How much had I been looking forward to this day? After a false start a fortnight ago, and a serious dip in my mood since then, I found myself seriously, yet quietly, excited about coming back to college, and re-engaging my brain after the long summer break.
The morning began with the usual housekeeping type rules being laid down; a contract was made, pledging our commitment and ethical duties to this course and the group; the course handbook was read through, sparking what the others expressed as feelings of fear and overwhelmed-ness (is that a word?) – Whereas I simply felt excited and impatient. Then the real work began, with an assignment to write an autobiography of ourselves in only a half hour. What an emotional half hour that was!
Starting at the beginning, and working through the series of events which constitute ‘my life’ subjectively, not objectively, was indescribably sad. Amazing how, when given the license to freely explore the feelings remembered, it is the sadness and loneliness which seemed to shout from my memories – few happy times were recalled. Is this how we all perceive our own lives, or is this my depressive mind putting a pessimistic spin on things, when not being forced into the optimism which seems to be required of a person in order to get through life? Even now, later on in the evening, I still can’t recall any happy memories from my childhood. Is that normal? I never considered my childhood to be particularly unhappy before – but then again, I have never really considered my childhood with much depth before either. (I was particularly resistant to psychodynamic therapy at the time I had it, and rejected my counsellors efforts to direct my thoughts towards my early years, thinking the approach clichéd, and inappropriate for what I perceived my problems to be at the time – I was newly separated, and struggling enough with accepting my ‘here and now’, unsurprising that I chose to reject any exploration of the past, considering…)
Looking at the overall themes and patterns that seem to emerge from my life so far, the overwhelming story is of a person who has never considered her own wishes and needs; someone whose affirmation has always been through fulfilling the wants of others around her. I just wrote a thousand words going into detail and giving examples of this, (reinforcing much of Adlers theory about family and birth order,) and then deleted – this is stuff for my personal therapy session, not my journal. I’ll end up with a journal longer than The Bible if I try to do that every week. I guess the point is that I’m thinking about it, going over things, re-examining them with the benefit of hindsight, and armed with psychological theory – it makes sense to me why I came to this natural ‘listening’ position in life, leading to my desire to train as a counsellor. My poor sense of ‘self’ and ‘self-worth’ through my life has pushed me away from giving ‘me’ any time, attention or credence. One of the most comfortable positions for me is when I am significant in my insignificance; It is correct and valid and necessary for me, as a counsellor, to be transparent and reflective, not to give anything much of my own opinion, simply to be accepting of the person to whom I am listening. Paradoxically, by doing this, I give myself the strongest sense of self and self worth that I have ever felt – as I finally do feel affirmation; that I am good at something, and useful to the world in this capacity.
Interestingly, the afternoon’s exercise was considering the origin and development of our interest in counselling – something I had already spent the morning doing, indirectly – and the first part of the exercise involved imagining our perfect counselling room and describing it to the rest of our group. We had all created calm, comfortable welcoming rooms with comfy chairs and warm but neutral décor; mine seemed to be the only room which contained nothing with any personality of my own (no books, photos, certificates etc) and equipment for every eventuality of therapy that could arise – music, art, ‘displacement objects’ – pillows for cuddling or punching etc, and only one thing in the room to please me particularly – a vase of flowers, for the scent. Strange, because most people, when stepping into my home comment on how busy and quirky it is; how it is so uniquely decorated, and full of my personality it is. But my home is my own private space, my world, my space where I can express who I am, for the first time ever, post divorce – a counselling room is the place where clients are invited to do the same, however they choose. Not me; I am just the facilitator for that expression.
I was left at the end of the day with the same excited feeling that I felt at the beginning, combined with a reassurance that I am definitely doing the right thing re-enrolling for this course. The sadness of the introspection was contrasted with an enjoyment of the process, and a very real feeling that this is where I need to be right now; where I belong, and where I am comfortable. Bring on more, I am ready, and hungry for it…