Things just seem to keep on going wrong: you fall out of love with your job 6 months in; you end up with a boss who’s a bit of a bully; your friend is all take and no give; you’re caught in the same rows at home. Sometimes it’s just bad luck, but what if there’s a pattern?
Often crisis comes when you start to question why these things happen and to face your true (and often hidden) feelings about them. So, what do you do?
Picture a small jeweled box, that only you know about. It’s very precious and very private. So private that maybe it remains half forgotten.
In it are some deeply buried memories or learned ways of being. Not particularly pleasant or easy ones. They come wrapped up with all sorts of feelings, most of them quite difficult. You’ve put quite a lot of effort into not thinking about them for some time.
There’s this nagging feeling, that if you did open the box, what’s locked inside might come out and overwhelm you. The flood gates would be open, and you would be consumed or washed away by whatever is there, despair, sadness, hurt, rage, fear… So best to keep it hidden, locked, half-forgotten.
Then one day something happens. It’s the 4th job in a row you’ve left after 6 months. It’s yet another bullying boss. It’s the countless row about something at home.
It’s like you jolt awake in the night suddenly remembering. Or someone says something to you in a particular way which brings this memory back to life.
A quiet soft knocking from within the box starts to be heard. The more you try and ignore it, the more persistent and loud it becomes.
At this point, you’re faced with some difficult choices. Do you try and hide the box away and ignore what’s inside? Do you open it up with the fear that it will grab you by the throat and take you down?
A difficult choice
Coming to counselling often puts people in touch with that difficult choice. By the time they’ve made the decision to see a counsellor, it’s probably the case that the knocking from inside the box is getting hard to igore. They feel trapped between the terror of going inside and the despair of not being able to push it away any longer.
So how do you deal with what seems an impossible choice? Slowly, gently, supportively and in your own time. Put it this way, no-one would ever recommend jumping out of a plane, even with a parachute, without plenty of training, preparation and building trust that you will be safe.
The same goes for counselling. Together we build a sense of trust, understanding and safety, so when the time comes for you to open the box (because, honestly, that is the only option in the longer term) you do so knowing you will be ok, you will be accompanied, and someone will be, metaphorically, holding your hand.
It can feel daunting and overwhelming enough to come and meet with a stranger to talk about your deepest feelings, without having to manage the feelings themselves, although that’s why you come in the first place, right?
How we deal with ‘scary’
So of course, ‘going there’ also feels very scary. Together we prepare the ground, get in touch with your resilience and coping skills, knowing that you will be ok, whatever happens. Sometimes, we do practice runs on things that feel less loaded and difficult. Sometimes we talk through the fears. Sometimes we draw the box, the feelings, the memories and let the images do the talking. Sometimes we move, or play music, or find the poem that says it perfectly and allows you safely to make your way towards what you’ve kept locked away for fear of what it might do.
Above all, we do it honouring the process, honouring the fear but not letting it rule. Often coming through the other side is not just a moment of great release and relief, but it lays the ground for connecting with power and potential to be more of yourself.
This week’s lifeline can get you going on this journey.
This Week’s Lifeline
Take some time and space where you will be free of interruption.
Start by grounding yourself with some focused breathing, with your eyes closed. When you’re ready, bring your attention inside and imagine yourself at the edge of a deep and dark forest. Drink in the light, smells, sounds, temperature of this place outside of the forest. Then, step into the forest and start to make your way along the path, deeper and deeper amongst the trees. Notice the change in light, temperature and smell as you go further in. Keep walking along the path for some time.
After a while, you come to a small clearing and notice a rock at the centre. As you approach closer, you notice a small jewelled box sitting on top of the rock.
Make your way over and notice how you feel as you look at it. Is it fear, anxiety, excitement, relief? And then see if you are willing to open it and look at what’s inside. Take a moment in anticipation and then open it and see what’s inside. If there’s nothing, that’s fine but you may find an object, person, word, image, sound, feeling. Whatever comes is fine.
Decide whether you want to put whatever you found back or if you will take it with you.
Start making your way out from the clearing and back on the path, walking steadily until you come to the edge of the forest. Notice the change in temperature and light as you step back into the sunny day.
Gently open your eyes to complete the exercise. You may want to draw or write about what you found. What does it mean for you and your relationship with what has been locked away? How do you feel about this box and what was inside it? What message might it have for you?
If you’re struggling with something that remains unsaid…
Counselling can really help by providing a safe, confidential space to allow you to explore your present and how the past has impacted on you. I offer counselling in Totnes, Paignton and Newton Abbott, giving a gentle supportive process to help you work through what’s painful and to be more of all you can be.
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