The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Easter 2018 Soul Notes

Recently, I visited the stunning Giants' Causeway on the Atlantic coast of Northern Ireland. It consists of over 40,000 columns formed by volcanic eruptions over 50 million years ago.  It is a place of incredible beauty, myth and legend, and is where my sister and I used to play as children. We would giggle and imagine the sleeping giants that are said to lie beneath, stirring in their ancient slumber, readying themselves to rise and stride across the causeway. As we walked together again thirty years later across the basalt steps, we reconnected with that gorgeous childish energy and found ourselves laughing and marvelling and evoking a happy time. That road trip was full of memory and emotion and connection for both of us. One thing that struck me though was how we connected with different parts of our past. We have varied memories and tell different stories, even though we shared that time together very intimately. There is her version and my version and no true version between us. The stories we tell ourselves are life-shaping. Both about what has gone before and what we believe we are and will become. As Henry Ford famously said, "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't - you're right." Unravelling and reworking stories is a huge part of my work. To give attention to my clients so that their stories can be told. To understand together what those stories mean and where they have come from. To attend to the emotional, spiritual and physical aspects of the story. To gently challenge where it's no longer serving them. To rewrite the story so that they can live, work and relate more wholeheartedly and authentically and be more present to themselves and others. However, reworking our story is not easy work. It may involve us turning our back on some parts of ourselves and our history that we feel identify who we are. I hear so often people say "that's just who I am" and believe it fully, but what becomes apparent is that that's how they've learned to be, thanks to years of conditioning and living the script that was written early on. Who we truly are lies beneath the layers. One of my stories has been that I must be independent and self sufficient or else I won't survive. This is rooted in my early experiences and has served me well as I ventured into the world with ambition and a strong work ethic. I have been able to change careers successfully several times, I have travelled to, and lived in, faraway countries. I have lived alone with my daughter for many years. I run my own businesses, etc.....However, the flip side is that I struggle to relax, to play, to be light, to let go of responsibility. And I like to keep many doors open so that I have freedom and choices and don't get pinned down. At this stage of life, independence feels lonely and I'm beginning to see that I'm spinning myself a yarn. Keeping doors open, clinging to a notion of freedom of choice just means that my energy is dissipated. I'm not focussing on the things that really make me happy and acting in the places where I can be most potent because I'm living the tale of independence which keeps me strapped into survival mode. It was my coach and supervisor, the glorious Jackee Holder, that helped me to uncover that recently. She and I sat in the pensive surroundings of The Library in Covent Garden and began to unravel my story. Jackee and I have discovered that we share a love of libraries, with early memories of them as places to escape to and find ourselves through the books offering a route to an alternate universe. So the fact that our regular meeting place is here is no accident. It was one of those sessions where I arrived feeling like I didn't know what I wanted. Jackee trusted that I did know and invited me to talk and see what emerged. What arrived was a strong bodily sensation, an electric charge running from the base of my spine and all the way through my back. Jackee asked me to draw it which I did...then put words to it, which I was unable to do, then put colour to it and an indigo, red, deeply charged image burst through - the wellspring of my unconscious mind. The words were still eluding me but it became blindingly obvious to me that this energy needed a channel. Jackee asked me what it would look like if I were to thrive in just one area. The surge of bodily electricity was shocking and with it came the realisation that to thrive would mean shutting some doors.  I felt clearly that I need to stop trying to be all things to all people and to honour myself. To stop being afraid that this means I will no longer be able to be self sufficient and to trust that all will be well. It's a leap of faith but one which has filled me with energy since. I have been more creative and productive in the last five days than I have all year. Tangibly, what this translates into right now is an understanding that my one to one practice is key to me, as is my writing. I will be offering my services, not just as coach but as a therapist to leaders, who often face huge personal challenges as well as professional. Who better to work therapeutically with this group, than someone who has been there and understands the particular challenges? This allows me to work at depth with people that I care about, in a more holistic, personal and purposeful way. And I am very excited by this. I'm reminded of Joseph Campbell and the Hero's Journey, where he writes of the threshold which we cross in response to a call to adventure. In this, we leave the limits of our known world and cross into unknown territory. When Jackee asked me her question about what it would mean to thrive, she issued a call and offered a hand to allow me to cross. In the moment, I responded and took her hand and acknowledged that whilst it's great to be independent, it's even better to have helpers along the way. Defining myself more clearly as a therapist, rather than have it hover in the background feels strange, uncomfortable and so right. I'm checking out the terrain this side of the threshold and am fascinated by what I and we might find.

So what are the stories you're telling yourself and how do they serve you? What is calling you right now and how will you respond? What doors would you like to shut once and for all? Happy Easter to you all.

Wishing you love and chocolate and so much more.

Until next time...

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