This year I have been noticing when and how I keep myself from the world. I bury my head in a science fiction novel, or binge watch Marvel series on Netflix. I scroll through news headlines or my Facebook feed.
It’s a habit that keeps me safe. It keeps me out of the possibility of conflict and disappointment. If I’m not meeting people, or doing anything, I can’t let anyone down or upset anyone. It keeps me safe and it limits me. When I’m reading someone else’s words, or watching someone else’s creation I’m not been creative myself. It keeps me in a holding pattern, which is okay, but time passes…
I have hairs growing out of my nose and out of my ears, and suddenly being forty years old seems like a real possibility rather than something that happens to other people. I still can’t finger-pick the Ukulele and I haven’t progressed on the piano at all in the last ten years — I still bash out the same 12 bar blues in C when I sit in front of a keyboard. I have bursts of writing poetry and then retreat back into my dreamy holding state.
I don’t want to discount how much I do engage with the world. Every year I do a little more. Every year it’s a little easier to talk to people. Lots of things that used to be difficult are easy.
And yet — as we slide towards the New Year — I notice this holding pattern more and more.
Many of the wounds that clients come to me to have healed are around contact. They feel too distant from the world, or too close to it and end up feeling mergey or in conflict.
What do I mean by contact? Both emotional and physical touch. Were we held when we cried as infants? Were we held too closely and not allowed to explore the world? Were our own feelings and experiences seen and heard, or were we unseen, or did other people’s feelings override our own?
If we are neglected or overwhelmed with contact at key times we take on certain habit patterns to keep us safe. I took on this holding pattern — this retreating into other worlds.
Much of my work as a therapist is providing the right kind of contact to allow my clients to shift from their own holding patterns into more creative ones. Sometimes this means I provide spaciousness, sometimes closeness. Often we move between the two.
In my own life my therapy training, my relationship with my teacher and my spiritual practice support me and allow me to experiment with moving out of my holding pattern and into more creative ones. I test the waters; putting one toe and then a whole foot into the shifting stream of life. When it feels like too much I come back to the shore. Sometimes, these days, I feel like I am swimming. Sometimes I have a hand, or an arm, or my whole torso on the bank.
Moving into new things often provokes our defensive habit patterns into a strong response at first. They are used to keeping us safe, and — from the point of view of the habit pattern — it’s like watching a child ride their bike without stabilisers for the first time, scary. They want to pull us back into safety.
It takes time to learn to dance. Time and trust in the process. I have my own trust in the process, and I think my clients borrow this trust, from time to time.
Together we move towards creativity, towards spontaneity and liveliness, and to appropriate spaciousness.