A few days ago, I went for a meeting at a new therapy space in central London to look at some consulting rooms, with the idea of maybe hiring one. It doesn’t feel like it’s life or death if I don’t like them, or if they’re too expensive, or if they don’t feel right. And in a way, that feels really nice, and refreshing! Around this time last year, I was opening up a practice in East London, having quit my job at two charities and closing a West London practice. It felt exciting, risky, a new start, but it didn’t feel fully grounded or balanced. In hindsight, there was a lot of fear. And making decisions based on fear and doubt, often leads to more fear and doubt. I wanted to prove something at the time, but only a year later, I don’t feel that way anymore. I’ll still feel this pressure to succeed every now and then, but personal therapy in the past few months, has helped me to see that this pressure is almost always external, and part of a narrative/mythology that belongs to others and was imposed on me. And so, when I feel like “I have to” do something, or do it in a certain way, I’ve learned to stop, take a few deep breaths, and discern whose voice is running the show. As soon as I notice that it’s not my voice, I’ve been learning to stop immediately.
I’ve also been learning a lot doing my professional therapy sessions online. For many months, it was only one client. In the past month alone, this has grown to three. I can’t complain. But I realised this Summer that I still have the desire to have a physical place where people can come to and see me in person. There are many nuances that I miss when working online with people, mainly relating to body language, eye contact, and facial expressions. I also long to be able to use more of the creative tools that I’ve acquired or learned about in the past few years of practice. And who knows, maybe someday, I may go back to running some therapy groups. There’s no rush quite like that of running a dramatherapeutic group session.
I have been reflecting a bit on the development of my practice, and how I’ve often ventured into new territories within the practical applications of Dramatherapy in new contexts and through new techniques, but equally how my values have really been quite consistent throughout. The practice has had a few names since its inception, some more symbolic than others, the thinking behind it being that I was really developing a brand. But I realised that I am the practice, and that I am the brand, and thus now there’s no name for the practice, besides my own. It’s just me. Ryan. If ever there is some kind of brand, it will develop and grow from me, not from a name I’ve come up with. However, have you noticed my constant use of these hashtags: #feel; #love; #grow; #connect? These are my values: personally, professionally, spiritually. And this post is for me to tell you a bit more about them.
In the beginning, there were only three principles to my practice: Self-Compassion; Relationships; and Emotional Integration. I saw these not only as the most common aspects of what was going on in my sessions with all of my clients, but also as key aspects of life that anyone, whether in therapy or not, needs to have a balance of, in order to experience the good things that we all want to experience in life.
Self-compassion was actually borrowed from one of my clients many years ago, who said that this term was his favourite from all the other terms in the “self-…” family, because it felt more intimate, more personal, with less influence from the outside world. I thought about this for many days and let his words resonate deep within me, realising that I absolutely agreed with him. For instance, self-esteem or self-confidence, seem to carry an underlying comparison to others. Self-compassion is about self-love, but also about boundaries: about knowing where we begin and end, in comparison to others. This helps us figure out when we are dealing with other people’s “stuff”. The more we work on this one, the easier it is to make decisions. And how do we work on this? Well, believe it or not, the secret to happiness, is quite simple (note: but not easy!): it’s about being present in the here and now; and it’s about doing the things that we love, more often. Example: swimming and dancing make me happy. So does spending time with my friends, and having nice brunches with them. If I do more of these things in my life, if I do more of what makes me happy, I will, by default, spend more time feeling happy, and good, and in a positive mood. It also means that I will be spending less time feeling negative. So, think about the practical things that add joy to your life, and then do more of that. Self-Compassion is #love.
Relationships stems from the simple, yet complex, teaching of Dr Irvin D Yalom that “it’s the relationship that heals.” Dr Yalom is an influential psychotherapist, and author, and more or less the father of group psychotherapy theory and practice. One thing that becomes pretty apparent in therapeutic practice is that everyone’s wounds stem from relationships. We are always wounded in relationship, and so, quite rightly, only in relationship can we heal. The complexity then becomes about the actions that will lead to healing, versus the ones that will lead to more trauma. Ever wonder why victims of childhood abuse, are statistically more prone to suffer abuse and violence as adults, as well? It’s not actually that easy to find relationships that will encourage our personal healing. A therapist, in general, provides a space in which communication is clear and open; where feelings are allowed to be authentic; where masks may be put aside; where empathy and compassion are unconditional; where people may truly be themselves – if they so wish, of course! The basic human needs of being seen, of being heard, of being loved, may only occur in relationship to others. For relationships to have a healing quality, they need to be interdependent: this means that whilst in connection, each person is also their own individual selves. Relationships is #connect.
Emotional Integration follows from the many theories derived from Jungian analysis of archetypes. The easiest way to explain it goes like this: they are tthe different patterns in our lives, relating to different roles we play in life. Have you seen that movie, Inside Out? It’s exactly like that: we all have Joy, Sadness, and Anger running around our minds telling us what to do. More often than not, these patterns, these roles, these archetypes, these universal emotions, are in conflict with each other. A lot of my work relates to identifying the archetypes and their needs – there are lots of fun and creative ways to figure them out! Once we have that, we can start to figure out why they are in conflict with each other, and work towards harmony, translating into emotional integration and balance. Emotional integration is about having our different emotional patterns working together, rather than separate. It’s often hard work, because some of them do not want to change at all. And by them, I mean us. Parts of us, that do not want to change and do everything in their power not to have to do it. In fact, Iyanla Vanzant has a wonderful quote that says: "There is no greater battle in life than the battle between the parts of you that want to be healed and the parts of you that are comfortable and content remaining broken." Emotional integration is #feel, because in order to get your emotions to work together, you need to be able to feel them.
And then, last year, as I was reading Sheryl Sandberg’s memoir about the aftermath of her husband’s sudden death – Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy - I came across the term post-traumatic growth. Even though I’d been practising that as a therapist, I had never come across the term. The notion that, yes, we all go through trauma, and it can be awful and feel like the end of the world, but we can all grow from that experience. This really shifted how I conducted my sessions with clients, as my intention changed: I want to help them grow. I don’t them to just acknowledge, express, or explore their trauma, I want them to grow from it and start new chapters in their lives. And so post-traumatic growth is #grow.
I’m not sure I remember the rationale behind the order which I eventually chose to write them in my posts or on my website, but it works for me. As you’ve read, they are not just simple words I chose to create hashtags with. They are intentional, action-based, daily reminders of what I need to focus on in my life, and what I can help my clients with.
How do these principles apply in your life? What resonates?