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courage to be vulnerableWhen I go out on my bike at the weekends, I often take a podcast for company. I have a few podcasts of which I am a regular listener - and one is Dan Harris’ “10% happier”. This week he interviewed Brene Brown: a researcher in vulnerability, authenticity and shame who came to public awareness with her TED talk that first aired in 2010. Since then, the 20 minute talk has amassed over 40 million viewers. I watched the talk about 5 years ago and then read a couple of her books - “Daring Greatly” and “Braving the wilderness”. I especially enjoyed the latter given its focus on the quest for belonging and how significant that aspect of human being-ness (with its flip side loneliness) has been to me on my life journey to date. On listening to this interview and hearing Brene had a new show on Netflix I suggested to my partner that we take a look over the bank holiday weekend.

Even if I hadn’t heard this interview with Dan Harris or if I hadn’t been exposed to Brene’s previous work I probably would have been curious enough to watch the Netflix special when I next logged in for my regular Netflix ‘fix’. The title of the special “The call to courage” invokes another of my personal path processes - in Paul Tilich’s words “the courage to be”. I’ve shared with you previously on this blog that much of my personal journey has been learning to listen to my experience of anxiety and develop an alternative relationship with it. To hear how it helps direct me towards needs for connection and invites courage to be my Self - when alone and with others. In some ways, courage IS my path. Rather than rid myself of anxiety by nailing down as much certainty as I can, it is to open to the fear…courageously.

You can watch Brene Brown’s special for yourselves, so I don’t feel I need to provide another review or account of it here for you. Instead, I wish to simply share a few of the highlights for me; things that made my partner and I take stock and relate to our own lives.

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Getting a towAs I walked to the train station the other day after work, I was passed by a man on a bike towing a small girl. It was one of those arched tow bars that allows the child to pedal away on hers and therefore contribute to the forward movement of the bikes...if so inclined...this young girl was not. As the man on front (I presume her father) pedalled hard she had her feet off the pedals, swinging her arms. Happy to follow, happy to let her Dad propel. I had a little chuckle based on my own experience of riding a tandem bike but also because it struck a chord with a dynamic in therapy work, one that had come up in discussion just that afternoon in a supervision session I had just facilated.

This group of supervisees have recently qualified as counsellors and are building up their private practice and work in the voluntary sector. We were reflecting on client groups that felt easeful versus those that represent more of a challenge; each had their own experience of this, and we talked about opportunities to develop a 'niche'; a reputation in a given field of therapeutic work. We talked about how our own personal story, patterns in development, and indeed our own version of a wound influenced who we felt resonant with or distanced from. This can be the very essence of the wounded healer. Jung explained this as the compulsion to heal because we ourselves are wounded; if we take that further, we perhaps are compelled to heal those who share a similar wound. I have certainly reflected upon this as a therapist / Buddhist. I have experienced a sense of 'lack' when the paths could not be woven together. Therapists who didn't know the language, and skeptical tutors encountered in my therapy training. More latterly, I have found others who respect, appreciate and utilise both in their understanding of what it is to be human and have experienced the healing power of that synergy. This has proved my inspiration to how I want to practice; and with whom I feel I can help the most. I want to provide to others what I once lacked.

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pen to paperJust before sitting down to write this post, I sat quietly in order to re-connect with my experience on 'writing retreat'. It has been 10 days since I returned home from Normandy. The space between the return and writing this blog has been intentional - a period of ‘incubation’; letting my ideas and experience in Normandy coalesce and mingle with life back home. Returning to work, the Easter weekend…normality.

As we travelled home on the ferry, I felt satisfied and I felt inspired. The 10 days away enabled my two aspirations and intentions to be met: firstly, did I really have a book that I wanted to write in me? And secondly, what would that book look like? I came back with “yes” and a table of contents drafted out. Ten days later, that still pleases me. A friend and colleague commented “well, that’s the hard bit done”. I’m sure that there will be many challenges along the way as I truly put pen to paper and flesh out that skeleton of a TOC…but I could resonate with what he said. Very often during the writing retreat I thought of a few people I know who make a living in publishing and wondered how on earth they do it.

The experience wasn’t as painful as my last writing experience in Normandy: the writing up of my Masters research turned me inside out. I had sleepless nights and when I did sleep my dreamworld acted out what was not available to me in waking hours. I felt consumed and repeatedly “flummoxed” by it all. It was only in reading Romanyshyn’s work on the “wounded researcher” that gave me perspective - the research was REsearch, finding something AGAIN within me, something already known to my unconscious but was as yet out of reach. I didn’t pick the topic, “it” picked me. Maybe it was having been through that process 3 years ago that I was more able to trust and not push this time around. Even though I didn’t get anything down on paper for 2 days I didn’t panic - I simply meditated more, went for walks, and drank coffee overlooking the beautiful Norman landscape.