My approach to mental health
I believe mental and emotional wellbeing is everyone’s birth right; but sometimes far from our lived experience. Life is difficult and acknowledging that is sometimes the start of our recovery.
Life breaks us in different ways and at different times. We can be diminished by anxiety, isolation, sadness, self-hate, a sense of failure, loss of meaning, grief, rage, regret, ageing, depression or confusion.
These things knock on our door; and sometimes they come to stay. When they stay, life is difficult.
So if we’re struggling with something, it’s not because we’re bad; it’s because we’re human and our path is far from smooth. Cracks appear in us – and that’s OK. As Leonard Cohen kindly reminds us, ‘the cracks – they’re how the light gets in.’
So contrary to popular belief, people seek help not because they’re mad, but because they’re sane. It’s the first sign of sanity to notice discomfort or dissonance in our lives; only the wise acknowledge difficulty and honestly name it.
Here is the examined life that begins to discern the patterns at play inside us; some hidden from view for years. It is a life lived in awareness, like curtains opened on a dark room; and growing in its ability to respond creatively to life.
Its opposite is the unexamined life – life lived on automatic and little more than a series of reactions to circumstance. This life might be compared to that of a balloon in a pin factory.
And where is therapy in all this?
Therapy is anything which heals us, which makes us feel better, feel stronger, freer.
So in its broadest sense, therapy might be a walk, a view, a moment or a friend; it might be a kindness, some music, a picture or something someone says – anything which returns us to ourselves more happily, even if only for five minutes.
Then there is more intentional therapy.
My particular offer is of safe, confidential and insightful space in which your story can be heard, known and loved. And once this story is loved, change occurs. It is a good day when we are happy in our skin.
It is someone holding up a truth mirror to our life so we can see it more clearly and make cleaner choices.
And it does need someone else sometimes. It’s hard for us to see ourselves. Most imagine they are self-aware but this is rarely true. A fish struggles to describe water, because it is all they know. And we are all we know.
The offer of safe space is important; it’s surprisingly rare in our lives. We are forever editing or filtering, depending on who we’re with. We fear being judged or we fear upsetting others. We even edit to ourselves.
But good things happen when we no longer have to edit; when we can tell our story in full – even if some of the feelings that arise may be difficult.
‘I cry more now,’ said someone after seeing me a few times. But they needed to cry, they needed to visit the Garden of Sadness. They will leave it much freer, more joyful.
Our past throws strong shadows across our path, but it need not define us. As I say, though, we may sometimes need help to journey to a brighter place.
We’ll certainly need honesty, as much of that as we can muster; and we will need to be brave. But bravery always pays: as Van Gogh said, ‘Heaven is for the brave’.
I don’t have a fixed approach. The human mystery cannot be contained within any one system or model. But for what it’s worth, in my experience transactional analysis, attachment theory, Enneagram soul work, psycho-dynamic approaches and mindfulness practice all hold great treasures.
As long as we feel safe.
I offer both personal and business consultancy. I describe them here separately, though clearly, they are ultimately one.