bubbles 25 Aug 2017

BY: Caroline Cairns Clery

Therapy

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Selves

I’ve written a little about the persistence of identity through the passage of time and its non-‘thingness’.  Today I want to talk a little about what it’s not.

After my mother died last year I looked at various photos of her across the years of her life. They told me everything about the different ages and stages she went through, but nothing about her. Nonetheless she herself shone through; the person she consistently was despite her changes – the innocent child, the naïve but hurt adolescent, the beautiful young woman, the knowing adult in her thirties, the sad-eyed middle-aged woman, the still poised yet vulnerable elderly lady and finally dead on her hospice bed, her eyes locked open in one direction and her tongue permanently stuck out in the other.

Who you are, your identity or sense of self, comes into this world with you and you take it away with you when you die. All your hopes, anxieties, aspirations, joys, sadnesses, everything. We all know that to be true, regardless of our beliefs about an afterlife or absence thereof.

But do we? Aren’t these feelings things too, separate from the person who feels them and who takes them with her when she dies?

Who are we, if we are not our thoughts and feelings?

Religious people talk about souls, but psychotherapists, who may or may not agree with that, focus their attention on the whole caboodle, each person’s body and soul, circumstances and feelings, their causes and purposes, from birth to death through the course of their lives, or even before and after these events –  ALL of what it takes to make each human being precisely and uniquely who she (or he) is and no-one else. Her feeling, her thoughts, her relationships.

Though all these things may or may not be left behind when a person dies it is just because birth and death bookend who we actually are in our time on earth, that each moment of it is so important.

Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre

For more information on Carrie, visit: surreycentreforcounselling.com/theteam/

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relationship 19 Aug 2017

BY: Caroline Cairns Clery

Therapy

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Relationship and Respect again

In my last blog, in valuing uncertainty, I was not trying to say we shouldn’t try to know things, just that we should not lose our curiosity and uncertainty about them. It is certain, for example, that no-one, young or old or in between, should ever be abused.

True relationship with others is all about respecting them. The respect of psychotherapists for their patients or clients is another absolute when it comes to relating with and to them. Without respect we cannot go with them to the darker places in their hearts and minds where sometimes they have no respect for themselves.

And, of course, there are so many different kinds of relationship which we can bring to psychotherapy to respect (from the Latin: re – again, and spectare – to look). The way we can partner others, wife them, husband them, sister them, brother them, baby them or be babied by them; witness them, ignore them, subjugate ourselves in relation to them, dominate them, fear them, make them frightened, desire them, soothe them, empower them, feel repulsed by them etc etc.,.

How we relate to others is the stuff of life, part of the essential stuff of what it means to be a human being in particular. Of course, we want to be nice to others. Most of us anyway, but to pay people the respect they are due, we need to relate to and with them, regardless of whether that is a close relationship with a loved one, or the ‘kindness of strangers’ to someone we don’t really know.

And the different kinds of relationship we offer others bring with them different kinds of effects on us back from them in terms of how they relate to us.

Not to take anything or anyone, including ourselves, for granted is therefore certainly a good thing. Respect in our relationships is essential.

Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre

For more information on Carrie, visit: surreycentreforcounselling.com/theteam/

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dragon 15 Aug 2017

BY: Caroline Cairns Clery

Anxiety / Therapy

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Uncertainty

Apparently Confucius, an ancient Chinese philosopher, warned against knowing too much. ‘Beware dreadful understanding’ is, I think, the English translation of what he thought.

He wasn’t so much talking politically; what he was saying was that understanding too much doesn’t allow for the magic of not knowing enough!

We are all ultimately a mystery even, even perhaps especially, to ourselves. That’s why people sometimes seek out a psychotherapist. To try to understand themselves more fully. By paying a professional to help them for a while in this process of theirs they trust another person to get to know them differently from the way in which they know themselves, to understand them and know them in ways that that they themselves perhaps have not done before coming into therapy. And to do so in a kind, and understanding manner.

A psychotherapist is therefore a servant to the person who pays her or him for views and perspectives which in themselves and at the end of the day are just different, that’s all.

If a psychotherapist doesn’t know that the more s/he knows the more s/he knows how little s/he knows then perhaps s/he shouldn’t be practising!

It’s true that insight is the common currency of the different psychotherapeutic approaches but, in itself, insight does nothing to help a person change or get past a problem troubling them. It is good to be curious and interested, but we also have to come to terms with what we cannot know or understand.

In the creation myth Adam and Eve famously ate an apple from the Tree of Knowledge. It left them feeling, cold and hungry and scared. Paradise lost. A good rule of thumb is that certainty can be awful, harsh and uncompromising’.

To be human is to be uncertain. This is a main reason why psychotherapists deeply respect the courage of their patients in asking for help.

Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre

For more information on Carrie, visit: surreycentreforcounselling.com/theteam/

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things 12 Aug 2017

BY: Caroline Cairns Clery

Anxiety / Healing / Therapy

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Things

Is there ever a long period when we are not anxious about something?  I have spoken before in these blogs that it is often the case that when we must face and deal with the present reality of what we had been worrying about, it actually turns out to be not half as terrifying as we feared it would be beforehand. Sometimes, it is true, it turns out to be worse than what we feared, but usually our fears turn out to have been disproportionate.  Similarly, sometimes the things we were fervently hoping for can prove deeply disappointing and sometimes truly wonderful. But on the whole, once what we were hoping for actually arrives, it turns out to be mundane in comparison with our expectations.

Both hope for, and fear of, something happening involves anticipation. Anticipation, whether optimistic or fearful, usually, but not always, inflates and fills our imaginations so much more than the prosaic reality when it actually comes to pass.

Things can be so prosaic. They come and they go. Whether those things are events in our lives and relationships, or material things like a nice new dress or a new car, things always pass and move into history in a way that our sense of self never does. Even though it develops and changes through the course of our lives, our sense of self is somehow not a ‘thing’ in the way everything else is. And neither, of course, is anyone else’s sense of self a mere thing.

In psychotherapy or counselling we choose to try to be completely honest, perhaps for the first time in our lives, about our sense of self. It can be hard because our sense of self is not a thing. It is with us all the time, but it is mysterious and elusive just because it is not a thing.

Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre

For more information on Carrie, visit: surreycentreforeatingdisorders.com/theteam

detail-of-old-womans-hands 09 Aug 2017

BY: Caroline Cairns Clery

Spirituality

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Purpose

What is it all for? Why are we alive? Is there any purpose or meaning to it all that the world’s major religions or philosophies have not made their own?  Is there really ‘nothing new under the sun’?

Well, there is you! You and I and every other, unique one of us human beings! And most of the 9 billion of us on the planet would agree that we each have to find our own personal yet collective meaning and purpose to some degree. We can pledge ourselves to some religion or ‘ism’ but our own meanings and purposes can only be searched for and found by ourselves.

Which is not to say we cannot help ourselves find them by way of the ideas of a carpenter’s son who died persecuted and in pain (1). Or by following the ways of a contemplative prince who sat for a long time beneath a tree (2). Or, indeed, that of an orphan who lived in a cave and came out a prophet (3), to refer to three of the more popular religions. There are many other different examples of collective, shared beliefs about how best to make sense of the business of being alive. And it is just as effectively found by people who remain open-minded in relation to the world’s different belief systems (4), and by those who feel easiest finding it solely by way of logic and evidence without also needing a god or an ideology (5.)

In other words, it takes all sorts to make a world!  And individual meaning may overlap with a deeper, massively collective sense of purpose that we may not, and sometimes cannot, even be aware of but which plays a huge part in the process of how are lives pan out over the years it takes to live them.

Psychotherapy assists people to make their own personal sense of their feelings in terms of both their own and wider history, biology, culture, psychology, as well as religion, relationships, sexuality, life events, traumas, etc.,.  Psychotherapists try to help people feel less alone in becoming more aware of, and finding their own way through, the underlying complexities of their lives.

(1. Jesus.  2. Buddha. 3. Muhammad. 4.Agnostics. 5. Atheists.)

Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre

For more information on Carrie, visit: surreycentreforeatingdisorders.com/theteam