The monthly column in the York Press. Published April 7th,
Plus added paragraph*.
* It came towards the end of a residential study week for theApril’s ColumnThere were times recently, when I felt as if I was being hurled around the universe in Dr Who's Tardis. No adventures in the future, but numerous trips, both physical and emotional, into the past. These included two funerals, a college reunion, a BBC5Live anniversary reunion, a grandson in a school concert playing a superb Beatles medley and the first Mother's Day after my mother's death last year.Emotions experienced ranged from hilarity, laughter, poignancy, joy, sadness to tears. To my surprise, most tears trickled down my cheek at the school concert.Over two weeks, I met some wonderful, inspiring, courageous, ordinary people. People who reminded me of past loves, hurts, adventures, successes, failures, hopes and dashed expectations. And that's the point. Whatever the experiences, they were all in the past.It was boys at the concert that really bought this home. Two hundred teenage boys full of expectations of a future, just as I was, when listening to the Beatles music in the 1960s. Expectations of life that will turn out to be nothing like they may be imagining.I discovered as a psychotherapist, that the majority of reasons people become unwell with emotional health problems, is that they are endeavouring to change things in their life that cannot be changed. Too often people want to change the past and get stuck in therapy, on medication or with addictive behaviours, trying to do the impossible or waiting for the impossible to happen.
psychotherapy diploma in 2000. The subject under discussion
was 'Spare Capacity'. The tutor explained that, as therapists
we should make sure we had 'spare capacity' for the work we
were about to undertake. Physical and emotional spare
capacity. I would add ethical principles too.
So it was in 2010, when three years of family illness elsewhere
in the UK, a house renovation and move, a downsizing of the
practice and writing about the subject matter of emotional
maturity, that one day a client sat in front of me and my
feelings were ones of frustration. Frustration that the client
wanted to cling on to the past, believing it would change. They
were not ready to change the present and future.
I went home and knew that I had no spare capacity left. No
spare capacity to 'care'. I knew that I shouldn't see clients
anymore. I couldn't be true to my ethical principles and run an
I still felt I could help people and loved writing. As a result
in 2013, the book was published and it gives me a deep sense
of satisfaction, when feedback confirms that I made the right
Imagine a rainbow.It could be a memory of a real experience, or a figment of the imagination.We become lost in wonder at the rainbow’s form and the spectrum of rich colours in a changing sky.We are momentarily entranced and we marvel at the rainbow’s natural beauty and its transient nature.Our eyes wander to where the end of it disappears... The image fades.It was a moment of innocent wonder and curiosity.For a few precious seconds the intrusion of our everyday activities was excluded.No harm was done. In fact, we may even feel uplifted.Now, let us imagine another rainbow.Again, we become entranced by it, but this time we concentrate on where the rainbow ends.We remember the stories and myths we heard as children.Is there really a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?A pot of gold that would provide a resolution to all our problems?We want it, and we want it now!Leaving common sense and reason behind, we chase the end of the rainbow, again and again.We keep trying, but the end is just out of reach and always unobtainable.We feel disappointed, frustrated and weary.Will we ever reach it? No. The pot of gold of resolution is the delusion in the illusion, but we continue to reach for and chase the end of the rainbow.In fact, the more we try, the more we can become deluded.We can become emotionally and physically unwell.©AlisonRRussell2014