We spend our whole lives ‘searching’ for our self, in the hope that when we find it, we will have all the answers, the road mapped out, we will know our direction, purpose, who we really are, and yet we will never really know our full self. There will always be a part of ourselves that we will never know, a hidden part. Its like a riddle with no end. We can spend so much time searching that we miss the ‘here and now’, every moment in time we can never live again. We can explore, find out new things about ourselves, through interactions with others (such as in therapy), writing, creating. We can change, adapt, grow, let go, go deeper, but will we ever really have all the answers? no…
Even when living in the present, we can become disillusioned, entangled in ourselves, our situation, frantically and fearfully with a sense of urgency, searching for the answers, a solution. We wear ourselves out, feel exhausted physically and emotionally. It is at this point we can, if we choose, to take a step back from the flames, retreat from the fire, let the embers settle, and then slowly explore the ashes, see what’s left, whats worthy of holding onto, what will survive and what needs to go. I call this ‘decluttering for the soul’. The alternative is to continue walking the same path as before, living in fear, paralysed by thoughts, emotions, fear of the unknown. We can become more vulnerable at this point, When we live like this, it becomes easier for us to let others influence our direction, knock us off course, try and knock us down. We have this urge to know everything and yet it eludes us, it can never be. Life is a mystery, once we can accept that, then we can live in the moment, freely, without judgement, we can let go of what no longer serves us, and make space for the new to enter in.
Therapy, particularly person-centred therapy, and other humanistic modalities, focus on the self, what the self needs. This can feel like an alien concept to many, having focused on the external world and now focusing in on the internal world of the self can bring up all sorts of feelings. Often clients feedback that it feels ‘selfish’ to focus on themselves, it brings up lots of fear, resistance, dare we go there and find out who we are? thats why therapy is a safe space, a place to explore those parts of the self that until now, have been hidden, but we will never really know all the answers, the mystery of the self will always be part of our life/soul journey. Therapy doesn’t provide all of the answers, its part of the journey, a process, we can find ways to move forward, the road map may become a little clearer, we will find out some answers, information, tools to help, which is all positive, but we do need time out of therapy to explore, build up our intuition, our inner self resilience to continue our journey.
When I first had the thought of writing this blog post, I chose a painting I completed of Glenbrittle beach on the Isle of Skye. This painting, while appears to be dark in its colours, was a point of illumination for me. The journey to this beach is by way of a long winding one track road through mountains and a very ruggish Scottish landscape. There are really high points, low points, cattle in the road, flat parts where the road travels over marsh, parts where it drives along the edge of the sea, really dramatic views. The road felt like it went on forever, very rarely passing another car or person, it felt like driving to the end of the earth, I kept thinking to myself, will we ever get to the beach?! However, once at the end of the road, the beach opens out in front of you. The Cuillin mountains behind cast a dark shadow, even in complete daylight, it can appear like its at night. The sand is black, formed from volcanic ash, creating an amazing contrast between the light dashing across the surface of the sea, and all the little shells and stones left on the beach had a brightness, whiteness as if they were lit up like beach fairy lights.
I stood on this beach, as the tide was retreating, at a point in my life where I was really into searching for my self, there was something I felt was a missing link, where do I go now? The beach was still, calm, glistening, soothing. The smell of the sea, the misty air, the feeling of being on the edge of the world really connected deeply with my soul. Looking back, I was at one of life’s crossroads. I had been down a few roads that were definitely not suited to me, fell down a few holes, you know the sort of thing, ended up exhausted, fragile and paralysed with fear by the end of it. The road to Glenbrittle beach resonated with me, that we have to go through all sorts of different life experiences and terrain to really get to where we are going, and even when we get there, we may still be thinking..okay, where do I go now?! And as I stood on this beach, I was still wondering how to get to island that appeared in view as the clouds retreated across the dark sky. I am sharing this story as I want you to know if any of this resonates with you, thats okay, we are human.
One thing throughout this experience that I carry forward with me, is that you only live once, and, whatever happens, just keep moving forward on the journey, be kind to yourself, compassion goes a long way, go into therapy, seek support, step back and let the fire burn for a bit, find your version of Glenbrittle beach, take santuary, rest for the soul, and then, when rested, and renewed, explore what is left. Have faith, trust in the process, your intuition to guide you, and remember that we will never know all the answers, we can exhaust ourselves looking and we might find a few gems, but we will always have a part of ourselves that eludes us, that is the mystery of life.