A wonderful poem by Nobel Laureate, poet and playwright Derek Walcott, who died today. Many, when despairing, have found this helpful. It is the opposite of where I’m at today, but I have to believe that I’ll feel like this one day….
I’m really looking forward to my Twitter chat with Alison Crosthwait today, on the subject of connection, love and touch in therapy. Please do join us at 9pm GMT/ 4pm EST if you can, using #therapyconnection !
It’s been ten months since psychotherapist Alison Crosthwait and I held a Twitter chat on the subject of therapy breaks; we said then that we enjoyed it so much we would do another one, and finally, we’ve set a date, time and subject!
Our next chat will be called ‘Connecting in therapy – do touch and love have a place?‘ and it will take place on Monday 6 March at 9pm GMT/4pm EST. We will be using the hashtag #therapyconnection.
I believe these are difficult and contentious topics, for both therapists and clients, and I’m very much looking forward to discovering Alison’s take on them. From a personal perspective, they are subjects I have struggled with in my own therapy, and touch, in particular is a ‘live issue’ for me at the moment. But I won’t be bringing my therapy into the chat – the…
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I love this A A Milne poem – thank you to ‘Journey Toward Healing‘ for sharing it! It immediately resonated with various aspects of my experience of therapy. For a long time I have though of a ‘house’ or ‘home’ as a metaphor for therapy, my ‘safe space’. This poem reminded me of all the times when I expected or wanted therapy to be a particular way, and and it ‘fell short’ of those expectations. I found it hard to accept that there were boundaries, that there was a person in front of me whose responses I couldn’t control, and that just because I felt I needed something, that didn’t mean that the need had to be met in the way I imagined it should be.
The poem also reminded me of all the times when therapy was giving me exactly what I needed, but I didn’t realise it because I wasn’t open to receiving it. It came later than I wanted, or was delivered in a different way to the one I was expecting.
My therapist quoted a different A A Milne poem to me a couple of weeks ago. We had an unexpected and lovely session talking about children’s literature, poems that we liked, and what we used to read. It was wonderfully connecting and moved me to tears. For many weeks I have been feeling trapped in a young, vulnerable, sad and unloved state, and a few days before that session I had written that I just wanted to feel loved and free. Somehow the session achieved just that, in a creative and spontaneous way, and I am thankful that somehow I was open to receiving what it had to give.
It was the joy of someone taking a free, genuine and ‘no-strings-attached’ interest in who I was and what I enjoyed, without any expectation that I would conform to a particular way of being; and without any danger of me failing to measure up or being interested in ‘the wrong things’ (or not interested enough, in the right ones). It was also the joy of discovering ‘the other’ – again, without any sense that ‘the other’ demanded to be known, or expected to be mirrored, copied or agreed with.
I will be reading a lot more A A Milne over the coming weeks – part of my task of connecting more with those younger parts of me, and deriving simple benefit and joy from childlike things…..
When I struggle with my own words, I’ve found that the words of others can say that which I’m unable to truly express. Whether it’s through a song, a blog post by someone else, or a poem, it doesn’t matter… As long as it speaks to the deeper parts within me. As this poem does. What I love about poetry is that it can be interpreted in so many different ways. Maybe this one will speak to you too.
I went into a house, and it wasn’t a house,
It has big steps and a great big hall;
But it hasn’t got a garden,
It isn’t like a house at all.
I went into a house, and it wasn’t a house,
It has a big garden and great high wall;
But it hasn’t got a may-tree,
It isn’t like a house at…
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Alison Crosthwait is a psychotherapist and writer living in Toronto, and over the last few months I’ve had the joy of not only reading her open and thought-provoking posts on her website, ‘The Good Therapists‘, but also of occasionally corresponding with her and sharing ideas. I hope it’s accurate to say that I think we both get excited by creativity and ‘projects’, and back in April we did our first live Twitter chat on the subject of therapy breaks. It was our first experiment in taking a therapy-related subject of mutual interest, and tackling it each from our perspective of therapist and client, by simply letting a dialogue unfold*. One could argue that the therapist has the advantage here as they have experienced ‘both sides’ of the equation – they have sat in both the therapist’s and the client’s chair!
Alison herself sometimes talks about her own experience as a client in her writing, and she is movingly honest about its emotional highs and lows. Reading and writing about both the therapist’s and the client’s perspective continues as a theme in her latest post on ‘The Good Therapists‘, called ‘Summer Reading and Listening‘. She writes: “I’m on holiday diving into an elaborate reading plan combined with a lake view for the next couple of weeks. If you are also in a late-summer reading phase here are some therapy-related writings I have come across lately. No deep thoughts or surprising twists in this post. Just shout outs to people doing great work.”
I am thrilled to be included in Alison’s post and list of ‘shout-outs’, and am excited to look into her other recommendations as well. In her short post you will find two reading suggestions of material written by clients – a blog and a book; and two reading suggestions of material written by therapists – again, a blog and a book. There is also a recommendation of a new podcast (and a video), by a therapist.
Reading Alison’s post also reminded me that it’s been a while since I have written a ‘book review’, and there are at least a couple of recommendations I would love to share, in due course. In the meantime, if you have some reading time left before summer is on its way out (what an unwelcome thought) – do take a look at Alison’s recommendations, and ‘The Good Therapists‘ website itself!
*It’s worth making it clear that this was a dialogue about therapy, not a ‘therapeutic discussion’ of the kind one might have in session. It was intended as an exploration of an interesting subject from two different viewpoints, and we were very clear and specific about the fact that it should not, at any point, start to ‘become therapy’. I must admit, I found that aspect of it harder than I thought it would be!
As this post and Alison’s were prompted by thoughts of vacations and the end of summer, I thought I would gratuitously start this post by including a photo of somewhere I visited recently that had a very calming and relaxing effect on me and was a moment I will treasure from this long summer therapy break.
This is a really thought provoking and important article by psychotherapist Joshua Miles, on the importance and power of imagination (and metaphor) in therapy. The article points out that “some people in therapy benefit more from working within the world of metaphor and imagination, than exploring what is more factual or ‘real’….. it can be in abstract or creative patterns of thinking, which can lead us down meaningful avenues of self-exploration and growth”. It took me a while to see this; in the earlier stages of my therapy I was dubious of using ‘non-factual’ aids as facilitators of internal change. However, the longer I have been in therapy the more vital imagination and metaphor have become, and, aside from the therapeutic relationship itself, I would say that for me they have been the biggest agents of change. As this article highlights, I think that the power of imagination and metaphor rests in their inherently personal nature and malleability. To quote: “Through imagination, we can add or remove meaning as necessary, and there are no wrong or right answers.”
I think this is an interesting and important post for any therapy client to read – for me, it is particularly key at this time as I am currently on a six week ‘therapy break’, and using imagination and metaphor will be crucial in helping me to deal with the ‘gap’. They will enable me to keep the memory of my therapist alive; to challenge and re-interpet any internal resistance and counter-productive feelings; and to think of creative ways to make the best use of this time, so that I can learn from it and have interesting ‘stories’ to tell my therapist when we resume!
I know that I will re-read this article a number of times over the coming weeks, and hope you will find it helpful too!
People enter into therapy for different reasons, whether to understand bereavement and loss, or to explore a recent spate of anxiety. In therapy there are many aspects of our lives, experiences and relationships which can be explored. Therapy emphasises the importance of exploring our minds, seeking truth or clarity and uncovering our past. This exploratory process takes place in the hope that we may unburden ourselves from a myriad of complex thoughts or feelings.
This is why imagination becomes so important in therapy, because it allows us to explore thoughts and experiences, which if shared in the outside world, may not be understood. Imagination enables us to view or interpret experiences with a variety of different lenses which we can alter, change or shift as our mind explores concepts further.
Why Imagination Matters
All of us hold the potential for imagination, creativity and reflective thought, and can benefit from thinking…
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In relationships, therapy included, laughter can be an incredibly bonding and connecting experience…
Therapy is not a matter of milestones, but of moments*. Those moments can be: awkward; intense; heart-warming; painful; shocking; surprising; happy; exhausting; revelatory; uncomfortable; thought-provoking; mundane; interesting; angry; fearful; beautiful.
But there is nothing so lovely in therapy, I think, as moments of laughter. Particularly where that laughter is at an ‘in-joke’- amusing to the two of you by virtue of the intimate work you share in.
I told my therapist that I had asked one of my children how he felt about a particular situation. He told me, and then said “was that the right answer?”. I replied that there was no right or wrong answer.
As I related this story, I caught my therapist’s eye and we both burst out laughing, a split second apart. The irony hit me, as it hit her, and there was no need for either of us to explain what we found so…
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A wonderful song on the theme of relationships, for Mental Health Awareness Week. The quote I posted yesterday was about how difficult connection with others can be; this song is an uplifting reminder both of how wonderful that connecting can be, but also how simple.
I’m aware that unfortunately it can often take something very small to tip me into feeling bad about myself and for me to feel as though I am not cared for. At the same time, however, I’m aware that it can take very little to help me feel loved. Sometimes all it takes is a few words, a small but clear sign of someone reaching out to me, to light that spark of connection and warmth in my heart.
This is a real ‘feel-good’ song for me and the video is full of images of different types of connections and relationships. It’s a wonderful musical and visual world to lose yourself in for three minutes, and I hope it lifts your spirits, just as it has done mine.
“The song [Bonfire Heart] is about no matter who you are no matter where you’re from, it’s about the human condition which is we need to connect with people.” James Blunt
So often, the need for connection feels like an overwhelming and distressing burden to bear. For me, this song lightens the load. At the heart of BPD (and of us all) is a need to be loved. How incredibly complicated the absence or presence of that love can make our lives. For me, the joy of this song is that for just over three minutes, it makes the need for love and connection feel incredibly simple, and uplifting.
“People like us, we don’t need that much; just some one that starts – starts the spark in our bonfire hearts…..”
[This post is dedicated to two beautiful borderline blogger friends of mine, who have found love and connection over…
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