Russian Dolls - a useful metaphor?

I’m going to talk about why I often refer to the Russian Dolls in my consulting room as a tool to help with understanding our feelings.


Sometimes we seek help, feeling miserable, confused, and lost, often not precisely knowing why we are struggling in our life with relationships, work, or family. We may feel anxious, unhappy, and stuck.

If we look at the Russian Dolls and how all the smaller parts fit inside, perhaps we can accept that we really are 'full of ourselves'; that all the parts of us make up who we are today. We may look grown-up, but do we always feel grown-up?

Do we just grow up and leave our past behind, or do we grow from our roots? If this is the case, then surely the sturdier our roots, the more we are able to withstand life’s storms?

It may be the case that in the moment we are experiencing a feeling that could stem from an earlier experience, or to put it another way, a younger part of us. One of the most prevalent feelings, and I think one that can even stop us going for help, is shame. This is nearly always an experience we will have had as a child and the most difficult to admit to, even to ourselves. How do we imagine turning to another person for help? I remember a long time ago carrying the name of a counsellor around for a year before I took the courage to make that call (this was even before email).

It is so hard to admit or accept that we often still feel so small inside, yet the more connected we can dare to be to parts of ourselves that feel scared, lonely, and struggling, then perhaps the more accepting and less scared we can be of our own feelings.

A safe relationship, such as with a counsellor, can help start a process of reconnection and understanding of ourselves and help us to face life’s storms with more courage. After all, life is never going to be really easy, is it? Nothing that is really worthwhile is easy. Finding someone you can trust enough to begin this journey with can give you enough tools to face life head on.

So, to recap, a presenting problem in the present often has its roots in the past. Facing this alongside another person who has travelled this path before, with the pain that may bring, can take you forward with the courage to face the day to day disappointments that life can bring.

Perhaps, in a way, this article itself is a disappointment, because I cannot offer you an answer to give you a happy life. Freud said we cannot cure ordinary human unhappiness, Jungians believe the goal of life is not happiness but meaning, and Bion believed that ultimately we search for the real truth of our experience.

To end on a more hopeful note, I do know that exploring the shadows and facing pain does uncover deeper meaning and truth, and can paradoxically also bring more joy.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

Share this article with a friend
Show comments

Find the right counsellor or therapist for you

All therapists are verified professionals

All therapists are verified professionals