There is much that is falling this Autumn. Leaves turning fiery-red and brilliant-orange before the brittle-brown and final fall back down into the earth. But we too, barely emerged from lockdown, retreat again.
With no promise (or dread) of Christmas parties, family gatherings, travel, escape, familiar routine and uphill climb to the (often stressful and demanding) season that is Christmas, I see energies fall and a low mood descend.
The squirrels seem unaffected, burying their nuts, leaving their treasures hidden for another, colder time – not knowing in this moment that they may not remember the hiding place they have chosen.
The trees do not grieve this shedding of their finery. Left bare, exposed, empty and without that which gives them colour and bulk. They know, at some deeply grounded, intrinsic level, that come Spring they will start anew.
But how are we doing?
Barely into a new normal and again taking steps back into our homes. Away from our colleagues, reducing our family and social circles, cutting our hopes and expectations to fit the new government guidelines. How will we live our lives and find meaning if not in the usual way?
Last month I reflected on the coming of the new term, the fresh start. I considered how we come into contact with people: new teachers, new therapists, new colleagues. I wrote about the hope we bring to beginnings. This essential hope parallels the process of therapy – the hope for change, growth and greater wellbeing.
But as Autumn falls upon us, my new term optimism feels to have been short-lived.
A false-start and now an uncertain, unclear existence pervades. We are not unleashed into the busyness of business-as-usual, all things re-starting, demanding of our time, distracting ourselves. No. Like the trees, we continue to see things fall away: plans, traditions, routines, the familiar.
Like the trees, I am not convinced yet that there is not better, more beautiful growth to come after this period of shedding and changing. Admittedly, I am not sorry to be spared the hustle and bustle. It is easy for me; I prefer Being to Doing. I have that advantage.
I love Autumn; the sense of retreat, the hibernation, the storing up, keeping in. It feels a long way from the necessary transformation into Spring when we are, along with the leaves, called out to the open, expected to emerge once again.
This serves me as a therapist. However you, the client, enter this space – fiery-red, optimistic-orange, beaten-brown, I am able to sit and wait. I enter bravely and hopefully into the work with you, holding and containing your internal world of uncertainty, fear, pain and dis-ease. I hold the faith that in this process transformation takes place in you too.
I have a responsibility to redirect/refer if my competences do not meet your specific needs and I am able to do this with your best-interests at heart and in mind. I accept the potential frustration, disappointment and anger this may evoke. I know too, that it the long run, like a lockdown, this pause, re-direction, this ‘false-start’ serves to protect and preserve what is to be done, equipping you and preparing you for that later stage.
Whether we journey together weeks, months or years into the work, we will have cycles of growth, rest, bearing fruit, getting stuck. Therapy parallels life in this way. And so too does Nature.
So in the absence of any man-made solutions to our current world situation, I turn to our earth’s rich history and its people of centuries past to see what answers might be found there. Like the squirrel searching for the nuts she knew she buried, or the therapist seeking the unconscious, suppressed, unspoken truths, I draw from Nature and century-old wisdom because I cannot believe that we of today know best and have nothing to learn from what has gone before.
Beautifully timed, this week’s Collective Trauma Summit (www.collectivetraumasummit.com) is a gathering of minds and souls focussed on past and present trauma and suffering. Sharing a goal of bringing about understanding and healing using psychological, physiological, literary, musical and tribal methods. It’s a feast of generous offerings. If I were a squirrel I would be glad of this hoard.
Thomas Hubl, host, writer, speaker and spiritual teacher uses this quote in his book, ‘Healing Collective Trauma’:
The medicine is already within the pain and suffering. You just have to
look deeply and quietly. Then you realize it has been there the whole time.
Saying from the Native American oral tradition
I wonder how this current pain and suffering is shaping us now. I worry for those in physical and emotional need who are isolated and cut off from essential care. I worry for our children who are absorbing not only their parents’ worries, but their own as they gather in new school bubbles with restrictions on their learning and their play. I worry for families who are losing essential contact with different generations, knowing that ultimately, it is connecting to love, being in contact and in relationship with one another that makes us well.
As I gather myself this Autumn I find the past six months with COVID shaping our world has rearranged my practice and prepared me for the Winter months. I work online and in Nature now. My clients and I have means of sheltering further from the colder, wetter climate (thanks to Hermione at Anglia Caravans and Accessories and her caring to look through her store room for much needed extra panels for our Shelter). I can put heat in the outdoor space. We add layers, bring blankets. We are toughening up.
I continue to hold, in the therapeutic relationship and more widely, not just concern, empathy and love but hope and faith too, that with consciousness, effort and care we will find healing – physically and emotionally.
It is not what we expected. It may not be what we wanted. But it is what we have. I hope that we survive it well, learn from what it brings, find unexpected treasures, and that one day, our learning will be what we grow from. As in life, as in therapy, as in this – what we make of this experience will be what counts.
I am hoping we make meaning and not be overwhelmed by the losses, in the therapy here and in all paths walked.