Two months ago I had my last session of psychotherapy. After 5 years of regular analysis there was a deep reluctance to let go and to move on. We had been through so much together. The last few sessions were both awkward and anxiety producing but an ever growing part of me was becoming aware of my desire to embrace my own personal inner calling. Although I had discovered so much about myself during analysis, I needed to emancipate myself from this mental duality with my therapist and work alone.
Going it alone reminded me of an experience I had when I was 12 years old. I was hiking on the moors with a boy scout group on a survival exercise. We were reaching the stage where a few of us would eventually have to depart from the leaders, and the rest of the pack, and camp on our own for 2 days and nights. I was both anxious and excited at the same time. As soon as we waved goodbye to the pack and went our own way, my eyes seemed to widen and I took on this new type of energy, I knew that I was solely responsible for myself and the other boys, and each step that I took after departing was mindful and steady as I realised that I had no-one to fall back on. I had a similar feeling after leaving analysis.
It is only you who can create awareness in yourself. A master, teacher or psychotherapist can help you to initiate the change you are seeking, but for genuine transformation, you must walk your own path. To start with we have to have enough of a ‘self’ to ‘help’, so initially walking our own path can be aided by a teacher of some kind. After therapy, I began to practice yoga and meditation once again. Almost every morning I would wake up and begin my practice without fail. I realised that my ego and my continuous self-talk, as well as a tendency to live in the past or future, were a evasive force and I needed to counter that peace breaker with something opposite, present and real. This daily practice also included mindfulness in many small ways. Many times during the day I would bring myself back to my breathing and the present moment. I knew that this was all I had to do and the future would work itself out. A new faith emerged from my practice and when I meditated I invited the dark thoughts and fears in to ask them what it is that I could do to to help.
An example of this practice happened when I was meditating about my son. I began psychotherapy after my son was born, and for the last 5 years I have been through a long and painful struggle in order to gain more access to him. I became aware while meditating that there was also a 5 year old boy in me that I needed contact with too. I spoke to that boy and asked him what I could do to help. He told me he had no-one to play with and that no-one cared for him so I held his hand and promised he would never be alone again. With this experience, I realised that I had a strong desire to save myself, in turn, by saving my son. My intention became clear after that, I knew what I had to do.
Only the moment you reject all help are you freed ~ Buddha
I want to leave therapy knowing that I have done the work. I want to leave having covered all the bases, spanning right back to my early childhood. I want to leave therapy blossoming, knowing that I understand myself so much more. This notion of mine is probably the reason why I haven’t left therapy and why I am now approaching 5 years with my current analyst. Part of ourselves can trap us in this search for perfection and complete understanding. How can we possibly know ourselves fully when we are continually changing. We cannot ever know ourselves fully, and searching for some kind of ‘completion of oneself’ is a form of controlling behaviour, as part of us is not willing to accept that life is chaotic. The mystery of life is acceptable as far as the heart is concerned, but the head will always try and think it’s way around the bumps and curves, and for the mind this constant thinking exercise will be never ending. You can’t blame the thinking mind for doing what it does as that is it’s job. You could say that all that is real happens in the heart, and all that is not happens in the mind. However, the mind has to think sometimes so that we can complete certain daily tasks and our heart may need to stay out of the way, especially living in Western society. A harmonious balance between both worlds feels correct.
My thinking and philosophical mind has certainly expanded and deepened over the last 5 years, and in my therapists words he has said; “You are an extremely creative thinker”. I left that particular session (thinking once again), that if I am a creative thinker, I must spend much of my time thinking and not feeling, which is what I tend to do. Thinking is very protective. Thinking can shroud our emotions and feelings like a non-porous membrane. An obvious example of this constant thinking is when we think of a person in our lives who is dear to us. We can all be guilty of attempting to work this person out by thinking about the thousands of possibilities they may be thinking or feeling. What is more important is how that person makes us feel. Once again the mind is trying to control things, it even attempts to control another’s thinking and feeling.
The reason I entered therapy in the first place is that I was lost. A part of me had overshadowed another part and I was out of balance, lop-sided and anxious. At that point in my life I needed some help and support and our therapeutic journey began. However, by staying with a therapist, teacher or master for a long while, on some level we are enabling the kind of self talk that got us into difficulties in the first place to continue. We are once again engaging in another pattern of reasoning and debate, focusing on our sad and bad issues. I am not saying that therapy is damaging or that it is not conducive for awareness and happiness. What I am saying is that too much of anything can be counter productive, and the difficult part of our therapeutic work is knowing when both the heart and mind need to move on and go it alone. Perhaps when we leave, that is where therapy really begins.
“I’m in Therapy” ~ Experimental Vol 2
Video and backing vocals by Will
Backing Track ~ Josh Garrels
A video about psychotherapy written and read by Will.
Illustration by Jack Hudson
There is a reason why many of us choose not to air our obsessions or sexual fantasies with others, and that is shame. We have convinced ourselves that our private and secret thoughts are unholy and unnatural, so we keep them stored away in a cool dark place, well away from our friends and even our partners. These restrictions are reinforced by our own society, as in some cultures our desires may be seen as perfectly ‘normal’. We may feel more comfortable sharing watered down versions of our desires with people close to us but often the raw and unedited versions lie under lock and key. These desires can seem alien to us as we may have no idea how our ‘perversions’ came about. Our fantasies origins come from our childhood, and not in the form they show themselves now, but in the form of a basic need that may or may not have been fulfilled, so a splitting of the self occurs and a fantasy or obsession is created.
Recently I was with my friends and their 2 year old child. When his parents gave each other a hug, the child responded by showing clear signs of being distraught, and said “Mummy no hug Daddy.” If we liken these basic needs and feelings of a child to small seeds that are planted when they are young, they can grow from feelings of jealousy and rage into sexual desires in adult life. However the fantasy plant does not grow straight but weaves and bends its way downwards, while simultaneously being fertilised by other experiences, with our parents or from other relationships. So later on as adults we may be left with a personal desire that seems strange and unfamiliar to us.
Freud and other psychoanalysts have spoken and written about this in great detail but what I wanted to reflect on is what we can do if we find our fantasies or desires uncomfortable or destroying. Often if we find these uncomfortable they may become obsessional in their nature, and we tend to push them down even further, and by paradox, it energises them and makes them more powerful. By condemning your desires you repress them and they carry on growing inside of you in the basement of your being, deep in your unconscious, while part of you is prejudiced against them. So a war has been created inside of you and an enemy has more power when it is hidden. This is your obsession your desire, it is part of you and your history, it says something about your past, so pay attention to it without judgement. It is neither good or bad, so do not identify with it. Go deeply into it with self care and love, as the more you understand it the less it will feel unfamiliar to you, and the less it will force itself upon you.
Apart from a few short outings, I have spent the last month at home with a painful and uncomfortable disk problem at the base of my spine. I have been living in a barren land of flesh and bone and usual activities involving movement, walking and sleeping have taken my full concentration and effort. Sometimes it feels like I’m imprisoned here at home, and I imagine being stuck here forever, in pain and fear of what may be. Part of the self loves to dwell on imprisonment, darkness and stuck-ness, and would quite happily keep me chained up forever. This same self, who I like to call the wolf, runs these horrific story lines past me over and over again in an attempt to convince me of my helplessness and vulnerability. The wolf’s only concern is being in control, and sometimes he has me on my back with his bloody teeth snarling down at me with his dirty paws on my chest.
There have also been times where I have relished the sereneness of being still and used this time to write, reflect and ponder… my form of meditation. I am fortunate in that the view from my window overlooks a park and the River Thames. Each day I lay watching the children play, animals going about their business and stare at the clouds and the water rising and falling about the wilderness. Having therapy sessions over the phone is not the same and I feel a huge distance between myself and my teacher. Wishing the out of date rules of psychotherapy would allow a home visit, a cup of tea with him, relaxed in my own space. Life as I know it has been put on hold. This recent stillness has led to inner change and a new perspective which is impossible to put into words. Words which may lie somewhere over the distant rainbow. I’m a weary traveler who is resting his bones, a much needed rest perhaps.. My back has done it’s best to support me over the years.
My heart has had time on its hands. Past experiences, especially thoughts about old flames, have been resurfacing and floating around. What could have been’s, and some kind of inner cleaning and clearing is in perpetual motion right now. I feel the need to write letters, to apologise, to explain and to move on. In particular one person from the past has been drifting around inside of me like an ocean, as well as in my dreams, which have been so colourful and vivid. I have a need to reach out and touch this gracious ghost from the past while the memory of her beautiful face is still vivid. I want to show my love and gratitude to her for sharing half a decade with me while I was a lost soul. I want to apologise for not being fully present back then. The timing was all wrong, the wind was blowing in the wrong direction, and now she has beautiful children and a new lover. The wolf is envious, bruised and battered while the true self sits graciously smiling and feeling so happy for her. I have been worrying that my time is passing like the currents beneath the deep river so close to my door. Have I been living my whole life in the confines of fear.. O’ sweet heart show thyself and bless the stillness and the shadows within.
The self is more distant than any star ~ G.K. Chesterton
There is a story told by the Indian mystic Osho which involves two men imprisoned. “It was a full moon night; both were standing near the window of their dark cell. The full moon was there. One was looking at the moon, it was rainy season and there was much water and mud in front of the window. Dirty, and it was smelling and stinking. One man continued to look at the moon, the other continued to look at the mud. The man who was looking at the mud, of course, was feeling very miserable. And the man who was looking at the moon was aflame, aglow; His face was reflecting the moon, his eyes were full of beauty. He had completely forgotten that he was imprisoned.” Both men are standing at the same window but both men are choosing different things. Both men are seeing and focusing on different external objects that reflect their inner sense of self. Osho also uses another good example; that of the rose bush. Some will focus on the beautiful rose and some will focus on the thorns. However, If we looked at the rose bush fully, we would look at the rose and the thorns. If the rose represents light and the thorns represent darkness, we need to be aware of both to live consciously. Interestingly, the thorns protect the beautiful rose. The darkness is also there to protect us. Physically, if we did not have pain sensors and nerves, we could seriously damage our physical body. Without darkness the light would be too blinding for us. So to be conscious means to be balanced between the light and darkness, to be aware of both, without letting one override the other.
Unconsciously, many of us have a tendency to create or be involved in the very problems and scenarios that we are also trying to solve. This juxtaposition is created for a reason. If we were not fighting against someone or some part of ourselves, we would not be engaged in something. If we had no hope or strife, what would we be striving for? What would we be left with? More often when we eventually work something out that has been troubling us we tend to feel empty. Our ego likes something to get it’s teeth into and often gets away with us. Many of us at some point have struggled with our parents, constantly saying ‘no’ to them. Therefore we have a ‘no’ to fight against and this identity to hold on to. When we leave the family home we may feel empty as saying ‘no’ gave our whole life meaning. Now who do we say ‘no’ to? The tree does not fight against the wind. It does not tense up as the wind starts to gust against it. The trees roots are deep, and naturally it is grounded by it’s roots and sways in the wind naturally.
So if we are aware of both dimensions of our thoughts and our feelings, and practice being conscious of these, we will start to grow deeper and sturdier roots and our blossoming can start to happen. To begin with this can be very difficult as we are conditioned as children by our parents, grandparents, school and society not to have our own voice. Letting go of their voices can feel like death, so many of us may pull back and stick to what we know and are used to. But if we can continue, we start to disappear and we give space for something more divine and true to enter ourselves.
You came into this world utterly unbiased, pure and innocent without any preconditioned notions of who you were. Zen people call it the ‘original face’. ~ Osho