Debs in search of self (Pt 1)
The journey to real empowerment is not unlike riding a wave, because when we are disempowered, we can often feel something, not entirely dissimilar to a giant wave about us, threatening to engulf us, and every facet of our lives. Its not unlike the 'flight or fight' instinct.
However, it has one distinct and vitally differing quality. It can remain, almost undisturbed, for years, languishing inside ourselves, slowly becoming a pining longing for freedom. It can be linked to the time of mid-life, but is something that I believe most of us will be able to identify and empathise with.
The journey can often begin, in truth, with an uneasy feeling. A shifting of perception. We feel 'small', interrupted by another's opinion of us; others may be quietly bullying us to the extent that we know our life is not our own anymore. It may be that we have always been told what's best for us, where we went wrong, why we should do this and not that. Our voice is small; our inner child, silently waiting for us to speak.
This story is about how a client came to find her strong inner self. Not the one that was manufactured by life, but the real one.
The child, found at last, able to grow and have a voice. Strong, compassionate towards the self and others, aware that her intrinsic qualities were not 'faults' as had been pointed out endlessly by an opinionated husband, but simply ~ she had detached herself from the 'bad' feelings to such an extent that she had no power, other than that which others chose to allow her. Her family were not 'bad' as such; they had become used to a false persona that hid a deeply sensitive and vulnerable human being.
'Debs' as we shall call her, had repressed her own needs for many, many years, never feeling that she was a person of value; a human being with rights, and had had no private time for almost 26 years. A member of her family always knew where she was at any time of the day. She had lied in order to begin counselling. Her mother and later, her husband had taught her how to 'be'. A faulty version of herself existed. A deeply unhappy one, disempowered and distorted by the perception and voices of others who didn't know how to care without suffocating.
Through counselling Debs was able to move and reach out, exploring her psyche without fear; connecting during sessions and outside in the world. She fought for her life, almost literally and her courage to face her inner demons and find their angelic aspect once understood is admirable. All parts of her unique self.
Now, this discomforting feeling mentioned earlier might be strong enough to propel many towards the first counselling session; if not, we have no option but to stay with it, ride it like a giant wave. It may be overwhelming, which in turn can lead to depression, panic attacks, a numb sense that things are just too bad to bear.
Debs arrived to counselling one early spring day, dressed in black, with eyes swollen from lack of sleep. She sat opposite and as the minutes moved, she stopped talking about the weather in her low voice; she gently began to cry, then sob, shaking as she did so. She apologised, saying she must be making an utter fool of herself but was unable to stop it. She was letting it out, having bottled up almost a lifetime.
Here, now in the session, she was not alone. Her pain was almost tangible in the room, but in those moments her pain held the key.
As time passed and trust developed, Debs traced back a little and found a domineering mother, an emotionally absent father who had wanted a son, and a husband entering her life, pivotally, in her early twenties. A man older than she, promptly insisting she start to wear high heels and have her hair colored, nails manicured, facials etc.
Now, as the years passed, their relationship had changed. She had changed. Mid-life had moved her far from the unsure girl but elements of the young girl existed, refusing almost, to grow up. Aware of her changing look, she longed, more than ever for his reassuring words, telling her she was perfect but, she knew he had moved away and being more than twenty years her senior, a gap had evolved into a gulf between them; one she felt herself deep within.
This is the story of one woman's journey to freedom. She discovered her real self, little by little, through the acknowedgement and gentle exploration of her neglected inner child ~ emerging as a beautifully flawed adult, equipped to face the world without fear of ridicule, knowing her intrinsic worth for the first time in her life.
Perhaps this beautiful extract from Walt Whitman's 'Leaves of Grass' (1900) sums up, in many ways, the journey that, as human beings, we find ourselves taking; no ticket, unsure of a destination.
It reminds us of that magnificent exploration; the coming home to the self, the laughter of the inner child, and the courage that each and every one of us possess, propelling us like ships to shore, from darkness to light.
'The Untold Want'
'The Untold want, by life and land ne'er granted
Now, voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find'
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About Linda Boutet
With 26 years of experience as a BACP counsellor and psychotherapist, I provide authentic, compassionate and insightful support for my clients throughout the variety of life challenges they encounter, offering a genuine non-judgemental space.
Our past influences our present, but it does not have to dictate our future. Life experiences, both positive and negative, can be stepping stones for … Read more
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