What to Write?

pencils-1240400I try to go to the cinema when I can, as I really enjoy the experience of sitting in front of the big screen and seeing different stories unfold before me. It can be an act of escapism from the real world, as well as giving me new insights and a sharper understanding of the world – and I love that contradiction. Recently I went to see A Star is Born, with no real expectations and having not seen the previous films of the same name. I was incredibly moved by the story, which (spoiler alert) for me contains themes of alcohol use, love, and loss. I also saw themes in there about the unique relationship between brothers, and of the touching way in which men talk about emotions together. In the story of an experienced musician helping a young singer into the spotlight, I also saw a theme of giving – and was reminded that I can only give what I have got. As a counsellor my ability to hold other people’s struggles is dependent on how much time and energy I am already devoting to holding my own. For that reason I find it really important to actively engage in ‘self care’ – which could be going to the cinema, finding time to write, draw, read or meditate.

I originally sat down to write a blog about the film A Star is Born, to explore all the themes that resonated with me, and perhaps how they related to mental health and counselling. In writing I became distracted by thoughts about what I ‘should’ be doing instead of writing e.g. going to the post office. I also became distracted by other ideas for blog posts, and whether it would be ‘better’ for me to write about one of these other ideas instead. Or to clear my head and become more focussed I should go for a walk (perhaps via the post office). Part of the process of writing this blog is building up confidence in my own voice, and I feel like it is necessary to vocalise the part of me that is indecisive.  In speaking with clients I find that there are often dilemmas present. One example would be a client wanting to make a decision about their life, e.g. whether or not to leave their partner. A second example is a client explicitly asking me to be gentle with them, but then preceding to tell me how they do not respect people who don’t tell it like it is – leaving me with a dilemma in whether or not to be ‘gentle’ or instead ‘tell it like it is’. I often find that speaking the dilemma aloud with clients is one of the best ways to respond, as it brings a focus onto the nature of our relationship. I think that speaking about the relationship in a meta way like this is one of the ways in which counselling is potentially therapeutic – using this ‘here and now’ focus to learn how they are in other relationships too (as Irvin Yalom explains in this clip).

The world I am in seems to value decision making, and I think there is also a value placed upon being straightforward or easily definable – knowing who you are and what you want. I understand the desire for everything to be neatly packed in boxes, but I believe there is also value in messing up the story a bit, taking time to make decisions, and acknowledging that sometimes there are no easy answers. Part of that is done through embracing diversity in story telling culturally (e.g. removing barriers and actively promoting diversity in culture such as film, tv and books). Part of it, for me anyway, is exploring different ways of framing my own story. Sometimes it is helpful for me to stop procrastinating and get to the post office, but sometimes I feel it’s helpful to explore that resistance inside me and give that part of me a voice.

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