Storm

wind-trees-wallpaperThe last time I wrote it was autumn and I was basking in the remembered warmth of a late holiday. Now we’re approaching the end of February with the promise of spring in greening hedgerows, the softer air, and in lengthening days.

Yesterday though, with Doris making her presence felt and starting play therapy with a new young client, I came to thinking about how both suddenly, and slowly, our lives can change and outside our control. Whether from a shocking event that upturns settled family life – like wind bringing down trees and buildings – or the transitions occurring with age from puberty to adulthood, menopause and ‘third age’.

Much of what happens to us in life can feel like that storm – chaotic, wild, dangerous, destructive and frightening. Yet, after that chaos and mess, some good can be found. The storms of winter remove dead wood from trees allowing new growth, the winds drive out dark clouds to reveal sunshine and blue skies. The storm seems to release energy and tension giving an opportunity for calm and reflection.

Looking around me today, our garden city strewn with the aftermath of the strong winds that made feel like Dorothy before Oz, I am reminded of the value and parallels of these tempestuous times. Not just to nature but to my self also.

Without these, there can reside a tendency to cleave to the status quo, to be on an even keel, to know where we are – for safety and certainty. Yet, therein lies stagnation, fear, inactivity and inwardness, inhibiting creativity and the potential for experience, wisdom and insight, enriching and fulfilling our soul.

We need those storms, painful, bewildering and disturbing though they be, as they stimulate us to grow, to look anew at ourselves, to release that we no longer need or benefits us.

‘Let it go’ says the song so, as the trees let go, I’m learning to let go of who I used to be and finding a new way of being as no longer young. This transition, unlike the sudden storm, has been slow and difficult, and inevitable. A workshop I attended recently prompted me to reflect deeply, unwillingly, on who and where I am now, holding up uncomfortable recognitions – repressed feelings of envy, self-hatred and frustration with my inability for action due to base beliefs of inferiority and incompetence.

These dark clouds have now lifted a little, the storm an apt metaphor for this recent psychic struggle. I have passed through more than just the eye of the storm. I will find serenity and the calm today so embodies.

I am alive. I am here. I am me.

 

 

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Welcome to Hotel Transactional Analysis

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I’ve recently spent a week’s relaxation in Majorca celebrating 20 years of marriage. We stayed in a beautiful, tranquil spot in a small natural park a few minutes saunter from two perfect pink-white sand bays with crystalline water: a beach lover’s heaven.

What I hadn’t expected from this late summer treat – we’d already been away in July – was the realisation that hotels turn us into dependent babies. This disturbed and challenged my sense of self, creating psychic tensions never before considered.

For some years we have embraced life under canvas for summer escapes, travelling to various locations in France as well as in the UK. I’d camped with my family but the experience as an adult, although rekindling the fun I’d had as a child, also brought essential elements to my adult life: freedom, re-connection with the earth, and even Maslow-style primary needs like building a shelter. OK, so I didn’t catch my food but, cooking outside, watching the stars emerge and being IN nature met some unacknowledged need for simplicity, self-reliance and connection with the universe.

I enjoyed being a bit ‘feral’ – living in shorts and flip-flops or bare feet – and not worrying what I looked like, luxuriating in the sensory and sensuality of warm sun, cool earth and moving water (we stay near rivers or the sea).

There was also the sense of empowerment: going where and when we pleased, and doing what we wanted without watching the clock, living with nature’s rhythms.

Going ‘properly’ abroad for the first time in years (as in taking a plane and staying in an hotel) gave me sleepless nights. I’d forgotten how to plan a trip of this kind, feeling all kinds of tension surrounding booking a flight, seats, baggage allowance and finding the perfect accommodation. In my case, perfect meant inexpensive, small and personal, away from crowds and any packaged ‘entertainment’. After a couple of false starts and cancellations, I booked our home from home. Cue the beginning of a creeping, increasing anxiety and weight of responsibility. What if it was awful? Would my husband enjoy it (a very real fear after the summer trip went a little awry due to his work induced stress and inability to relax and be in the moment). I also have a mild fear of flying – a lovely euphemism that isn’t it?

We arrived at 1.00a.m. after a delay and a magical mystery tour, first to find the transport I’d booked and then along little dark roads leading to seemingly nowhere. Yet the hotel was welcoming, simply furnished but adequate, and extremely clean. Relief flooded me as I finally slept, dreaming of the sea.

So, what felt so wrong?

It took me several days to understand the source of my discomfort: I wasn’t in control.

I couldn’t just go to the kitchen and make a cup of coffee or a sandwich. I had to wait to be fed.

I couldn’t stay in my room all day if that’s what I wanted as the maid came to clean.

I couldn’t speak the language, having only basic phrases.

I felt bad and feared judgment if the room were left messy.

Then I had my epiphany: the hotel was our playpen and nursery. We were omnipotent infants with all our needs being met on demand by benevolent adults.

And I wasn’t sure I liked it. I felt really discomfited. Out of control. A guest checks out their personal power when they check in.

Perhaps world-weary executives in spa hotels are only indulging in infantile fantasy – in a more socially acceptable way than dressing up as babies and being bottle fed.

This sense of dependence was enhanced by being remote from all but a tiny shop and a couple of beach restaurants (in addition to the breast in our hotel).

I adored the serenity- watching bats fly around at dusk and snorkelling in warm clear water with fish dancing around, beneath and above me. Yet I felt impotent and irritated at a subliminal level, resenting reliance on what the hotel gave us to eat, feeling displaced when unable to enter our room, fearful of being stranded and abandoned.

Yet I also became territorial, wishing the day visitors would go away and leave ‘our’ coves in peace. I also didn’t want to go back to reality. The holiday ‘bubble’ had provided a secure base from which to explore being together again, without concerning ourselves with anything more onerous than whether to have another beer or go for a swim.

I suspect it’s no coincidence that I work with children with attachment disorders arising from neglectful parenting, mothers with mental health disorders, and dysfunctional families. Was all I felt really just a projection of their discomfort and need to control and impose order on their chaotic early life experiences.

I’m curious how these reflections will impact our holiday plans next year: will it be a self-catering apartment or back to the Wendy House tent?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On looking forward

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I’ve been feeling rather guilty lately, as I’ve not posted on here for… a year. Just where have those 12 months gone to – a common call when we look back and feel we have not achieved or done what we had hoped now that time is lost. Yet, as we cannot regain that time passed nor make more of any opportunities or put right wrongs we cannot live our lives based on having ‘something to look forward to’.

My blog is a window on my state of mind and energy thus, feelintg guilty about writing is yet another example of me being passive-aggressive to myself.  There is no purpose to this self punishment (I was trying to find a play on ‘selfie’ here to please my little ego that’s saying “show your critics you are clever oh yes, that’s myself mainly”) other than reaffirming core beliefs that I’m not good enough and other uncomfortable feelings I thought I’d unpicked during therapy. It seems not. Maybe I have just unearthed another strata of discomfort and shame that needs sifting through to filter out the issues upsetting the smooth running of my path. Oh Mrs Superego is having fun today.

I’ve not felt able to write here –  some resistance to ‘putting myself out there’ – even if my writing is not read or seen by anyone: it is in the public domain. I believe I have been partly inuring myself against the testing reality of life after uni and finding work in a complex and competitive marketplace. I am learning new things about myself that I’m not entirely sure I relish but, which I am going to work on as without uprooting these weeds I cannot flourish. I have been hiding behind being busy but, in reality I have been busy avoiding. Avoiding making contact directly, avoiding peers, avoiding real engagement: because it feels so hard and unfair and I don’t believe I can succeed or have what it takes to ‘win’. I have a sneaky suspicion that I roll over and give up, as it’s less painful (at the time), than engage direct, strong, sustained effort to achieve what I would like to do. I sound like a child who hasn’t been given the toy they want and can’t understand why. I don’t want to be that child, I want to the one who picks themselves up when they fall and find themselves stronger, more determined, and with resilient self-belief.

I realise with a pang, that it is this quality that I have envied in others, and consequently been on the defensive in their presence and feeling suspicious, and protective and dislike. What I am actually doing, is defending my inner self from the threat of destruction whilst also attacking myself for lacking the quality I admire and wish for myself. My supervisor recently commented “does it have to be and/or, could it not be and/and?”. I realise I have spent most of my life comparing and finding myself wanting.

So, what of this and looking forward?

I felt inspired to write today when listening to The Archers whilst re-varnishing our dining room floor. You get to thinking, sitting and painting. I can’t recall the story line but when a character said, “Lovely, something to look forward to” it caught me; I mused on how often this is said without considering what that might mean at an unconscious level. Someone I know always has to have something to look forward to, booking holidays way in advance and spending hours and £££ deliberating what clothes to buy to make the trip perfect. I often wonder if the goods deliver – physically and emotionally. A young client over anticipated forthcoming events, embuing them with all kinds of significance. Yet, after they had happened, he didn’t talk about his experience at all – although his body gave away his disappointment.

What is the obsession with looking forward to…. is it a positive life-affirming outlook, a defence against facing up to what is happening in the now, other fears, or an attempt to control our existence in an unpredictable world?

What drives us to think like this: boredom, dissatisfaction with our lot, avoidance of problems with our relationships or with ourselves:sublimating narcissistic pain onto making plans that validate existence as worthwhile, vital, interesting people?

Having goals and dreams is different, but both this active engaged planning and wishful forward thinking can negatively affect how we life now, if they topple over into obsession and avoidance. The only elements over which we have control is how we feel, act and think in the now.

This is why DMP can be so powerful: it persuades us to be in the moment, our bodies integrating our internal world with external reality with physical sensation, sensory perception, and the rhythm of our hearts.

I am looking forward to being, to living, to taking control and making each precious moment count. For that’s all we truly have.