When we look, I mean really look. We can finally begin to see. This part of the process is a crucial and sometimes painful experience. However, to grow it is essential.
For me, looking at myself, at my past. I began to see areas where I had come to forks in the road. Today, I can see the choices that I made back then. Some with thought, more made with haste and little or no thought, and today, sitting here, I am the result of those choices I made. Of the consequences, both good and bad.
Have you watched Frank Capra’s ‘It’s a wonderful life’? The story of a man who believes his life has little or no value. He believes it would have more value if he were dead, or better still, if he had never been born. Here he gets a unique opportunity to view what his life might have been like if he had never been born. It is only when we look hard at ourselves, at our lives that we see just how integral we are.
After over three years of not seeing my best friend, through us growing apart and my increasing drug use. We had got back in touch with each other after I had come out of rehab, a changed person. And we were close friends once more. One night, his wife mentioned to me how glad and grateful she was that I was back in his and their lives. She then went on to tell me of the difficulties their relationship had suffered and how my friend had struggled for quite a while until she asked him one night what was really wrong, and he simply replied, “I miss my best mate!” Me! And although I had missed him terribly in our time apart, it had never once occurred to me that I mattered enough to have been missed by him.
John Quincy Adams once said, “Each interaction we have upon each other achieves a kind of immortality.” Imagine that. Just think about that one. That what we say and do has an impact on a person! And through that we achieve a kind of immortality!!! How important does that make us? As people, interacting with the world on a daily basis, it reminds me of the responsibility that I have to make each of those interactions from a “Good morning” to a stranger on the street to the lengthy conversations I have with my nearest and dearest as worthy of ‘who I am’ as possible.
I believe we don’t look enough, therefore we do not see. How many times have you ‘really’ looked at a sunset or sunrise? Noticed its array of colours, its texture? The feelings it invokes?
When you look at yourself in the mirror, what do you see? I don’t mean who is reflected back, I mean what do you See?
Why not go and look right now. Just find yourself a mirror, sit quietly for a few moments and then raise the mirror in front of your face and ‘look’.
What’s the first thing you’re drawn to?
What feelings come up? Are there any?
What about memories, have any memories been stirred?
This is a very simple exercise, yet one of the most powerful, to look in a mirror and ask yourself what you see.
For some, this has/can be an excruciatingly painful exercise. I once did this exercise on a residential training weekend. At a time where two days before, I found out that the woman I was involved with who I also worked with had left her job because she was having an affair with a client. A client that was younger than me, good looking. All the things that my ego longed for. I was crushed, humiliated, angry and devastated. I feared this exercise, looking in this mirror and seeing exactly what I feared. What I actually saw though was a kind, loving, gentle caring person. Who loved and could be loved…
As we work with people, we help people to look at themselves so that they begin to see. We are in a very real sense the mirror you were just holding up to your face.
Our past is our opportunity to see how we are as people today, maybe because of, or in spite of the events that have affected us. As the angel Clarence says in that same Frank Capra film, “You see George, you really did have a wonderful life…”
As therapists we are called to work with people. We can enable a person to really ‘look’ at their life. Therapy is an emotional M.O.T, and sometimes we really have to get under the bonnet and look to see what’s really going on. We allow people to look at their own lives and who they are now. Through this, people can begin to change their futures. Overcome areas which have stopped them from going for that new job, or ending that relationship that’s no longer healthy…
I have learned a lot of my own negative patterns that have kept me still, repeating them from time to time. In relationships with women, I have learned that previously I have sought women who have had bad experiences with men. Here I have felt I could fill a niche. The nice caring guy who wouldn’t hurt them. Of course, as time passed and they healed, they would come to realise that they didn’t need/ want me and the relationship would end and I would be hurt. This has been a difficult curve for me, however, today I feel it has prepared me for seeking/finding myself in more equal relationships with people that are beneficial to both parties rather than just a one way street!
This stage of the process I’ve found is more of a reconnaissance mission. We are gathering information about ourselves and our life. This information is of the utmost importance, for it will define the next part of the process. It is no easy stage, and can appear to be complex and cumbersome. Filtering through this information, filing it into some kind of order so that we can begin this next step.
Once we begin to ‘see’ how we have arrived at this point. We can then begin to walk on the path forward.
– next we go SEARCHING for our truths.
A Thirsk Counsellor
if you've enjoyed this, why not share it with someone.
hi there. I’m Paul Cullen. A Thirsk Counsellor registered with the BACP. I’m interested in all aspects of mental health and well-being and feel it’s important that we each find our way to our own journey.
Originally a Lancashire Lad, I know live in my adopted county of North Yorkshire, with my family.
Have a mentally healthy day.