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holding onWhen I see people around me struggling - friends, family, colleagues, clients and indeed myself - I wonder how we keep going. A client asked me yesterday “how do I keep going with the daily grind when all this is blowing up around me?” I know this from my personal experience: how do I get up and continue my life, go to work, or engage in community when my internal world feels so chaotic or empty? How do we get the children to school, turn up and do a days work, keep the household in order when life is unstable, when our inner world is on the verge of exploding outward? Freud wrote about the need for work and love, vital components that bring a thread of consistency, stability. Ground to hold on to when everything feels groundless. I’ve been considering this a lot recently: seeing friends go through relationship break ups, illness diagnosis, job loss threat - how do we carry on when often the mundane feels so unimportant compared to our inner woes.

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Its taken some time to get the blog post title this morning: various attempts to frame my view on anxiety - it used to be a foe of mine. “Used to”, not because its gone away, its often a visitor (although as I write, its not, probably because I am giving it some air time). Rather it used to be a foe - now I have allowed it to be here with me, a companion of sorts, although I have also learnt to not give it a constant identity: its textures, speed, colour, tone…they all shift. Sometimes it is in the foreground, other times it recedes.

Anxiety seems to be in the air right now: less so for me, but certainly for many of my clients and the students I work with at the University (the end of the academic year meaning marks and futures being decided). My own struggles with anxiety over the years allow me to get alongside these people; to know how crippling anxiety can be and how urgently its grip wants to be overturned. Being in my awareness, I’ve noticed that quotes about anxiety have been catching my eye - so this week, I wanted to share a few with you.

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The end of the academic year, and that means marking time. Marking student work used to be one of my least favourite tasks when I worked in sport science: thankfully as a researcher I didn’t have to do much teaching nor marking…but it was enough to set up a resistance and dislike. However, since changing career and taking up a new teaching role in counselling and psychotherapy I’ve found the opportunity to engage with the student’s ideas through their assignments is a part of the job I am coming to appreciate…and (dare I say) enjoy.

self otherAs a lecturer on two programmes - the Post-Graduate diploma in humanistic counselling and the MSc in psychotherapy - I am marking a variety of assignments: including write-ups of case studies and critical evaluations of recorded interactions with clients. They are fascinating to read, and I enjoy seeing how the students are considering what is happening in the room (between them and their clients) and bringing the appropriate psychotherapeutic theory to help them understand. The best pieces of work are those that consider what is going on for them, what is going on for the client, and what kind of relationship that develops in to. In other words, what we the teaching team are looking for is consideration as to ‘self’, ‘other’ and the in-between. For the students on the PGDip, their final assignment for their qualification was to describe their conceptualisation of counselling - how they think therapy works. This is an assignment that I completed when I trained at Brighton, so each year I get to re-evaluate how I have shifted, and how my practice has evolved. I thought in my blog this week I would share some ideas.

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