Tag Archives: counselling

Change is not a Choice

By Will

It always amuses me when I look back to around 4 years ago when I entered therapy for the second time. I had just become a Father for the first time and I desperately wanted access to my son, he was all I could think about. I accept now that I had a pretty firm script in my head about how my new analytical process would proceed. All I thought that I needed was six sessions of CBT, to rid my panic attacks and curb my anxiety over my new responsibilities, and I would be back on the road again. I mean, I had already been through five years of analysis before, and during this time I had gone back over my younger years with a fine tooth comb. In retrospect, I think I must have been using an afro comb with rather large gaps in between each bristle. Much of my first 5 years of analysis was spent avoiding the darker shadows of myself.

My family, friends and my analyst all say that I have changed since then, and I do feel like a different person. I am more aware of my compassion for others and myself and my thought processes are more mindful and steady. This brings to the surface the whole question of legitimate change and whether it is possible, but I will leave that for someone else to write about. What I can say, is that change for me was not a choice, something just happened, and I became different. Over the last 4 years much of my time was spent doing exactly the same things as I had always done, while analysing my behaviour, thoughts and processes simultaneously. This circular process continued undisturbed until real life events happened. My Father and best friend passed away within an 18 month period. Initially this created huge regression, where anxiety rang like bell, and I could have drowned in the combination of all my tears. Somehow those long days passed and eventually I was left very much alone with the dreaded nothingness that I always unconsciously feared. This was one of those periods where I was so grateful to have my therapist alongside me, someone who seemed to have walked a similar path. By facing and living in this desolate and remote land of tumbleweeds and sand, eventually something shifted. All things eventually come to an end.

During this time I experienced various forms of spiritual awakening. One time, I awoke one night to find everything crystal and clear. I visualised my whole life flashing before me and I understood why I am the way I am, and what events had caused me to suffer over the years. I realised we were all connected in a very loving way and I realised how pain and fear were feelings that were crucial to us all and that they all contained necessary energies that we can use. I thought I had finally been enlightened and I actually jumped out of bed and danced under the moonlight. I would love another hit of spiritual awakening but they are illusive, they come when they come. I remember having my very first consultation with a psychotherapist in London in my early twenties and she explained that when the psyche had difficulties, like a tennis ball that had gotten wet, the mind takes it’s own time to dry out. I left that session and never returned, but perhaps in retrospect she was right. Something just happens and you feel different, it is very difficult to explain but on this new phase of my path I became curious once again. I began to venture out and see new things and feel new experiences. That was the biggest change.

Then somewhat out of the blue, something stirs inside once again as new uncomfortable sensations and feelings come to the surface. You hold onto your previous experiences, knowing that nothing lasts forever, but begin to use these awkward emotions as a chance to discover something new about yourself. It enables one to gently pass over scenarios, that happened before your change of feelings, where you may discover a link to something, sometimes something very small, that potentially triggered these new emotions or fears. Change involves faith, faith not only within yourself, but faith in others and in the whole process of living. If you view uncomfortable feelings as bad you will experience them so. I believe that the influence of other people and intimate relationships are fruitful and can enable you to share your depths but ultimately, I am what I love, not what loves me.

The art of love… is largely the art of persistence ~ Albert Ellis

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True Connections

By Will

As long as I can remember I have always been searching for true connection with others, and I knew in my heart that something vital was missing. Discovering that most of my relationships were of a dependant nature was quite unsettling. Attachment to others in this way is perpetual, as you never truly have your needs met, and can end up continually eating crumbs. Both parties have their agendas, and both may end up feeling half full much of the time, carried with the need to go back regularly to refill their plates. It is very much like overeating in as much as there is never a particular type of food that satisfies, as the food itself will never fill the empty space inside, and so acts as a substitute.

Again and again I have found that these unfulfilled needs originate during our first special relationships with our parents or guardians. Most of us have to believe that our parents were good parents, as to think otherwise would be terrifying. Parents can be good with their intentions, but if they are not connected with themselves how are children to assimilate connectedness inwardly. A parents love may be intermittent, conditional or possessive which creates a longing in the child for love and recognition. The child will never feel enough.

As a substitute for legitimate connection I choose being noticed externally during my younger years, initially through sports, and then through playing in bands and Djing. Although I may have been playing music in front of thousands of people, and hobnobbing with the so called elite and celebs, I never felt truly connected to others in ways that I desired to be. I would role play and created an externally confident identity. When I entered therapy for the first time in my early twenties I had a glimpse of what true connectedness felt like and it was both scary and exciting at the same time. To share your deepest thoughts, fears and feelings with another in a safe environment was liberating at the same time as being very threatening for the ego self. I began to notice a pattern where during one session I would be intimate and during the next I became aloof and cocky and a general know it all. Hence what followed was a kind of peeling back of the ego defences and an awareness of the darker aspects of my psyche which initially left me even more vulnerable than before.

In the words of Eckhart Tolle “When another recognises you, that recognition draws the dimension of being more fully into this world through both of you.” During my current work with my therapist intimacy has become lighter and almost divine in its form. True connectedness also contains paradox and duality where the painful realities of life can be shared but not judged, like seeing things just as they are. This new awareness feels very much like coming home.

The ego creates separation, and separation creates suffering ~ Eckhart Tolle

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The Raging Child

By Will

Most of us are probably aware of the terrible two’s where a child realises over time that he is not the master of the universe and everything in it. That he is governed by another, namely his guardian, and he is not in control of all people and things. It raises a tough question in the child’s psyche; so if I am not everything… I am out of control, and others, have control. Paddy’s often follow with kicking and screaming, until there is some kind of acceptance while he tries to make sense of the world around him. However I don’t feel that there is full acceptance, but more of a storing of the child’s inner wishes, so that someday he may seek revenge and reclaim control of his world once again. The rage that the child feels is red hot and stays with the child throughout adult life and the terrible two’s is one of the many examples of rage inducing disappointments a child may have to endure in his development stage. The more that I delve into my own experiences as a child I deem this to be true.

Rage is hardly attractive, in our culture as we know it, and so the hot coal of rage has to be dampened to fit in with our society and our friends and family. This can be achieved in many ways but on the whole rage is stored inwardly if it is not expressed. I think the same situation arises in adults and toddlers as without the ability to express their needs, instead resort to whatever behaviours they can carry out saying “no” and acting against the world at large and with adults this can mean depression. I remember reading many years ago that depression is anger turned inwards and I would agree with that on the whole. Rage in adult life it may be expressed through delusion and clinging to false hopes and also by letting off steam in ways that are not conducive to our true nature.

Rage has it’s place, however wrong it may feel, and when we acknowledge this we can allow it to breathe and flow like a volcano. It is both natural and damaging and damaging and natural. It is our thought about rage that enrages us, not the existence of a demonic but necessary part of our fuel for life. We seek to rid ourselves of rage and keep it hidden at all costs. The main cost however is a stifling of our energy and time that may be wasted on situations that harm us. Many of us may ask, how can I get rid of this rage, and sadly the answer may not be how we can rid ourselves of it but how can we use it, rather than being used by it.

And die of nothing but a rage to live ~ Alexander Pope

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Masters and Students

By Will

In the film Good Will Hunting, Robin Williams plays the Psychologist and Matt Damon, the abused and genius patient, who needs help from his psychologist to find direction in his life. What is interesting in this film is that their relationship goes against the grain of orthodox Psychotherapy. We find the analyst disclosing parts of his own life in order to help the patient. He speaks of his wife’s cancer, his experiences of war, death and love, as well as the smaller things in life, which he feels are important. The therapist realises that this is the only way to get through to his patient and adapts his technique in order to heal. What they also have in common is their childhood physical abuse which is finally shared by both parties and accepted as ‘not their fault’. I always hoped that my therapy was shared in this way but I can also understand that this may be the ego’s way of gathering information from the therapist in order to sabotage the theraputic relationship.

In the Vajrayana Buddhist faith there is something called the Samaya bond. In Pema Chodrons words, “If the student accepts and trusts the teacher completely and the teacher accepts the student, they can enter into the unconditional relationship called Samaya. The teacher will never give up on the student no matter how mixed up he or she might be, and the student will also never leave the teacher, no matter what”. The basic premise of the teaching is to help the student realise that they are bound to reality already and that trying to get somewhere is useless as the student is already there. After time and acceptance of being with things as they are the students world becomes more vivid and transparent so he or she views the same world but with new eyes. “And this is a message that never gets interpreted. Things speak for themselves. It’s not that red cushion means passion, or little mouse darting in and out means discursive mind; it’s just red cushion and little mouse”. The important thing here is that the teacher and student have made a marriage of reality. One cannot leave the other so their enlightenment has to be shared.

In both cases the message is clear; Things are what they are and those things will never change unless our perceptions of those things change also. Our perceptions are mainly based on past emotional experiences and it is enlightening to be able to perceive something in a different way through a new relationship or a new set of reflective eyes. So these perceptions can be changed through love. Also in both cases, the student picks his master like ‘incarnation’ where a child supposedly chooses his or her parents and the master or therapist accepts the students invitation. Also in both cases continuous work has to be done, it needs to be sticked at. You can liken the loving relationship to polishing a mirror. As soon as you have polished it dust will start to settle again.

Often we can’t answer the question; “Is it right?”. We can however ask ;”Is it fruitful? ~ Christopher Clouder and Martin Rawson

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My New Therapist

Jade is 19 and is training to be a Therapist. She had previously written a piece before for this site entitled “My Therapeutic Introduction” which expressed her unease about seeing a therapist for the first time, with whom she felt uneasy and uncomfortable with. Here is Jade’s second account of Psychotherapy with her new therapist.

By Jade

Beginning therapy is a tricky business, walking to that front door, knocking discreetly, looking to see if anyone can see where you are going too. All part of the journey I suppose. I had no idea what would be in store for me until the door closed, I sat down and the therapeutic relationship started to form.

After leaving the therapy room I felt like an ant being put onto an atlas globe. So vulnerable and weak against the world, so much space to explore. I felt like I had been opened up to things that I had kept hidden for so long. I felt like I could explore myself and the world and not feel threatened, it was such a strange but surreal feeling. How this one therapist, after one session, can make me think and feel for so long without me cracking (until I got out of course). I felt like I wanted to go back in there and re-live the whole thing over again. Not that it’s nice feeling the pain and upset and the happiness, but having the opportunity to feel something, to see it as what it is, then that is beautiful. It’s like an addiction to chocolate or prescription drugs; you want more of what you think will make you feel better.

I had on and off feelings about it as I was driving home, maybe it was to much to feel all of this after just entering therapy, maybe im not stable or ready enough, but by hell this lady threw it at me. I had gone back and re-lived some of my childhood that I had forgotten, some deep and dark feelings that now I would much rather forget, but I felt and explored them safely with my therapist. Death had a big part to play in my first session, I spoke about my mum having secondary cancer and she came right out and said “is she going to die”?

I sat back in my chair, looked at the floor and felt like I had been punched in my stomach repeatedly. That’s the first time anyone has asked me that question and it was really the first time I had even thought about the fact that I could loose my mum to cancer.

Im very excited that I have 39 more sessions with her. Imagine what i’ll be feeling after 40, obviously I know their will be some rocky paths ahead of me, but I like this feeling of (feeling), expressing, smiling. I wonder what this year is going to have in store for me, I hope it is many good things that I can share with other people – sharing feels awesome.

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I think I’m a Buddhist

By Will

Like many of us, when I had my first taste of monstrous fear and anxiety, I began to read self help books. I took momentary soothing from these books, and at the time they enabled me to calm the storm of these serious life threatening emotions. But despite numerous searchings, and reading tons of these in vain, my fear still haunted and goaded me. In some ways I liken these books to my spiritual ‘O’ Levels as some of the basics were absorbed and have stayed with me ever since. Probably the best example of this would be in M Scott Peck’s ‘The Road Less Travelled’ when Mr. Peck states; “Life is hard”. That teaching is still very much with me on my personal journey.

The ‘self help’ industry is a multi million pound industry, and because the basic nature of ‘us’ wanting a quick fix, this is exactly why it is thriving. These books will not tell you to hold onto pain, they will advise you to skip over it or through it. It makes more sense to invite in what you usually avoid. For me these lessons were never born through books but were arrived at through legitimate suffering as I stayed with my fear and pain whenever I could manage to. Of course fear still grabs me by the throat, but starting with the body, I try to relax into it and know it for what is is, an emotion and a reaction to a conditioned thought of;  ‘this may happen to you’! And what, ‘may happen to me’ … ‘The Truth’, thats what will happen. This is the false self or ego’s worst scenario because then it would loose control of ‘itself’.

I had always thought of myself as someone who is kind, flexible and loving but when confronted with this illusion I realised that I am not perfect and if I am not perfect I am continually letting myself down. I constantly invested into an image of myself that I could not live up to. When this was exposed to me, mainly with the help of therapy, I felt as if there was nothing, absolutely nothing, and at times I felt as if I was going to fall off the end of the world. If I didn’t have a story to cling to anymore, then who was I?

Currently I find myself between two schools of thought, one of Psychotherapy and one of Buddhism as they have so much in common. The problem is, as the title of this piece suggests, if ‘I think I’m a Buddhist’ isn’t that too a statement of ‘I’ and one of a fixed thought.. that ‘I’ am somebody. Bomb’s keep continually dropping.

It is possible to live in peace ☮ ~ Mahatma Gandhi

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Beyond Words

By Will

Silence is golden in the therapy chair that I have now moved back to. Far beyond the realms of any text book spouting analysis and theory, we sit in silence, engulfed by the nothingness of being. If pins did drop you would certainly be able to hear them dropping like fine rain in this open space. How can I explain how many times lately I have felt the ordinary things so deeply and shed tears “the silent language of grief.” How can I explain the moments of mindfulness having stared at a daisy like I have never seen one before, in awe of it’s transient beauty, the back of the flower just as beautiful as the front. The little moments, the little things, are not little. They are everything.

This is not therapy, this is far more than that word. It is a soulful fire and water life, shared with another human being, cloaked in 21st century attire. It is a meeting of tragedy, realisation, joyfulness and nothingness, and just like the weather, it is everything and nothing at the same time. Whatever it is, my physical body turns up to it twice a week, and often walks out from it swaying with dizziness. My Dad, my Son and my best friend are all losses and painful gains at the same time. The paradox and tragedy of death and life so much alive under the same fine umbrella that we collectively hold.

Things are not what they appear to be: nor are they otherwise ~ Surangama Sutra

Inspired by: Karin L Burke.

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