image by Jonas Thijs
So, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. Counsellors, therapists and everyone else you meet can have good days and bad days.
Long before I trained as a therapist I had this misguided belief that everyone in the helping professions had little to no challenges in life. Doctor’s never got sick and therapists always knew the right thing to say or do and never experienced anxiety or deep sadness. Then I joined the party and realised, just because I had more insight didn’t mean my life suddenly became perfect.
This is not an article about other therapists or how they might think or feel, it’s an honest reflection on my perspective of being human. It’s about how my journey since becoming a therapist has shaped me for the better but has not given me the magic ticket of perfection, that I may previously had expected.
Therapists are often described as the “wounded healers” and there is no better description. We have lived, experienced and survived pain, so perhaps some of our healing comes in the form of paying it forward. Part of my story began with a deep loss and a very deep wound. I wanted to help people overcome their pain because I had lived it myself. As a result of my own therapy and healing I had opened pandora’s box and had no interest in closing it again. I became fascinated with the vulnerabilities of the human psyche and now wanted to make it my life’s work.
I believe the wonderful gift of therapy gives us insight, awareness and challenges us to look at our life, thoughts & feelings like never before. My training and personal therapy turned me inside out, upside down and put me back together again stronger. I will never be able to put into words the gratitude I felt for that opportunity. I felt like I could see the world through different lenses and I still get that sense most of the time.
Then other times I don’t. I feel my old self creep through. Anxious, sad, worrier, self-critic and the icing on the cake, illogical thoughts. There I am in my rawest form. Awareness and insight have left the building. I don’t feel so good………
So what happens on these days. Am I not “supposed” to be positive? “Should” I not feel anxious? So many questions and conflicts. My training or a text book might have taught me how to handle something like this but in this moment I need to feel, react and take my time getting to a conclusion on what to do to feel better. Eventually I do. I know the answer is in there somewhere but the chaos tries to trick me into thinking that I don’t. I remember to breathe, to slow down and to try and accept things as they are. I remember that I am allowed to feel bad, I am allowed to worry and I give myself permission to do so because just like everybody else I am experiencing thoughts and feelings that are confusing to me.
Like everybody else, allowing myself to see things from a different perspective will help but I need to get to that place first and I do in my own time. I guess we all need to find that place within ourselves but the challenge in this is to come at it through a place of self - acceptance and kindness. I am under no illusion that this is easier to write down than to always put into practice. But try I must because the alternative has never worked for me. Giving myself a hard time when I am already having a hard time has never benefited me or lifted me from my pain. So now I attempt the alternative. I listen, support and mind myself and even though it feels strange and not very natural, I continue to do so because I am seeing better results. So, I go with this.
For me, having the opportunity to be part of this work is the best medicine I can get. I have never looked back or regretted this decision but it has not made me this all rationale, all perfect human being. It has helped me to accept I am flawed, that I make mistakes and will continue to be like this until the very end. It has given me the tools to help with my anxiety, my racing thoughts, my insecurities but it has not taken away the one thing we all share and that is the condition of being human.
Whoever we are, whatever we do, we all lose, suffer & struggle. On the flip side of this we also, rejoice, smile, enjoy & celebrate. To be human is to experience both no matter what we do, or what our status in life is. We are all sometimes fragile and sometimes strong and that’s ok.
Caroline Murphy is an accredited psychotherapist working in Galway city, Ireland. In addition to her busy private practice she also does some term time work in a local university. Caroline works with a range of issues and has a special interest in self esteem. Her hobbies include travel, cycling, cooking and of course self care!
You can get in touch with Caroline via Twitter or Facebook