The hand

Things were coming to an end. The excitement of a motivational momentum to get to this point, I expended plenty of energy.  With each deep inhalation I became ready to consider what to do next.  As I learned more about myself and understood the world from a new and deeper perspective, I started to move away from aspects of my past.  Sometimes I could not move quick enough to be caught between my old life and the new one I imagined. 

In recent years I have experienced a complete unravelling.   I recognised that my earlier leaps of faith have been those driven by conflict and anger, a rush to escape the uncomfortable.

Paths were never designed as straight lines.  Paths meander back and forth.  The crisis experienced, the down days lingering in bed afraid to step out the front door, those setbacks that make us question the totality of life. This familiar path continuously and routinely calls us back to those experiences we thought we had come to understand.  Returning to these painful and repetitive encounters create an opportunity to see past hurt from a different and deeper perspective.  Continual reflection and journaling revealed to me that it was not what remained unhealed in me that was being highlighted in my moments of distress.  Rather, how much healing had occurred. It was only when I stopped denying my shadow, my ungroundedness, the fog that had descended, and agreed to work with it,  did it offer the opportunity to be released from it.  I had begun to learn to live out old stories in new, safer and wiser ways.

In other words, I got in touch with the feeling of vulnerability.  The catharsis was to welcome the darker side as a valuable and inclusive part of being.  The existential approach teaches us that we are in a constant state of becoming (Deurzen-Smith, 1996:169); meandering about. Existentially, phenomenology consisted of all components that included those that were conditioned to be unacceptable sitting alongside those that were palatable.  By accepting this truth, we may start to consider how life might be different. 

My child-self was representative of a more free and playful state; creative, innocent, and open.  Somewhere along my spiralling path I had lost these qualities to shape and mould myself to become more acceptable to the world.    I had given my power to others to lead me to the edge and to take a leap of faith.  My emergent creativity during this pandemic was a signal from my inner child.  Through embracing the silence and uncertainty of a changing world, within the safety of my own space, I was reborn into the loving parent of myself.  With the unconditional love I deserved I could start again and nurture myself into a more vivacious and vibrant future. 

And this new world was full of risks, setbacks, and upsets.  The path ahead would continue to meander, spiral and be messy.  With a firmer idea of my identity, and my own in-built safety cord,  I was equipped to deal with the difficult emotions that might emerge from stepping forward.   I acknowledged those aspects of my life that kept me safe and grounded; the external things to which I had immense gratitude for, alongside the inner authority I possessed to allow myself to live creatively and securely.  I was safe to experiment, play and explore.  I was drawn to this imaginary place with excitement and motivation.  It was a fertile learning ground, for experimentation and growth.   I had found that elusive inner authority I had searched for my whole life.  With its learning I was able to create a comfortable place inside and outside of me, with the wisdom and courage to face a new way of being no matter how difficult that might feel. 

This time I felt a different hand on my back.  Not the one that pushed and shoved violently; this one was soft and gentle and lovingly whispered in my ear “it is time.”

I stepped forward into the leap and came to recognise that the hand on my back was mine all along.

Counselling does not push clients towards actualisation; to bring forth enlightenment nor create a brighter future.  My role as counsellor is to hold the client in their light and their dark, along their meandering and spiralling path, and in the here and now.  To give space to fully integrate all phenomenological experiences within a safe and reparative relationship (Clarkson, 2000:11).  Through the therapeutic work, the client becomes enlightened until that moment they find their own hand resting gently upon their back.

I am reminded by the existentialist Kierkegaard’s quote: anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.  Through accepting your own light and dark, where can you start to feel excited?

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