Dennise Rathbone Counselling in Ashurst Wood, West Sussex and Little Venice, W2

Often, we enter therapy with a vague idea that “If I could just get rid of this bit of myself, or change that part of another” then everything would be just fine. However, the paradox here is that the more we can accept the “less loved” aspects of ourselves, the parts we perhaps deem to be “bad” or “shameful”, the more this allows these aspects to transform. This enables us to meet the world with authenticity and means that we expend less energy on adaptive strategies in order to maintain the mask we present to the outer world; a strategy we will have developed as children, which we may not even be aware of, which served its purpose then, but may now be a hindrance to us living full and satisfying lives.

I firmly believe that curiosity and self-compassion are key. This allows us to turn, with an open curiosity, towards the aspects of ourselves or another, which we might otherwise judge or turn away from. Therapy isn't just about resolving "problems" in our lives, it's also very much about personal growth and development; exploring our "blind spots" with a trusted other. We can't see our own blind spots by virtue of that very reason - they are our blind spots!

The West African Dagara people say that no one comes into this world for no reason. We each come here carrying a gift and a purpose. We need to discover what that gift is, what is our purpose.

Balancing the Inner-Critic with Self-Compassion

Developing self-compassion builds emotional resilience and offers us support in difficult situations. The Tibetan word for compassion (Nyingje) translates as “noble heart” (Nyin = heart / gje = noble). Self-Compassion is not something soft, but an act of courage on our parts, to turn with a noble heart towards the aspects of ourselves we might prefer not to acknowledge (not always what we might consider to be the "bad things" either! sometimes it's the courage to acknowledge our lighter qualities). Plus, those so called "negative traits" have the capacity to transform once we acknowledge them; it's the denial of them which keeps them stuck. Our Inner-Critic, for example, isn't something to be gotten rid of; in its rather clumsy way it is trying to keep us safe. Rather, as we get to know it better and it feels heard, it becomes less stuck in its role and the possibility of transformation opens up, whereby it could become something else; an inner-champion for example.

And so, to end with a favourite quote, which I feel we could apply equally to aspects of our inner-life as our outer-community:

“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” ― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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