work happens when you see that your way isn’t always the right way, and you begin to genuinely learn from others and from Life. The glory work is where you begin to relax and enjoy your life and relationships rather than always feeling like you have to fix or manage something.  And the glory work is absolutely within your reach, if you are willing to do the hard work first.

Last year, my 5-year old daughter asked my 8-year old son if she could put in the yolk and press the buttons. He looked at her, looked at me, looked back at her and said, “You have to do the hard work if you want to do the glory work. But I can help you do the hard work.”




Dr. Saira Sabzaali is a psychotherapist with a Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology. She works with adults from diverse cultural backgrounds who have been disappointed with mainstream counselling before and want to incorporate their cultural values and spiritual beliefs into therapy.

She specializes in individual therapy with a focus on managing depression and anxiety symptoms, increasing family harmony, self-esteem and self-care, and repairing relationships between adult children and their parents. Dr. Saira has spoken on two TedX stages and offers mental health education lectures and workshops with a special interest in supporting children and their caregivers, understanding trauma and addiction, and managing burn-out. She also offers women’s support groups, psycho-educational groups for newlyweds, and supervision for counsellors new to the field. She uses Attachment-Based Therapy and Narrative Therapy, along with other modalities.

Outside of her work as a therapist and mental-health educator, Dr. Saira teaches in the Counselling Program at Stenberg College in Surrey, B.C. She also has a podcast with her husband called “Sabzi Life” that explores conscious living while parenting. Dr. Saira is an avid volunteer, and currently sits on the Board of the Canadian Mental Health Association (Vancouver/Fraser Branch). In her free time, Dr. Saira enjoys reading, going to the gym, and hanging out at home with her two children. Find her at