Use the power of words

 

The power of literature to promote psychological wellbeing is well documented.

Poetry, specifically, is a passage into the deepest parts within us – the hidden, ignored, unrealised.  Through reflecting on our response to a poem, we become more self-aware.

When you connect with what is essentially a bunch of words albeit well crafted, ask yourself “why am I drawn to this?” or “to which part of me does this speak to?”  Be open, and kind to yourself as you listen to the answer.

This is a poem that still resonates with me.  Can you hear an invitation?

 

THE INVITATION

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon…
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

by Oriah “Mountain Dreamer” House, “The Invitation” 1999

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2018

Experiencing our strengths…

In my work, words are privileged. They can communicate and persuade. They speak to the reason within us, the cognitive rational part of us. Most importantly, as we utter words and then narratives of who we are and how we are, these stories become part of us, they begin to form a part of our identity.

Words can prompt actions in, and change how we perceive, the world we inhabit, whether professional or personal.

Yet true transformation comes from our experience of ourselves in relation to another.

Peter [a pseudonym, of course] consulted me as he could not see a way forward in his career. It seemed to him that every step he took in his professional life was fraught with challenges and less than satisfactory resolutions. He was wondering if he was indeed in the right career and if he ought to move on. Peter also adopted some maladaptive habits to bolster his sense of loss of control.

One aspect of Peter’s problem was a lack of confidence. His success was “just good luck”, his failures were his fault. Our initial conversations revolved around the rational sensible steps to be taken in the face of challenges in his work – some of which resulted in his commitment to take certain steps – the notion of “feel the fear and do it anyway”. Peter would bring the outcomes back into our conversations, most of which were positive and he patted himself on the back, though not entirely convinced. Peter’s resistance to “stepping up” remains, the fear still takes hold at “crunch time”, as he called it, immobilizing him.

Ironic though it may seem, that at times of real conflict, we choose to trust a (professional) stranger than close ones no matter how supportive they can be. A stranger has no preconception or expectations of us as individuals. This gives us a level of freedom to experiment with being “different” to our “usual” self. It allows us to see ourselves through fresh eyes. This was how, I as psychotherapist/coach stepped into a relationship of trust with Peter, and established a foundation of safety upon which he could explore his “stuff” without fear or favour.

So what to do with Peter’s continued hesitance? It was not the ‘do’ but rather the being in our connection that provided rich evidence of his capabilities. It was not my job to tell him what to do with his work; each time there was a challenge, he was the one with the courage to face it with varying degrees of success. So it was that I bore witness to his courage, his analytical and critical mind, his creativity and his tenacity.

And it was through fresh eyes that he began to experience a different version of himself.  As Peter cautiously put on this new cloak, a new story of himself emerges – a self-assured man.

And the journey of self-discovery continues.

 

Writing and talk do not prove me,
I carry the plenum of proof and every thing else in my face,
With the hush of my lips I wholly confound the skeptic.

~ Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

 

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2017

Get through or Let go?

Recently I spoke about ‘going through it’, about how life throws lessons at you, lessons you can’t avoid or ignore. In order to grow as a person, you do need to see the lessons that present themselves (yes, there will be many, great and small) and learn.

‘It’ can be whatever difficult situation in which you find yourself. You have a choice each time to either ‘let go’ or ‘go through it’. Both are learning opportunities.

A little about ‘letting go’. By this I mean to have non-attachment, to stop holding on to ‘things’… to what you think will make your life better or to the conditioned belief you have thus far not questioned or to the behaviour that no longer serves your life.

In this space, letting go is making peace with it. As you come to terms with the ‘things’ within the situation, for example, your need for control, your need for the crutch, your need for approval, your need for material indulgence etc. As you make peace with these, their impact cease to be.

If a situation still bothers you, if it still cages you, makes you close up, makes you bitter and resentful… then you are not letting go. No matter how much you tell yourself that you are. And if you can’t let go, then the ‘it is not affecting me’ or the ‘I am fine with it’ that you tell yourself, is you doing avoidance. The test whether you are letting go is this – letting go comes with a sense of peace.

So when letting go is untenable, not viable, unavailable or impossible then time to face the situation. As I said, going through a difficult situation involves some ‘doing’ and a whole lot of ‘being’. Where there is pain or sorrow or any difficult emotion, at some point you need to sit with it, maybe even endure it for a time. However you decide to choose to ‘go through it’, you do.

Both ‘going through it’ and ‘letting go’ have a quality of hardness – where you fight for your survival, you overcome the obstacles in your way… and also of softness – where you embrace your vulnerability, sit with your sorrow, bear witness to your life. And in those moments, there is strength, there is courage.

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2016