Rediscovering Your Self

Over the years I have heard many clients remark in the course of therapy, “I’m finding my self again”, or “I’m getting back the old ‘me’”.  So how do we lose ourselves in the first place, how do we know we have lost our self, and what do we have to do to rediscover who we are?

Typically, people who come into counselling are experiencing a level of distress or dissatisfaction with their lives.  This has led to stress, depression, anxiety, and a whole range of emotions and behaviours connected with the situation in which they find themselves.  The problems they face have become central to their lives and have, in a sense, taken over from their ability to live authentically and in freedom.

Because the problems and associated behaviours have become so dominant, the parts of themselves that they identify as ‘them’ have gradually, silently, slipped away, unnoticed.  The person who enjoyed going to the movies; became enthusiastic about the latest fashion trend; who could act spontaneously and impulsively; be reflective and sensitive to others; who knew that he/she was a great friend - so many aspects of life are lost to anxiety, stress, and depression.

In the little book, ‘I had a Black Dog’ by Matthew Johnstone, there is a definite turning point in the story when the person who has lost himself begins to seek help and turn his life around.  It doesn’t show a magical cure, but instead shows step by step move in the right direction, and the book ends with the words The Beginning.

It’s often only as someone actually begins the journey towards well-being that he or she will actually recognise the loss of self; and as the move towards recovery continues, it brings new awareness of the qualities he/she used to have, that are now re-emerging and being re-discovered.

There are three aspects of therapy that contribute to an individual’s ability to re-discover and enjoy the parts of the self that have been lost.  They are the self-awareness gained through therapy; the support and understanding from the therapist on the journey; and the gaining of practical skills to combat depression, stress and anxiety.

From the therapist’s chair, it’s a little like witnessing a conversation between the client and the self that was lost:

“Hello, who are you?”

“I’m Lost Self, and you are re-discovering me.”

“Wow! That’s amazing – you are amazing!  How did I ever let you go?”

“I slipped away when you were overtaken by all the stuff you have been going through.”

“I don’t want to lose you again.  I love who you are and I think we can have a great future together.”

(Both) “Yes, we can!”

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