Know thyself

Socrates says that, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom”; however, this is easier said than sensed.

Recently many of us have had to retreat to our homes and, by extension, retreat into ourselves. Having this time gives us an opportunity to reflect on how, and who, we are

So how are we?  Do we have what we need and want?  Do we understand what makes us feel sad, scared, happy, angry, grounded? 

And who are we?  Isolation, whether self-imposed or externally enforced, takes us to these existential concerns; identity, who we are in relation to others, and that which is more than us?  Is the way we are thinking, communicating and behaving, in accord with who we are?  Many of these questions are normally answered and influenced by the opinions of others; however, whilst being semi-cocooned from our normal social life, we are experiencing a lessening impact from others.  This in turn allows us to look inward for our own answers, a chance to confront our own values and desires, uninfluenced by society at large.  How would we truly like to express what we think and feel?  How would we truly like to work or play?

“Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.” — Rumi

We are urged to conform to society for the greater good of the community, but this can be to our detriment; when we are encouraged to blindly emulate others rather than endorse ourselves.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” 

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our life experience, aided by self-reflection, fuels the process of self-knowledge.  However, sometimes we need help in getting to know ourselves; perhaps we have not experienced the requisite endorsement in our formative years, from carers or our community, and we need the help and support of a therapist.

One of the greatest gifts that therapy offers is the rare opportunity to be truly yourself in relation to another.  There is a chance to practice this; listening to your own inner voice out loud, feeling the difference, and having it accepted – unconditionally – by the therapist. 

This takes courage, but from this we can learn to connect with ourselves and others in a more authentic way. To ‘know thyself’, and have that self accepted by another, is sustenance for the soul.

“It costs so much to be a full human being that there are very few who have the love and courage to pay the price.  One has to abandon altogether the search for security and reach out to the risk of living with both arms.  One has to embrace the world like a lover.”

— Morris West

Isolation can be a harsh lesson, whether visited upon us or not, but it can also bring rewards; a chance to be with ourselves in a different way, and for selfhood.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.

Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill

where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.

Don’t go back to sleep.

— Rumi

June 2020

Can counselling help people with anxiety?

Anxiety can take many forms, from low key worry to panic attacks, phobias and O.C.D.  It is normal for us to worry, it can keep us safe, or help us prepare for things in life which are difficult. However, the balance can shift and it can become debilitating in itself, or lead to unhelpful coping methods. This could include too much drink, drugs, avoidance of whatever is causing the anxiety, or difficulty in relationships.  

When you are suffering from anxiety the thought of trying counselling for the first time can seem very daunting.  Counselling can help though, as it gives a person a chance to talk to someone who is not otherwise involved in their lives.  It is private, and a Counsellor will not judge; they want to help the client.  In a session the Counsellor will listen very carefully to understand the client’s life, behaviour and waysof relating to others. It is the client who holds the information,  and the Counsellor who brings another perspective, expertise and awareness.  Together they facilitate the client in getting a deeper understanding of what is problematic in their lives, unearth the roots of those problems, and help to alleviate symptoms. The Counsellor helps the client help themselves; an ability which will continue their whole lives.

The first meeting is an important one, as both parties have a chance to see if they can work together. In my first sessions I assess how the client is feeling at that point in time, get some of their personal history, and an idea of how they want to improve their lives.  Counselling can be a rocky road at times, but, if the client is ready, I am there to  “walk by their side” as it were, whilst they undergo this process. This can take time and effort, but the benefits to understanding our demons can be invaluable, including an ability to work with, and use, the stressors in our lives.

So, if a client does decide that they want to go ahead and try counselling, then, in response to my earlier question:  Yes, anxiety can be helped by counselling.


August 2018