Numb. Empty. Alone. Lost.
These are the words I often hear from clients struggling with their emotions. They find it hard to put their feelings into words and, even if they do, it can make them feel vulnerable to others judging them. It is hard when they, sorry, when we, are ‘not allowed' to be ourselves.
Counselling involves creating a safe space for clients. A counselling session is a time and place where they can express themselves – talk, shout, cry, write, draw, sing, or any other mode of self-expression – in comfort, safely knowing that they are in a therapeutic alliance with the counsellor. We allow people to be who they are, not for us or anyone else, but for themselves.
“I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, Sir,” said Alice, “because I am not myself, you see.”
- The Caterpillar and Alice, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
As time passes and we carry on with our lives discrediting and un-owning our self, it is inevitable that we lose touch with ourselves as we chase after connections with other people, achievements, performance, impressions and the like. We seek other things or people to tell us who we are. We want people to hear us, see us, and most importantly, feel us. Because we care, and they matter.
I have clients who find it difficult to describe themselves but easy to explain how their families and friends describe them. This is because we all tend to know what we are showing others – an eminent front. We become more familiar with that front than with our actual self. Call it learned behaviour, or defence or a coping mechanism, a survival instinct or whatever. It is true that we all want our existence to be acknowledged. But as long as we disconnect ourselves from ourselves, it will be hard for others to get through to us through the walls we have built around ourselves.
Humans are social beings. We are wired to crave a sense of security and belonging. It is not wrong to know ourselves through others. What I am trying to highlight is that we seem to know how we are known by other people more than we do ourselves. People joke about how their wives or husbands or close friends know them better than they know themselves, but I know that they actually mean it. And right now, this very moment, I want to acknowledge you as you, someone who reads this article.
I will talk about some possible ways we can connect with ourselves in my next article. So, stay with me. I want to help you search for that missing you.