Rainbow self

Many people come to see me for counselling. They come with different “issues”. Anxiety, depression, anger and many other problems. But eventually we come to the place where, cautiously, they will admit to having a dark side.

Their husband or wife drives them mad when they say / do… (fill in  the gaps). Or that they think that their manager, colleagues etc. are incompetent and stupid. Occasionally they will allow themselves and me to know what they sometimes think of me! (This usually takes quite a long time and great deal of trust. But it is an important part of our work. I get things wrong. I make mistakes - despite my very best efforts and intentions.)

We are so conditioned to “be nice” about people that we often find it difficult to speak honestly about our feelings. That’s what it means when we talk about counselling offering a safe space. You will not be judged for telling me that you think your husband would do well to lose a few stone. Or that there are times when you find your children lazy and selfish. It’s called being human.

Someone said “A man is whole only when he takes into account his shadow.”  Or, if I never let myself know about my “dark” side, then my light loses its value. Because if we only love the "good" parts of someone or something, we are fooling ourselves! The same is true for ourselves. If we only love our "good" side then we are not living as whole people. 

How does this connect with the idea of a rainbow, in the title of this article? Simply that to be a real rainbow, it has to have all seven colours. Each colour only “works” because it is part of something bigger. Yellow looks so showy because it contrasts with indigo. Blue shows up so well because it shares the space with red, and so on through the spectrum. Indigo doesn’t feel the need to apologise for not being yellow!

Woman painting

What has this to do with counselling? When you see a counsellor, I invite you to take all your selves with you. The greedy self, the angry self, the loving self, the hardworking self. They are all parts of who you are. And all deserve recognition and understanding. If you are, by nature, someone who would like to spend all day reading a good book, then the effort you make to cook dinner or dig the garden has a particular value. You make a choice.

So if your natural instinct is to do a 10 mile run every day, then staying in to be with your family takes a particular effort. If your usual response to criticism is to shoot off an acerbic reply, then biting your tongue is costly. Similarly if your nature is more passive, then challenging somebody costs a lot.

Counselling allows us to look at our rainbow selves. To understand the indigo parts of ourselves along with the red parts. To try and understand why we always feel second best. Or to think about why we always feel anxious and angry all the time. Where does that depressed part of us fit in with the gay, cheerful person everyone else sees?

We don’t give stars for having come to counselling. But if we could, I’d give out rainbows.

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Aylesbury, HP20 2RR

Written by Terry Burridge

Aylesbury, HP20 2RR

Terry Burridge is a Psychodynamically trained counsellor working in private practice in Aylesbury. He has a background as a psychiatric nurse for many years, followed by lecturing in mental health nursing. He is particularly interested in working with people with a psychiatric diagnosis.

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