Journal no:1, 24th September 2012

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…

 

 

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Introductions…

 

A  bit of an explanation, before I begin…

On the first day of my counselling training (many years ago, now), my college lecturer told me that one of the key course requirements would be to write a reflective learning journal, charting the development of my personal awareness in relation to the theory I will be learning about. No problem, thought I, and continued listening to all the information she had to deliver; the course content, the college rules, where the fire exits were, the cafeteria system, car parks, LRC systems and logins and much, much more.  Of course, by the time I got home and settled down, ready to write said journal, I had forgotten everything she had told us on how to write it, despite my copious note taking.

So I did what any of us would do; I googled it, and found… not a lot.

What I needed at that point in my training, more than anything, was to see a real live journal in the flesh – to give me an idea of what I should be doing, to compare my notes with, to support me and help me feel that I was not alone in the world beginning a long and (honestly perilous, at times) journey into self-awareness. Impossible though; journals are incredibly personal – there is no way I would have wanted any of my fellow students reading anything I had written at this stage in the game, and I am quite sure that they felt the same as me. What would have been perfect was an anonymous, unconnected ex student,or student from another college. Exactly the sort of thing that blogs were designed for… so why couldn’t I find many?

Years later, having written many, many, journal entries since, I know exactly why very few people publish theirs. The level of honesty and openness required in this writing is of a level so great that I honestly can’t think of an adjective adequately describing it. At times, a reflective journal peers into the very essence of the writer’s soul. The trials and tribulations of training for  a new career, splashed across the web for all the world to see? Scary…

So here I am, doing it. Publishing my journal. Why? Firstly; for others to see, maybe learn from – well, that’s a big ‘maybe’…

Secondly; for me.

One of my key issues that I have identified in myself during the last few years of therapy and training is the emotional scarring I have developed since my very painful divorce, two years ago. From having been a wife, mother and successful small business woman; I suddenly found myself unable to cope with my life – I got diagnosed with a long-term chronic illness, making it impossible for me to work full-time any more; I lost my business, the house we lived in was sold to pay for it, and my children and I didn’t cope with any of this very well at all. (I am not hiding the details, I am sure they will all be revealed through the course of this blog, but for the brevity of this entry I won’t go into them too much for now.) In short; unable to trust anyone, fearing more betrayal, and needing time out to grieve for my losses, I withdrew from the world in general.

My initial reasons for rejoining my counselling training was to find a use for myself in being useful to emotionally support others, and thus distract myself from my suffering. My self loathing was so  massive that i couldn’t bear to really explore what was really happening inside my head, and I fooled myself into believing that it was ok to simply ignore, as I was so used to doing, and find myself another distraction from the truth.

Oh, no, no, no… that’s not how it works… Yeah, I knew all along on some level, I suppose. I have learnt, painfully, that the cause of the suffering needs some kind of confrontation in order to heal – and I suppose my publishing this blog/journal is an attempt at that. By making it public, I am exposing myself to the world, for real. Accept me, or don’t – just the fact that I am doing this, means to me in some way that I am learning to accept myself, and I can’t tell you huge that is to me…