In 2015 I felt a prompting to write down all the wisdom I have gained the past 8 years in my counselling practice. It took nine months to materialize and in retrospect I realise I “gave birth” to my life story.
It has been an exhilarating experience to witness how these broad healing concepts have impacted people’s lives. Of course, every case is so unique, and the model can aid as a diagnostic tool to plot where you are currently feeling stuck. One of my favourite quotes on healing is by WP Young:
“Because of our uniqueness and the intricacy of who we are, and the unique way we have been damaged, each person’s path to healing is so unique”.
Since then I haven’t looked back and I’m so grateful that I now get to share my knowledge and experience with more people, touching more people’s lives than before. I’d love to share with you a few of my own personal beacons along this life journey so that you can get to know me a little better.
Aware of numbness
In my teen years I recall driving with a few friends in the car, the radio blaring out loud (as only teenagers can do), when that song ‘Iris’ by the group Goo-Goo Dolls came on and the verse “YEAH YOU BLEED JUST TO KNOW YOU’RE ALIVE” struck me like a ton of bricks. Although I was young I knew something was very wrong with my heart – it was numb, and as a protection mechanism I didn’t allow myself to feel anything for anyone. My unresolved childhood wounds were numbing my heart.
The pain of changing
Throughout my varsity years the wise words of J Meyer from her book Beauty for Ashes rang through my ears: “THERE ARE ONLY TWO TYPES OF PAIN – THE PAIN OF CHANGING AND THE PAIN OF STAYING THE SAME”, and “THE ONLY WAY OUT IS THROUGH”. This inspired me to look for help and deal with many of the skeletons in my closet. One thing I knew for sure: I didn’t want to be like previous generations who shoved everything under the table, hoping it would disappear.
Pain & Joy are a package
While still studying I attended a seminar of Floyd McClung and he mentioned this quote by Simone Weil that stuck like glue: “THERE ARE ONLY TWO THINGS THAT PIERCE THE HUMAN HEART – ONE IS BEAUTY, THE OTHER AFFLICTION (PAIN)”. What I began to recognise as truth only in recent years was that if we harden our hearts to avoid pain (sadness), we also lose out on all the beauty (love, peace, joy etc.). We are not robots that we can switch off our hearts to pain and switch it back on to beauty. This concept was confirmed exceptionally well in one of my all-time favourite movies Inside Out (based on our core emotions). The character that portrayed the emotion of joy tried her level best to keep the main character away from the sadness emotion, only to realise at the end of the movie that her saddest moment was followed by her most joyful one.
I reached a stage in my life, after having gone through all the necessary counselling and prescribed self-help tools, I was still unable to feel (numb) to a large extent. The only emotion I was certain about was fear, probably because we get so bombarded with all the dangers “out there”, especially in South Africa. I had to take a deep breath and endeavour to take an untrodden path that I have never allowed myself to take before. It entailed asking myself difficult “forbidden” questions and even worse, facing those answers.
Surprise, surprise, LIFE IS AN ADVENTURE, whether we want to admit it or not! The reason I say this with so much confidence is that even if you are the Queen of England, NONE OF US KNOW WHAT CARD LIFE IS GOING TO DEAL US NEXT. Coincidently, that is also one of the definitions of an adventure: not knowing what is around the next corner.
Finally, I was closer than I have ever been to the freedom I have so desperately longed for since my early teen years. It was suddenly so obvious as noonday sun that WOUNDED HEARTS DISLIKE ADVENTURE, since they always need to be in control of what is going to happen next (protection mechanism). This quite rationally explained my constant feeling of fear, knowing I am not in control but wanting so desperately to be in control.
Adventure doesn’t destry you; playing it safe does.
The next piece of the puzzle fell perfectly in place while reading the following in the book by John Eldredge, Waking the Dead: “Adventure, with all its requisite danger and wildness is a DEEP SPIRITUAL LONGING WRITTEN INTO THE SOUL OF MAN. The word life (PSYCHE) is the word for our soul, our inner self or our heart. The things we do to save our psyche – THOSE PLANS TO SAVE AND PROTECT OUR INNER LIFE – those are the things that will ACTUALLY DESTROY US. We pick only those battles we are sure to win, adventures we are sure to handle and the beauties we are sure to rescue. Through STOPPING TO PLAY IT SAFE and your WILLINGNESS to embark on a great adventure, you can find this life.”
The question now remained: how do I go about changing this “playing it safe” business that I was so conditioned by? The answer was a thirteen-letter word: VULNERABILITY. Lindsey Wilkey’s definition of vulnerability stood out the most for me: “It is more than just being willing to share the dark corners of your life with others, although that is definitely an important part of it! It is VOLUNTARILY PLACING YOURSELF, FOR THE SAKE OF A LARGER PURPOSE, IN A SITUATION THAT COULD BRING PAIN.” You see, I was moved by this because I have already come to terms with the fact that I wanted beauty, so I had to take the pain that came alongside it.
Lo and behold, I was shocked remembering that this quote from CS Lewis was read on my wedding day: “TO LOVE AT ALL IS TO BE VULNERABLE. Love anything and your heart will be WRUNG AND POSSIBLY BROKEN. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. LOCK IT UP SAFE in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, IT WILL CHANGE. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. TO LOVE IS TO BE VULNERABLE”. Now, clearer than ever before, I knew that this theme of vulnerability chose me, I did not choose it. Fascinating how, more often than not in life, the theme we struggle most with later becomes the theme we impart to others.
So off I went on this untrodden path, running into Lencioni’s take on this: “Now more than ever our biggest obstacle as humans is to come together in HUMILITY and DROP OUR GUARD this world has conditioned us to have. LETTING GO of whatever we are trying so desperately to hold onto is the true power in vulnerability. We must risk entering: “THE DANGER ZONE” by putting our guard down and ENTERING INTO SITUATIONS that are EXTREMELY UNCOMFORTABLE.”
Learning to live loved
Another significant author in my life, WP Young taught me the above-mentioned principle. One of the fundamentals that I walk in daily is that my worth is not determined by what I do but by who I am. The capitalistic system we live in links everything to commodities and numbers where one must compete, contrast and compare yourself to everyone around you. I’ve had so much fun becoming my own BFF (best friend forever ) through getting to know my unique personality preferences, temperaments, brain profiles, etc. It is just as exciting to see how these empowering building blocks help my clients realise their own uniqueness and worth.
Talent is a gift, but character is a choice.
These are the wise words of John C Maxwell that stirred me deeply. My final beacon (thus far) made me realise the space that I would like to thrive in is summed up by the following words: “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him” (Malcolm S. Forbes).