Diana Gold Counselling
|3rd March 2021|
TAKING A LEAP
Give the act to me.
Purged of hope and ego.
Fix your attention on the soul,
Act and do it for me.
from "The War of Art"
It is hard when clients come to therapy asking me the following question,
”Why should therapy make any difference to my life when I am still surrounded by family members who won’t change, a job I hate, a partner who is having an affair...”
Hard because there is no real answer to give them. Coming to a stranger, to unburden yourself, at the end of your tether, and unable to see any way out of it, is in fact the beginning of a kind of alchemical process. How can I say that to my clients? How can I tell them I have no idea how the magic begins or what they will end up with? How can I say that and then tell them I am about to charge them money for this thing I can’t pin down?
I ask my clients to take a leap of faith in the process.
I know this is the bravest step they can take. I also know that the moment they have walked through my door they have already started to change their lives. They have stopped trying to control everything and they have given up their old way of dealing with their problems. Their apparent ‘giving up’ is instead a ‘giving over’ to a wiser self.
PUSH-PULL RELATIONSHIPSOne wants more intimacy, the other feels suffocated.
What is going on in couples that experience this push/pull scenario?
They seem to be playing out some dance from long ago, perhaps one they learned before they even realised they were learning the steps at all. And instead of looking at this as a problem, the challenge is to see beyond that. What is right about it?
What does it remind them of? What is hoping to be healed by bringing it to their attention?
Is one partner remembering their suffocating over-protective mother?
Is the other feeling the loss of a father who left when they were small?
Looking past the obvious into the bigger picture is where to go when something feels stuck. If you keep looking in the same place and keep getting locked in ever stultifying arguments you are looking in the wrong place.
Like the man looking for something under a street light one night
and being asked by a passerby what he is looking for.
My keys, he replies.
And so the kind stranger helps him look.
After a futile time of searching the stranger says,
So, you dropped them here?
Oh no, he says,
I dropped them over there somewhere, but the light is better here.
SOLID GROUNDThe Opening of the Eyes by David Whyte
That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.
It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.
It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.
ANGERFeeling angry may be a good way of realising that something or someone has crossed a line. Why are you angry, and what line has been crossed? Anger has a bad press, especially if it becomes uncontrollable or frightening to others, but at it’s initial stage it can be a signal worth exploring.
A colleague once told me that her anger grew the more it was ignored. “If someone steps on your foot, you say ouch, but if they keep stepping on your foot you shout at them until they hear you.”
So the first place to start is to find where your anger started. Thinking of it as an early warning sign that someone has entered your personal perimeter fence, and perhaps also that you have let them, is one way of looking at anger as a healthy response. You may not even know that anger is what you feel. If you come from a family where anger isn’t acceptable it may simply be an uncomfortable feeling of things not being quite right.
The next step is working out what would need to happen for the uncomfortable feeling to go away. Do you need to tell someone directly that what they are doing is not okay for you? And if you did that, would they listen? Is the fear that they may not change their behaviour stopping you from having a difficult conversation and so fueling your anger further?
If the reason for your anger is not addressed anger may find other ways to express itself. Making sarcastic remarks to the person that’s upset you or talking about them behind their back will add another confusing layer to the situation. If they react to what appears to be unprovoked attacks from you the whole thing escalates and it becomes more difficult to get through the defenses of all concerned. Not only that, the reason you were angry in the first place has got lost in the argument. Both will be left feeling mistreated and misunderstood. There are relationships where years of animosity and silence have grown out of a small infringement that was never properly identified or dealt with, and the loss for both is huge.
QUALITIESOne of the things I liked on a Psychosynthesis workshop was the idea that we are born we are perfect. We arrive at our birth with all our qualities intact - we are wise, loving, caring, and willing to learn what we need to. Depending on the circumstances of our birth this may change.
If we are neglected, treated unkindly, made to feel shame, then these wonderful attributes become distorted. The love we arrived with may become corrupted so we become needy and demanding of others. The quality that starts as the ability to discriminate may be warped into an overly critical attitude, either of others or ourselves. Even our wisdom may be used to gain power and control over others in an effort to feel safe.
Becoming self-aware is a process of finding a way back to our original state; understanding how we may have been affected by our circumstances and learning to free ourselves. It is about not getting hooked into blaming our history or a person. We need to change the only thing we can change, ourselves.
THE JOURNEY by Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.
FEELINGS - Are they Appropriate?I have sometimes heard people talk about having inappropriate feelings.
They worry that they will burst into tears at the wrong time. Maybe they are going to see a friend who has recently lost someone, or has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and they worry that they will not be able to control themselves. If they cry when they see them they will make things worse.
How do we know our tears will make them feel any worse than they already feel? So many people avoid their friends at these critical moments and not because they don’t care. They simply do not know what to say or how to be in their company.
But to the person who is dying or suffering the loss of a loved one the only thing they know is that they have been abandoned by the very people they want around at such a time. And if they were to cry, perhaps the person struggling to come to terms with their loss, might feel a relief that there was someone right there with them looking at the abyss without trying to hide their feelings about it.
Yes, you may burst into tears, fall apart, be unable to find the words that you think need to be said at such a time. But surely the worse crime is not to be there. Isn’t it better to be with them whatever you are feeling, knowing that you can’t fix it no matter how much you want to?
THE INVITATION by Oriah Mountain DreamerIt doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.
It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, 'Yes.'
It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
FACT OR FICTIONSomething I’ve notice is how attached we are to stories.
Particularly stories that make us feel bad.
Someone tells you something that happened to them and they imbue it with an interpretation. It isn’t just about fact anymore, it is about what that fact means.
Their partner didn’t pick them up at the agreed time is fact. Believing that they don’t care, or is having an affair, or can’t be bothered to listen to them is the fiction. Until you know it for a fact - it is merely fiction, so why spend time feeling bad about something that is a fantasy. Until you know, really know positively what the reason was, stick with the facts. You can save yourself a lot of wasted emotional energy.
ASSUMPTIONS ARE MERELY THATI remember listening to a trainee in a workshop explain to someone in the group how she had seen him in the evening having a coffee at a nearby restaurant. She was feeling lonely on her way home and she would have liked to stop and chat but she knew that he would be irritated to be interrupted. The man looked at her in astonishment. He had been the only person in the workshop who was having to stay overnight as he didn’t live in London. “Well, you know nothing,” he said, “ I would have been delighted it you had joined me. I was lonely myself and was longing to chat with someone.”
We rarely get such a clear example of how assumptions play a part in keeping us locked into our own self-made prisons.
“Living the truth in your heart without compromise brings kindness into the world.
Attempts at kindness that compromise your heart cause only sadness.”
WHAT THE BODY KNOWSListening to an interview given by Marion Woodman, a well-respected Jungian analyst, I was particularly struck by something she said. She talked of the difference between knowing something - as in we all know that we will die one day- and the experience of the body knowing it. When told you have a terminal illness it is no longer just a thought- the knowledge becomes real. There is no longer a way to keep emotions or feelings about one's mortality at bay. You are in it. You are facing it.
I have noticed in my work, especially with people who are able to talk about their problems and analyse themselves, there is a huge difference when they are encouraged to connect with their bodies. In the midst of all the words that describe what they are struggling with, there is usually something revealed that stands apart from the details of their story. A sentence with a different energy. For example while discussing a difficult relationship they could say, "I know it's over", or while talking about their family, "My mother never loved me". At this point if I stop them and ask them to repeat that sentence, or stand up and say it to the mother who they can imagine in the room, something extraordinary happens. The body connects and there is a moment of real understanding. At those times, and in every case, there is a release and a shift. The body has spoken. Tears that heal, not tears of drama, break through and it seems to take the work to a deeper level of understanding.
These days so many people are out of touch with their bodies, but our bodies are where connections are made, and in my work I need to look for the ways to encourage the conversation between the mind and the body so that my clients are not forever stuck in the same frozen place of knowing yet being unable to make a connection with that knowledge.
PATIENCE“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” R.M. Rilke
Sometimes we rush towards action before we have let the question ripen within us to help us know the 'right' action to take. An insistent feeling to do something does not necessarily mean it is the correct time to implement change. Watch it. Learn from it. See how it changes from day to day. Anything born out of hot headed emotion, that feels urgent needs to be lived with till it no longer burns you. Instead of imagining that you are merely wasting time, see it for what it is, a time to live with the possibility of the movement being really in tune with what you want. At times, it may mellow into something more moderate, but even more effective and life-enhancing.
Blaming others is a wonderful way of avoiding taking responsibility to take necessary action in our lives. I remember hearing of a mother who called her daughter on her first birthday of sobriety to wish her the best and congratulate her on managing to stay sober for 365 days. The conversation went something like this,
“ Dearest girl, I want you to know that I accept that the reason you have had this problem with drink is to do with everything I did wrong in your childhood. Having been an alcoholic myself I accept that I am to blame for you going down the same road. I accept your anger and fury . I am responsible for you turning to drink as a solution, but it is your responsibility now to get yourself out of it.”
The daughter said at the time that it was one of the best birthday present her mother could give her.
THE JOY OF MAKING MISTAKESOften asking the right question is better than an answer. Questions have a momentum, a force and energy propelling them towards an answer. In many ways a question is more interesting than its answer which is final - static until it turns into a different question and sets up a new momentum. And of course it is important to have the right question.
While watching the film made about Joe Simpson’s and Simon Yate‘s mountaineering survival story, Touching the Void, I was struck by something Joe said. He had broken his leg on his descent from Sula Grande in Peru, and was lying deep inside a glacier. His climbing partner Simon had cut the rope connecting them - a horrendous but necessary decision if they were not both to die on one of the most dangerous mountain for climbers. The action by Simon meant that Joe was left alone in an apparently no-hope situation, too far down and injured to pull himself upwards, and lying on a ledge below which lay a bottomless pit. He could either wait to die or make a decision to go downwards into the unknown- a potentially suicidal move. He says “I knew it was important to keep making decisions, even if they were the “wrong” ones.”
A perfect illustration of the difference between being frozen in ‘not knowing’ what to do and a forward movement towards new information. Our caution in not taking chances for fear of getting it wrong can be the worse mistake we ever make. A living death. A full stop. In the film Joe’s act of madness is shown to be the very thing that saves him.
So ask yourself the question, what ‘wrong’ decision are you not making that could be the very thing to set you free? The movement that allows you to get more information to enable to free yourself from the paralysis of not doing anything .
BEING WHO YOU ARE
AS KINGFISHERS DRAW FIRE
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
AS kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.
THE REAL MEANING OF THERAPYThis came from an old ceramic book I had. Unfortunately I have lost the book and forgotten the author but I wanted to share something that made an impression on me when I read it.
"A friend pointed out that what I do is more 'therapy than it is art'. I was, at first, quite confused about this, for the word therapy is a complex word often misused and occasionally used as a put-down; especially when used with the word 'art'. I began to relax about this when I discovered that the root of the word 'therapy' is 'to cure'. To cure, not in the sense of to make well something that is sick, but to cure in the sense of to ripen. To ripen as the seed ripens into the fruit, as the child ripens into the adult, as our voice ripens into our song. If this is what it means to be a therapist, to aid in the process of ripening, then it is something to work for."
LOVE AFTER LOVEThe time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
For Women who are 'Difficult' to Love by Warsan Shireyou are a horse running alone
and he tries to tame you
compares you to an impossible highway
to a burning house
says you are blinding him
that he could never leave you
want anything but you
you dizzy him, you are unbearable
every woman before or after you
is doused in your name
you fill his mouth
his teeth ache with memory of taste
his body just a long shadow seeking yours
but you are always too intense
frightening in the way you want him
unashamed and sacrificial
he tells you that no man can live up to the one who
lives in your head
and you tried to change didn't you?
closed your mouth more
tried to be softer
less volatile, less awake
but even when sleeping you could feel
him travelling away from you in his dreams
so what did you want to do love
split his head open?
you can't make homes out of human beings
someone should have already told you that
and if he wants to leave
then let him leave
you are terrifying
and strange and beautiful
something not everyone knows how to love.
The Well of Grief by David Whyte
Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief
turning downward through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe
will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear,
nor find in the darkness glimmering
the small round coins
thrown by those who wished for something else.
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