The wheel turns

Nothing is new.

This can be a comforting thought, in the midst of maelstrom and muddle. Queens, kings, tyrants and saints come and go. Plagues sweep the earth, the poor struggle, the rich accumulate.

Ancient iconographers knew this. Buddhism has its terrifying Bhavachakra, the medieval period its Wheel of Fortune (Rota Fortunae).

The ancient triskell symbol, at least 5,000 years old, seems to be in perpetual motion, patterns repeating endlessly.

Our ancestors gathered resources, worried about how to divide them, had progeny then worried how to support them. Worried about how folk would manage when they were dead. Who would bring in the crops, who would sort out everything they left behind? And yet somehow life rolls on, millennia after century after decade after year.

I wonder what those ancestors would say to us, if they were observing us caught in the intricacies and struggles of daily life? I wonder what wisdom they would impart, after the blessing of centuries passing? If strong family values get contextualised around impermanence? Would they translate “You must work hard” into “Work hard at loving, helping, growing.” If “Be good, fit in” becomes “Be good to yourself and your neighbours, question what seems injust.”

Or would they be encouraging us to do more, get more, keep racing on? I like to think not, I like to think that time gives perspective. A magnified version of the research that Bronnie Ware conducted that concluded that the top 5 regrets of the dying were:

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

“I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”

“I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”

“I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”

“I wish that I had let myself be happier.”

I wonder if taking more of a bird’s eye view of the passing of time can help us contextualise our worries, see the universality of our patterns, and maybe allow us some space to look at what, ultimately, really matters for us, our loved ones, and our planet.

Newgrange image from:

How should we be?

I get asked this a lot and thought it might be useful to write a little something on it.

“I don’t know how to be, what should I be like?”

There’s sometimes a desperation in the question, a desire for the therapist to give a definitive answer. Any answer.

It is not for us as therapists to decide how someone should be. If we were to, we would be drawing on our opinions, which in turn are shaped by the society we live in, with all the historical, political, psychological shaping that has gone on over millenia. It wouldn’t even endly be our opinion.

But we’re social creatures and it can be so important to know we are “fitting in” “doing it right”, especially if we are prone to feeling judged or shamed, by parts of ourselves or by others in the present or past.

Maybe our use as therapist is in refining the question.

How much do I want to fit in? What morals should I adopt and should those be mine or society’s? How introvert / extrovert should I be? What should I wear? How pious, individual, amusing, self centred, selfish, weird, noisy, colourful, quirky, compliant, caring, militant should I be? Where is my comfort, and where can I push a little to explore other ways of being?

As a therapist, my job is to walk along side you as you begin to work this out for yourself and to provide a safe space for you to try on being different and reflect on how this is for you.

Showing up for our selves

Therapy is tough. You give yourself a space to work with yourself, sit with difficult feelings, memories, character traits, coping mechanisms. And sometimes the last thing you want to do is work on yourself precisely because it can hurt and be deeply uncomfortable. Some days it just feels like too much. What do you do on those days? You’ve paid. You’ve committed to your therapist you’ll be there. You could just write the session off. Make an excuse. Not show. And of course, that’s fine.

But what if, instead, you turn up for your session and explain how you feel? That can be an amazing moment, to realise you have the courage, the committment, the respect for the therapeutic relationship, and trust that your difficult feelings will be acknowledged, respected, and held. And, quite often, it is in these sessions that the biggest shifts occur. You’re challenging previous patterns of avoidance, or feeling you will be overwhelmed by your own pain. And in expressing this a therapist can really help you tune in to what you need from that session, what is tolerable or healing for you. You have showed up for yourself and hopefully will experience getting what you need through that.

What would it be like to show up for yourself more often?

Bringing creativity to life

It’s been a while since my last post! Today a quick piece about using creativity when you are “stuck” illustrated by a personal example.

I’m writing a(nother) book. I’m not a published author so no need to check Amazon just yet. It’s slow progress. Today I was tied up in knots regarding some key concepts. So I decided to practise what I preach to clients and look for alternative ways of viewing the problem. I tried mind-mapping, but really needed to SEE what was happening and what the solutions could be. I have a healthy collection of playdough for clients of all ages. I turned to this and let myself make rough representations of the concepts. I also have a good collection of figures for sand play work – and realised they would really help where my modelling skills were lacking.

Lo and behold, the issues began to unravel and, in fact, new exciting solutions began to present themselves.

How can you use this approach in your everyday life? If you have a personal issue, an issue with colleagues or family or anything else, consider if “seeing” the situation would help. Perspective, bird’s eye view, what ever you want to call it. Give yourself a chunk of time for this exercise, where and when you won’t be disturbed. Find objects to represent the people or issues. These could be pebbles, buttons, kitchen utensils, children’s toys, stationery items….anything! Move them around until you feel they are in the right place. Notice how you feel, towards the objects, towards the situation. Sit with the situation and consider different approaches, or different outcomes. Move the objects accordingly and notice your reactions. Trust yourself. You’re “playing” with ideas. Be fanciful, be bold! You’ll know when you have reached a conclusion, even if that conclusion is you need to spend more time on this issue or you need to talk to a specific person. As you finish, have a Bagpuss moment and make sure you unburden the objects of the personalities or concepts you applied to them. For example, the pepper grinder is no longer Auntie Ann and is just a pepper pot again etc.

The secret is to “play” with the ideas, and in play, a natural and creative solution may present itself to you. It’s worth a try?

Let me know if you have any success with this!