The rush of air that assails as you step off the plane in a tropical country. Expected, at least partially, known and yet new each time. At times recognised; an old friend and welcomed in, her scent immediately visceral. Connections to self and other, not all retained, some in shadow form.

“Come Rage, meet me, what have you brought to this place and time ?”

If I dare admit, far less embrace, the surface heat that holds safe the terror and fear, how much will you and I endure ? How often still has your presence warned me off, denying again the longed-for burning clarity we seek.

Which child in me will willingly play at your side?

Waiting …


” I can’t wait, I need it now . Don’t ask me to wait. ” 

But what are you waiting for ?

” How would I know ?”

And I heard, ” the axe is laid to the root of the tree”.

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Just a few choice words..

close up photography of a cellphone

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Pexels.com

” I don’t see how that’s any business of yours !”… went the very memorable line from the inimitable RuPaul on a recent Graham Norton show.

Now, I don’t imagine there’s too many therapists quoting in sessions this doyenne of  put downs ! But there I was thinking exactly that this was the phrase my client ‘ should ‘ employ in a repeated confrontation that distressed him. If not RuPaul, maybe channeling the Dowager Countess of Grantham would work – with her classy one-liners !

Of course, some of us can find permission giving to oneself to ‘ confront’ so very difficult. It’s  just ‘not me’, is the frequent response. Or ‘ How could I?’, ‘What would people think?’, ‘Oh never in a month of Sundays!’

The mere suggestion of doing something ‘ out of character’ can be freeing , allowing the consideration of change , an exploration of options, and even if they remain for the time-being in the realm of possibility, the seed of change has been sown.

Counselling, at least as I understand my role, can at times encourage the propagation of new experiences of the self. In an authentic, transparent and sometimes challenging way, the therapist introduces opportunities to uncover, discover or recover , aspects of the self that may have been lost, disavowed or never experienced. The ‘ activity’ of the therapist isn’t about leading the client into some uncharted territory where ‘change’ is guaranteed or required, but it is about holding the process of transformation as open and available, if desired. That I will be a companion in that is offered in the full knowledge that at some point we will part company and you may go it alone or find others to accompany you.

Change, and especially ‘personal change’  often involves loss, giving up or giving away something that we have held on to – for good or ill. The reality is that we can often choose to cling to the familiar and ‘ comfortable ‘ while so wanting things to be otherwise. Loss of ‘ face’, fear of disapproval can be such powerful anchors holding us back. Focusing on the past, or getting caught up in our heads about what others may think about us, leads to the traps of ‘optionless’ thinking, negativity and ‘stuckness’. And as I imagine RuPaul might say to those who would hold us back from fulfillment and our ‘better self’, just ‘Sashay away ‘!



img00223-20120921-1912I attended a conference recently, the theme of which ,’Transitions’, evoked a rich mish-mash of thoughts and musings over the last few weeks – seasonal , no doubt ,as the old year ended and the new one began.

No.1 : Transitions are often experienced with fear as well as anticipation. Right in the midst of our Child ego state excitement, a voice warns us “Be careful, watch out “, and we shrink into our armoured place, observant and cautious.

No.2 : Transitions encourage forgetting. Losing track of the journey, focusing on the to-be-arrived-at. But can we arrive “knowingly” without the accompaniment of the past?

No.3: Transitions may be entirely unsought but earnestly longed for; subconsciously denied to self and others. Constancy, pre-eminent of the Stoic’s virtues, elevated.

No.4: Transitions may take us back, bizarelly to old thoughts, to patterns, or ways of being that we thought we had left behind. We struggle to integrate some of the old with the new, as it stubbornly reveals itself.

No.5: Who and what will we allow into our process as we grapple with the meanings of the old and the new, the ‘well-kent’  and the threatening exciting future.

Welcoming uncertainty? Welcoming risk ? Welcoming Disapproval ? Welcoming Joy ? Welcoming Surprise ?



Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

Dreaming ‘words’, as opposed to images, isn’t usual for me….at least as far as I have been aware. But this week has been different. I’ve been on holiday and strangely it has released some element of my subconscious self that quite simply has seen words tumbling into my ‘awareness’ as I slept .. and remaining with me as I awakened.

Faith, hope, love.

These three words …. familiar to me for very many years, returned last night, and punctuated my waking hours. Paul’s famous words are of course  loaded with meaning, layer upon layer. They have been expounded by preachers and theologians for centuries, and every day are repeated in weddings, funerals and baptisms across the christian world. They have been appropriated by many as a simple summary of their religious position.

So, what meaning do these three gifted words have for me today, I wonder ?  I know these are traditionally understood as personal ‘virtues’ or character traits – to be aspired to, striven for spiritually and morally. Encouraging oneself to be ‘better’ than one has been to date is laudable I’m sure, and holding to these virtues may be a way into that.

I remember that in my professional life as a counselling therapist, I often hear from clients of their desire for change that focuses on being ‘ more’ … More accepting, more forgiving, more active, more engaged, and so on.

So, what will being more faithful, more hopeful, more loving mean? What will it require of me at a personal level, what changes can I bring about in my life to better embody these virtues.. and (as I often ask of clients looking to change) .. How will I know when that happens ?

I’m pretty sure that these three things have something to also say to me about the ‘practice of therapy’ and my work with individuals and couples. I’m curious about the existential  challenges of embodying being ‘ faithful, hopeful and loving’ in the context of the therapeutic relationship. A subtle shift of language to ‘being believed (having faith in), being offered hope and being unconditionally accepted’ are, of course, more familiar in the therapeutic milieu.

Then I recall too that there is an inbuilt challenge in the hierarchy of these three virtues ..  not only that “these things last forever” but that “the greatest of these is love“.

I am going to take these as both an encouragement and a warning.


magazine-unlock-01-2-3-983-_8e8bbdbaf5fc4e25be643a921919f101The final wisdom of life requires not the annulment of incongruity but the achievement of serenity within and above it.    (Reinhold Niebuhr)

Oh, so that’s it ! …..As I read the words, their simplicity challenged and disturbed me. It was if this short sentence offered an outcome to the painful trajectory of puzzled teenage years, the answer to the angst-filled middle years of ‘shoulds’ and ‘ought not to haves’, and the twilight wonderings of ‘what now’ in the painful realisation of what has been…. has been.

Like many people I see, I too would like to find a route into being comfortable with this neat summing up of ‘the final wisdom of life’. Admittedly much of the ‘ wisdom’ of this age, ‘mindfulness practice’ in its many guises, posits this to be the case too.

‘Being in the moment’ , focusing on the present reality in a non-judgemental self acceptance has an awful lot going for it… physically, emotionally, spiritually. The answer my friend is blowing in the wind, sang the poet of acceptance. And the wind ‘blows where it wishes’, is the wisdom of a prophet whose peace passes all understanding.


Puzzled ( and not happy )


I’d love to say it’s just lies, damned lies etc… but that seems all too easy a get-out. Sure, we all get inundated with data, fake and otherwise, but I am troubled by a recent headline. The 10th Prince’s Trust youth index reports that our young peoples confidence is declining in relation to key areas such as health and future prospects. Their overall happiness score was 69 out of 100, the first time it has dropped below 70.

pexels-photo-262187.jpegThe sad fact is that many of our young people are more anxious, less happy and suffering with mental and well-being issues; they are less happy in their own skins, and feel more disconnected from their communities and society as a whole. And if we look at the stats again , we know that by the age of 14 around 12 per cent of boys and 18 per cent of girls will have a mental health problem. Meanwhile CAMHS are overwhelmed with referrals and community run counselling services are at the sharp-end of funding cuts and reduced service provision. Not a happy picture.

So, I am puzzled, as well as dismayed.

What will it take for us to truly value our young peoples needs and respond to them with vigour, compassion and determination ?  It was, I think, Gandhi who said

” The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members”.

That phrase has been applied deservedly to many groups – prisoners, refugees, mentally ill, homeless….But society needs to recognise that the well-being of our children and young people is the sine qua non of a healthy community .Our hopes and aspirations rest on their small, undeveloped and unsupported shoulders.

Puzzled ? Answers on a postcard .

Five common therapy issues in January

Hard to imagine that this month, January, has almost gone.

There is nojanus1 other period that delivers more in terms of the impetus to be ‘dealing with stuff’ in therapy. In my experience, it kicks in around week 2 of the new year – the highs of new year and festivity have receded and there … yes, there they are … them , that , this S *!T.. that needs to be ‘ dealt with ‘, ‘ faced up to’ and ‘ kicked into touch ‘.

So … here, and suitably disguised from any actual words I’ve heard, are the 5 therapy issues that I’ve encountered most commonly in January:


  1. Leaving behind a personal behaviour that no longer satisfies or works
  2. Facing a choice to remain or withdraw ( from a person, people, jobs, places)
  3. Going deeper into self and awareness
  4. Facing the need to be really heard
  5. Confronting deception and seeking a new authenticity

I admire the human capacity for growth and change. Soon it will be Spring.


Oh Tidings of comfort….or anything else you need!

There is a lot of it about….the Taxi driver remarked. The ” it” was Christmas “spirit”… as he went on to describe an explosion of apparent bonhomie coupled with nervous exhaustion and anxious anticipation. It was, of course, the party season of all the party seasons. His good humour was being tested he said..too many over indulgences with the consequence of spilled drinks and worse in the back of his usually pristine vehicle. Agh…how he enjoyed recounting the numerous drink fuelled high-octane arguments between couples he’d heard in the last week ,how many tearful recriminations he’d overheard.

And ” don’t start me on all the rubbish folk buy..piling in with their bags and moaning about how it’s all too much.” Oh, ok.

And in the background I hear the radio presenter cheerfully declare “it’s a time for the children “. Oh, really.

I find it all too easy to be cynical, and jump on the anti-Christmas train of critical disengagement. The ‘holiday season’ as it’s come to be called isn’t much of a break for many ..let alone a ‘ holy -day’ season. I too bow to the pressure of the hurried acquisition of material goods to bestow on others, I reluctantly acquiesce to the unusually frequent demands for sociability, and sink into the tinsel faded familiarity of past routines of ‘doing Christmas’.

Like the taxi driver, I’ve witnessed the personal anxiety and heard the accounts of how Christmas provokes discomfort and distress. How family , their presence and their absence, can create massive conflicted emotions. How the desire to belong clashes with the need to be independent. How the desire for faith in humanity ( and beyond) is destroyed by cruelty and pain.

In the confusion of contrary emotions, the turmoil of our thoughts and the paralysis of our self, I encourage the emergence of permission …giving to oneself the awareness and vital energy that is essentially ours to claim. It’s the OK-ness that we seek and are. It’s the embodied OK-ness that is at the heart of the Christmas narrative. It is the existential reality of the ‘word’ becoming ‘flesh’. A radical narrative and a radical gift we can give to ourselves and each other.

Happy Christmas.

Blood is thicker than……

It’s always disconcerting when I find myself chewing over a phrase two days later that someone has, even casually, ( oh, is that ever the case, I hear some say), dropped into the dialogue. Mmmmm…. and then more mmmmm…. till ponder, ponder… clunk.

Foggy_pathA slowly dawning realisation that I’m struggling to make sense of it .. no, I mean to make MY sense of this commonplace. Oh.. sure, I know what it usually signifies … that ‘family ‘ bonds us tighter than other ties ( DISCUSS) , though apparently it’s roots lie in the phrase that  “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb”… which of course implies the opposite of this. Confused …

In TA, we often talk quite mystically about ‘ script ‘ – and how it operates at a personal, family, cultural level –  (with the basic idea of of “life script” originally being a very early and pre-conscious life plan that influences the way we live our lives). Therapy , in this schema, is often directed to ‘ changing the script’ and some boldly address themselves to the ‘script cure’. (memo to self – ‘psychotherapy ‘ can be translated as “the cure of souls.”)

Now and again, and after years of therapy, I bump up against my ‘ script’ in a way that is profoundly unsettling, and this is definitely one of those occasions. Why ?

Well, for a start, I just don’t get the idea of this universal statement “blood is thicker than…”, in a world that I observe as being so truly diverse in  the realm of human experience. That’s a fairly safe and detached position to rest on. Phew.

Then at a second level, there’s what I experience as I sit with others:  hearing their experience of longing to be more or less “attached” to their family of origin; the variations are limitless. And being in this privileged position, I guess I often hear more from those who are seeking to experience the reality of  the strength of the ‘blood tie’, when it’s not there, than I do from those who want rid of it.

And way down, there’s the place where it touches me. The place where my inner voice has struggled to speak at all… never mind the telling of it out loud that ” Blood is thicker than water ….that’s not my truth.”  A place that has evoked at times sadness, regret, anger and maybe moving now towards ‘ resolution’.