As 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.
Just 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.
The main intention behind writing this blog and committing to that practice weekly was and still is to forge a writing habit as grounding for a book. Hand on heart, the motivation to blog has waned: not because I don’t enjoy it - I very much do; but rather because time and space to write feels squeezed. It’s not just finding the time, making the time but also having the mind space to sit and ponder what feels important to write about each week. Client work on Monday and Tuesday, teaching on Wednesday and Thursdays - those four days take the toll, no matter how much I still enjoy my work. I’m learning to honour the load and try not to squeeze myself so dry. I was talking with colleagues at the Uni this week - this has felt like a long term. We, and the student trainees need a break. That break comes in the shape of a 3 week break from teaching. It is my intention to spend a good chunk of that time away in France on a writing retreat. A chance to really engage with the joy of writing and planning my book. As I write that, I feel excited.
Three years ago, my wife and I spent 2 weeks at this very time of year at this very same spot in Normandy. Back then, I was writing up my Masters research. Three years later, and I want to re-visit my ideas of around the integration of the Buddhist dharma and a relational psychotherapy. Recently, following some wonderful conversations with equally wonderful friends and colleagues, the type of book I want to write is gaining some shape and clarity. I don’t want to write a text book, an academic piece but rather something more autobiographical, more heuristic. The heuristic approach is the method I used in my Masters research; and while it was a painful process (!), it really lends itself to allowing me and the reader to go on a journey: as I communicate my learning, the reader learns too. I think this will be especially true in using the blogging platform to write the book - a chance to interact with the potential readership; to hear their learning and let that also impact on me.
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