circles 16 Mar 2018


One way of describing life is as a line from birth to death. But, of course, that is amongst a myriad of other descriptions because there is more to our lives than just a straight line. I mean if we could look inside our bodies we would see they are full of cells whose structures are all more or less spherical, with a circulatory system that basically goes round. And if we panned out and looked down from space we would see our planet is more or less round too. A globe. A circle. So does that mean life is a series of circles, then, from birth to death?

But seriously…. Physicists talk of invisible things like sub atomic particles that are tinier than tiny, and other things, like so-called ‘dark matter’ of which they are made, that are bigger than all the skies. All we non-physicists can do is take their word for it and try to imagine some impossible place where the biggest and smallest things are identical, if only in their invisibility. To do that we perhaps have to look at ourselves! At how, to take just one example, we inflate our feelings so much and make them so huge, on the one hand, that at the same time we can’t help recoiling and distancing or dissociating ourselves from them, on the other, effectively rendering them miniscule, unimportant.

Even better, perhaps, than quantum physicists knowing that light is both a wave and a particle, we can know that our own contradictory feelings may not make logical sense but that doesn’t make them any less true. eg. ‘I love him’ and ‘I hate him’ can both be true at the same time. Both/And. Or again, ‘I want to keep slim and fit and go the gym,’ and ‘I want to slump in front of a screen with a glass of wine and a box of chocolates’. Again, Both/And.

We can go through phases in which our own particular circles always seem to be spiralling downwards. In our relationships, for example, we can find ourselves repeatedly falling into patterns of blame and recrimination when things go wrong; either blaming ourselves or our significant other despite knowing that in doing so we are conforming to a pattern that will get us nowhere beyond further reinforcing it, and despite knowing that there is more to the relationship than this kind of binary reductionism. We are sane enough to know that it is crazy to reduce our amazingly polyvalent feelings down to just one thing or it’s opposite; by feeling, for example, too guilty or too innocent and then going round in circles trying to shore up this stereotyped, over-determined simplification.  But still we do it, like an attritional dance on a floor we can never leave. Round and round.

If we cannot leave the floor gradually, gracefully with our dignity intact, perhaps another way off it is to be aware of the fractals* and random choices involved and make a ‘quantum’ leap, or step change into doing our dance differently. But in particular into not falling into the binary, Either/Or, trap. Circles are just not either vicious or virtuous. There will always be elements of both throughout our journey along the lines of our time.

*Look it up if you don’t know. It’s interesting!

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

For more information on Carrie, visit: TheSurreyCentre/Counsellors

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