A Bird in a Cage
As a Counsellor I also work with people who suffer from addictions and I meet people from all walks of life who battle with this problem. Some people tell me the most horrendous life stories, full of alcohol and drug abuse, violence and poverty. I sometimes wonder how they survived so much suffering and I have deep respect for them.
Some of them live in a constant nightmare, and not only they themselves but generations before them and their children and grandchildren after them. They don’t know that their lives could be different, that there could be kindness, gentleness or even tenderness in a person’s life. They grew up in abusive families (rich or poor) or institutions and many of them had hardly any experience of kindness or trust. Finally they find their way to therapy and experience maybe for the first time a relationship with a person who does not judge them, who does not put them down, who doesn’t shout at them but who listens and understands why they are so angry, so desperate, so empty. They have extremely good reasons to feel that way and I tell them so.
Maybe for the first time they feel respected, accepted, understood. Maybe for the first time they feel that somebody actually listens to them and doesn’t tell them to shut up, or that they’re stupid, worthless or bad. But some of them can’t take it. They don’t know what to make of kindness; they get scared and just don’t turn up anymore. Others soak it up like a dry sponge. They want to talk, tell it all, and learn how to break the vicious circle, how to relate and communicate with others in a better way. Some are really good at this; they go home and try their new understanding and sometimes they are rewarded with almost instant results: They stop nagging and criticising their family members, they start to respect them and thank them for what they do for them, and not surprisingly their partners or children are pleased and respond in a positive way. They suddenly understand a simple truth: What goes round comes round.
I think this is true for all of us, even if our lives are not that nightmarish. Many of us haven’t learned to relate in constructive ways; we battle and row and we just can’t figure out how to improve things. We behave like a bird that lived in a cage for many years. Then somebody comes and opens the door but the bird doesn’t know about freedom and it stays in the cage because this is what it is familiar with. The bird needs to learn about freedom and that there is a whole world out there that it didn’t know about. That’s what counselling is about: to show that the door of the cage is open and to help the bird to explore this vast world of new possibilities. Life can be so much better! If you can find the courage to take that jump out of the cage you will discover that you actually can fly!
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