Finding fulfillment in your work

I facilitate growth, whether personal or professional.

This is the simple answer to the question I get asked often, “what does a psychotherapist or coach do?”

This is then followed by, “why do you do it?” Because it makes me happy, which of course begs the question, “but why?”

Clients have come to me wanting to know how to make their life “right”, to be happy or how to make the right career decisions, how to climb the mountain in their way, how to achieve certain career goals, how to feel less discontent, how to overcome their malaise… And yes, there are interventions, techniques and strategies which I employ.

And in their questionings, there is one thing underpinning the multitude of wants or desires – it is to move on, to be unstuck, to grow.

Every client at some point in their journey with me expresses the need

  • to experience being alive in their everyday life,
  • to feel a sense of accomplishment in their personal or professional life, or
  • to know there is a reason, the why, to their existence.

This is to find their raison d’être.

I am the sounding board which provides a safe space for clients to  give voice to their life – past, present and future.  I am the mirror upon which they see who and what they are and could be. Clients test out and then spread their wings so to stretch beyond what they know, to explore and take some risks which they are emotionally or psychologically ready or prepared to take.

When the necessary conditions are created, when there is fertile soil, the growing will happen. Each person’s growth is unique. There is no comparison.

This work that I do (which is echoed in my other life as an educator) – to create, to lift, to give others the necessary tools, to give them space to explore and find their way, to create systems or conditions which motivate them to be better versions of themselves – is my raison d’être.

The immeasurable privilege of being able to hold space for another, to be a repository of another’s story, to be an agent of another’s personal or professional growth is second to none.

Social reformation or organizational change always begins with the individual. My work means much and has greater ramifications. Within it, I find great joy and fulfillment.

Find your raison d’être. Seek work so you can live it. There is your fulfillment.

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2020

Preparing for self-awareness

Can you conceive of the “why” to what you  say or do? Beyond the reasons and rationalising.

To thine own self be true”, Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet. So how can we “be true” unless we know our self?

What do we mean when we speak of self- awareness and “being conscious” of our words and actions??

To be self-aware requires attention and effort. It is easier and quicker to evaluate others’ words and actions, or judge their motives and intentions than it is to decipher ours.

Perhaps unthinkingly or unconsciously we direct our attention outwards more often than we do inwards because it is challenging to look at ourselves, especially our Shadow (to use Carl Jung’s term) – this unconscious aspect of our personality which our conscious ego has trouble acknowledging or seeing.

Self-awareness will allow us to know our humanity and our place in it. We then are able to understand and know others .

So how do we learn to be self-aware? We have to be prepared

  • to be present to, and aware of our thoughts and feelings. A contemplative practice is useful, and over time, it will become easier. I have no answer as to the measure of time this may be for you nor even for myself.  It is not about arriving somewhere. I am not certain if there is even a destination we need concern ourselves with.  It is the contemplative practice itself which brings to light the judgement, blame and shame we hold and from which we act.
  • to hold our flaws gently in the palms of my hands, sometimes in playful lightness, sometimes in repose, always mindful to not judge.  In this I do not always succeed. That is okay too. The very act of being aware of my Shadow is by itself, empowering and humbling – to walk this life with consciousness.  The crux is to know when we are judging; if we can name it, we are more likely to be able to let the act or thought go.  

The essence of any contemplative practice is twofold – silence and stillness. As opposed to being ‘silenced’ by a fear, in protest or by resignation, silence in meditation is empowering because we come to sit in that space in which we are aware of ourselves, of our world and our relationship with the world; and we then have the choice to accept ourselves for who we are – to be true.

“The point [of meditation] is not to improve yourself …but to come back to who you are, the awareness that is your birthright” ~ Jack Kornfield

To do this,

  • we need to be prepared to turn to which is difficult in order to learn something of value,
  • be willing to seat ourselves in the middle of everything, joys and sorrows,
  • to trust this space of awareness with a loving and compassionate heart, and
  • to acknowledge this is our humanity.

Be still instead of perpetually chasing or running away. This is what it means to be present – to not look to our history and judge and attempt to fix it, to not look to our future and judge it against ideals we have inherited from our past or history.

Presence and awareness becomes the springboard from which we take our next steps – understanding and evaluating, inwards and outwards.

As Zen master, Suzuki Roshi, said,

I do not know anything about higher consciousness, I just try to teach my students how to hear the birds sing.”  

How beautiful, how simple!  Be here.

When we do not look to judge, blame or shame, perhaps then the task of becoming self-aware becomes less confronting.

~ FlorenceT

© Transfigure Therapy 2019

How to connect

 

Building relationship is a “thing” now, a mantra within the networking, management and leadership circles. And rightly so. Seeking to build relationships honors our humanity, we are more than conduits engaging in mere exchange of insights and information, time and money and the cost-benefit analysis of these currencies.

We cannot build relationships unless we learn how to connect.

And the essence of real connection which we find so appealing, supportive, enriching and rewarding is intimacy. Intimacy is the glue that binds people. Without it, any connection is barren, void of the positive meaning.

But what is intimacy? It is a close, familiar and affectionate personal relationship with another and it arrives in different ways. We may have cognitive or intellectual intimacy with another with the sharing of ideas, visions, viewpoints, dreams and hopes. We may have experiential intimacy as we do work, however defined, together. We may also have emotional intimacy where feelings are shared between two or more people and our emotional needs are met or affirmed. And we have sexual intimacy which involves the sharing of sensual expression. This would include for example, the person whom we share our epicurean or creative interests.

There are many ways through which we develop intimacy in our professional life and connect.

And which comes first? Do we connect to enable intimacy to grow? Or is intimacy a prerequisite to connection? Instead of a linear cause-and-effect correlation, the relationship between intimacy and connection is reflexive.

Intimacy and connection are deliberate and conscious processes.

We must be willing to explore, to be interested in another’s life, to be present and available to them. Most importantly, we must be real. And we have to give it time to develop.

Hold new interactions lightly, watch it and see where it will grow. Let go of preconceived notions of how, what and why. Not every interaction becomes positive connection.

So how do we connect?

Be open and sociable. This does not mean be naive and gullible. It does however mean you do not approach every person you meet as a threat. Keep your head, open your heart.

Be authentic. Show who you really are. Stop being so guarded. It may feel vulnerable but my experience has been that most people are happy to receive the real you. Few people are out to harm.

Maintain your values. People with whom you connect will be those who share a certain ‘thing’ with you; this ‘thing’ which calls to you are underpinned by your values. Be yourself. Be honest.

In this endeavour of building relationships especially as a leader, let us be gentle, kind and respectful.

Which of us would refuse a genuine connection? On this premise, building relationship need not feel like an unsurpassable challenge.

~ FlorenceT

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2018

What it means to have a true conversation

Conversation… what’s it about?

I encounter many ‘conversations’, and in many different contexts.

There are the conversations I promised another but only when time permits, or the conversations I have to have with another which distilled much and created space for more imaginings. There are conversations which signaled change and endings and beginnings. These conversations are imbued with so much meaning, even as we schedule them as a matter of course as part of our daily life at work or in our personal life.

I hope these conversations have been true.

No matter the context, true conversations have a common thread. True conversations are arrived at with a willingness to listen, an openness to receive and embrace, and a genuine response and where required a loving rebuke.

True conversations happen with humility and love, supportive and encouraging growth.

We hold conversations through engaging with each other authentically. Maybe that’s why we don’t just have conversations but we hold conversations – the conversation as a space, a safe space held which allows each conversation-holder to be vulnerable and to express who we are to each other. Otherwise the interaction becomes inter-reaction.

Idealistic? Perhaps. Nevertheless, it ought not detract us from trying our utmost to being such a holder of conversation. After all, we have heard of the benefits of authentic listening. And “asking the beautiful question” that says “I have heard”, a beautiful question which touches another deeply, a beautiful question which invites a genuine answer.

How beautiful and uplifting our relationships can be when we hold true conversations.

A conversation is not the same as a friendly chat, a quick ‘how-are-you’ nor lengthy IMs. Nothing ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ about these – each serves a purpose at different moments.

It may not be possible to have true conversations all the time. It requires mindful intention and preparedness. True conversations are always filled with meaning, meaning-full.

When did you last have a true conversation? And with whom?

Live meaningfully, I say.

~ FlorenceT

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2018

You are your own narrator

 

What new stories will you be creating for yourself?

Narrative tool

Writers do it all the time, use narrative as a tool to guide interpretation, to construct meaning, and ultimately to persuade and influence. So do teachers, as narrative is also a powerful tool for instruction and learning.

Why? Narrative creates meaning, invokes emotions, it makes things “real”.

And it is also through narratives that we view and experience our lives, both personal and professional. This is how we learn who we are – from the narratives told of our lives from when we were too young to create our own.

We initially used (very large) computers as a tool for calculations, its size and cost restricted our access. Now, it is ingrained in our daily life, using it so often such that many of us would feel rather lost without our devices. Our sense of self is very much tied to this small device.

The same applies to narratives. One story does not a man or woman made. But many similar stories and repeated create a wealth of meaning and gradually forges an identity.

A narrated life

One instance of timidity, and a story being told over and over again, which in turn compels attention to other incidents of “lack of bravery”… until one day, that girl can only ever remember stories of her timidity. Along the way, she has also picked up stories of “shy” and “unsociable” which fit with “timid”. These were noted and recorded by those around her, who saw only these because the narrative is indeed persuasive.

And what does it mean for this young girl, to be known as “timid”, shy” and “unsociable”? She now makes sense of the world through these limiting lens.

Little attention was given to, nor stories told of, the times when she courageously stepped into a new world, or when she stood up for herself when accused of a wrongdoing, or defended her brother to her friends. They went unnoticed perhaps because everyone loves a good story, and a good story is one that is coherent and familiar, like a fairy tale. Except for the girl, it is unlikely to end with ‘happily ever after” unless something changes. Until she takes up the challenge of authoring her life, to learn to make a different sense of her self and her world.

This now young woman is stepping out into the world. Her unease of who she is may lead her to question and become aware of how those stories that have shaped her life emerged… grew.

Will she step out of the limiting narrative that has governed much of her life? What can she do to re-story her life?

You as narrator

Humans are meaning-making creatures after all. When there are enough “aberrant” stories, we will be compelled to ask “why”, to see new patterns, to create new meanings.

So if you are in this exciting space of exploring stories that have shaped your life,

  1. Identify witnesses to your life who will share alternate stories,
  2. Seek out alternate stories,
  3. Consciously create new stories,
  4. Choose a professional who will facilitate this important exploration.

To paraphrase a popular saying, if you want a different result, do something different.

Begin with determination and committed action.

 

~ FlorenceT

 

References:

Barker, S. (2016) Paul Ricoeur and Narrative Identity: Why we are our story. Psychology Today Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/post-clinical/201604/paul-ricoeur-and-narrative-identity

Foresight Future Identities (2013) Executive Summary. The Government Office for Science, London. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/273968/13-524-future-identities-changing-identities-summary.pdf

Gottschall, J. (2013) The Story-telling Animal. Mariner Books,

Szurmak, J., & Thuna, M. (2013). Tell me a story: The use of narrative as a tool for instruction. Conference of the Association of College and Research Libraries, April 10–13, 2013, Indianapolis, IN. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/acrl/conferences/2013/papers

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2017