Counselling Psychotherapy London


Choosing Something New

April 30, 2012


(Source of photo: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/uploads/authors/adrienne-rich/448x/adrienne-rich.jpg)

I was sad to learn that one of my favourite poets, Adrienne Rich, died at the end of March.  I have read and re-read some of her poems, over and over again, for about 25 years.   Throughout that time, a large part of my adult life, the meanings the poems hold for me have changed and developed.  They have become familiar companions, and yet they continue also to offer me new discoveries.

Sometimes I find comfort in them, as they express things that I have felt or thought about myself, my life, my relationships, the world around me.  Sometimes I find inspiration or challenge as they show me a different way of looking at some things.  And sometimes I find some of her poems difficult or uncomfortable as they show me aspects of myself or my world which are less than pleasant to see reflected back at me.   Often I find phrases in her work which speak to me of something about the journey of personal development, of trying to live with greater awareness, of learning continually to negotiate relationships, to progress with new projects, to understand more about myself and my life.  Quite often I find odd phrases from her poems coming into my mind whilst I’m thinking about some personal dilemma, or when I’m listening to other people talking about their struggles. 

So for this blog post, I am bringing an Adrienne Rich line to consider.  This is from a poem called ‘Splittings’, published in her collection The Dream of a Common Language (1974):-

                           I believe I am choosing something new       
                          not to suffer uselessly           yet still to feel

I think these lines address something fundamental about our emotional and psychological well-being, our capacity to make constructive changes in our lives, and our ability to live well with our emotions.   To have the ability to choose something new is fundamental to human life: Whatever muddles and messes we might have got ourselves into, however many times we’ve found ourselves repeating patterns of behaviour which lead us into unhappiness, we do still have the capacity to imagine a different way of being for ourselves.   Often people come to therapy when they know they need to make different choices and can’t yet quite see how to go about it.  To make a new choice and act on it might feel like learning to walk again, or like we don’t quite know ourselves any more.  It can be scary and exhilarating, disorienting and liberating.  Having the support of a therapist to talk through new ventures and experiments in living can be helpful at such times.

Making a good relationship with our emotional life is essential to our well-being.  To cut off from all our feelings because we can’t bear our distress is sometimes a valuable short-term solution to a desperate situation.  But it isn’t a sustainable way of living.  We are left with a chronic grey feeling, a sort of low-grade misery, and we realise that we’re missing out on a huge part of life.  Learning to bear our feelings, including the painful ones, is an important aspect of therapy.  We discover that we don’t drown in them, and in fact that we feel more alive and energised if we allow ourselves to be open to a wider range of emotional responses.  At the other extreme, to get lost in our painful feelings might mean that we cease to engage with the world around us.  Some of our suffering might indeed be useless, if we’re continually replaying painful scenes from the past and not paying attention to our present life.   We might assume, for example, that because we’ve been hurt in the past, any new relationships are bound to end in injury.  Therapy might help us realise that sometimes our suffering is bound up with old experiences and false assumptions, and that it no longer serves us any purpose to stay with these painful feelings.  It is a continual balance, though, between allowing ourselves enough space and time to express our feelings rather than disconnecting from them, and knowing when we’re ready to move on, to be available again to choose something new.   To find the balance that feels right for us is a crucial part of our learning about living well.



 

Moving on?

March 27, 2012




I am now working at the Gestalt Centre, Old Street EC2 on Monday evenings as well as on Friday mornings.  Planning and organising some of the practical matters which this change involved has been, thankfully, quite straightforward.   But it has led me to reflect on other experiences of change, and specifically experiences that have involved physical relocation.   Moving house, changing job, negotiating changes in the workplace, in personal relationships or professional status, or simply the u...

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Truth, Dare or Promise?

January 3, 2012


[Source of picture: http://sacramentoscoop.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/new-years-resolutions.jpg]

The arrival of a New Year is often an occasion for reflection on our lives, evaluating how well we have achieved our personal goals in the preceding year and thinking about our aspirations for the coming year.  We might make New Year resolutions enthusiastically, or refuse to do so on the grounds that we are unlikely to keep to them for very long. 

It seems to me that many New Year resolution...


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Love and Stamina?

November 17, 2011


What is the place of our feelings in our lives?  That might seem a strange question for a counsellor to be asking, but it’s one that is less straightforward than it might seem at first sight.  Even within the world of counselling and psychotherapy, there are different views about the place of feelings.  Some therapists strongly encourage the expression of feelings and believe that...


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Facing Difficult Choices

September 27, 2011

I’ve recently read two novels- coincidentally, both by Irish writers- which have explored how we make significant personal choices in our lives.  In both Love And Summer by William Trevor and Brooklyn by Colm Toibín, the main character finds herself at a crossroads, forced to decide between radically different courses of action. All options involve conflicts of love, relationship...


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Memory, Loss & Trauma

September 6, 2011

There’s a lot in the news at the moment about the approaching tenth anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers on 11 September 2001.  I was fortunate in that no one I knew personally was affected.  For many people, this is an anniversary of immense personal grief as well as a public occasion for remembrance.

Like most people, I can still remember where I was and what I was doi...


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Comedy and Cruelty: looking under the surface

August 31, 2011

Many insights into aspects of human experience can be found in literature, theatre, cinema and other art forms.  A few weeks ago I saw a play at the Young Vic, The Beauty Queen of Lenane (www.youngvic.org/whats-on/the-beauty-queen-of-leenane) which left me with a lot of feelings and thoughts.

I was actually quite irritated by the first half of the play as I felt it was drawing on ...


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Anxiety, Excitement & the Challenge of New Experiences

August 22, 2011

I’m new to blogging and I noticed that I felt quite anxious when I posted up my very first blog entry last week. 

It made me think about how I, and other people, tackle things which are unfamiliar, especially when it seems like everyone else has been doing this forever and is totally at ease with it.  Sometimes it is just a matter of taking a deep breath and plunging right in, tru...


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Holiday Stress & Existential Psychotherapy

August 15, 2011

For many people this is summer holiday season, time to relax, unwind, and enjoy a brief escape from the usual routine.  But sometimes holidays themselves turn out to be stressful experiences.  Family relationships can become strained; travel arrangements are plagued by delays, cancellations, traffic jams; minor accidents or ailments cause upset; the weather is always unpredictable; ...


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