My approach to mental health

Life can be wonderful. Life can also be difficult.

I believe mental and emotional wellbeing is everyone’s birthright, but it is sometimes far from our lived experience. Both big T and small t trauma are commonplace, leaving often unrecognised scars on our lives.

Sometimes the start of recovery is the question:

Does life have to be this difficult?

We can be diminished by anxiety, isolation, sadness, self-hate, fear of failure, loss of meaning, grief, rage, regret, mood swings, ageing, depression or confusion.

These are not kind companions. But there’s always a way forward. As Ernest Hemingway wrote, ‘Life breaks us all, but some are made strong in the broken places.’

If we’re struggling, we need to know it’s not because we’re bad; it’s because we’re human and we have a history. Cracks appear in us, and that’s OK. As Leonard Cohen kindly reminds us, ‘the cracks – they’re how the light gets in.’

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.

This is the examined life. Now we begin to discern the patterns at play inside us; some of them 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. Everything else and everyone else is to blame for our predicament. This life might be compared to that of a balloon in a pin factory.

Where is therapy in all this?

Therapy is anything which heals us, which makes us feel better, 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. Or it could be looking after our body with appropriate exercise – anything which returns us to ourselves more happily, even if only briefly.

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.

Good therapy holds a truth mirror to our life, so we can see it more clearly and make cleaner choices.

And sometimes, it does need someone else, because it’s hard for us to see ourselves. Most people imagine they are self-aware, but this is rarely true. A fish might struggle to describe water, because water is all it knows. And we are all we know, which can make us blind to the obvious.

The offer of safe space is important, because 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, or we ‘don’t want to bother them’. 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.

Honesty and bravery

‘I cry more now,’ said a client. But they needed to cry, they needed to visit the Garden of Sadness. They will leave it much freer, less tearful, more joyful.

Or another client: ‘I have never once left a conversation with Simon without feeling better than I did beforehand. It not only feels like a genuine conversation and in a comfortable space, but one that sheds light on the biggest blocks, as though they were always very simple.’

Our past can throw strong shadows across our path, but it need not define us. We’ll need honesty and we’ll need to be brave. But bravery always pays. As Vincent Van Gogh said, ‘Heaven is for the brave.’ I sense he’s right.

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.

Personal and business settings

I offer therapeutic listening and reflection in both personal and business settings. Find out more here:

Personal therapy
Therapy in business