“The most beautiful people I’ve known are those who have known trials, have known struggles, have known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.” (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross)
The poigancy of this quote attributed to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross struck me when I met with a new client. Gareth (psuedonym) was 30 ish, single, of european descent and was clearly suffering.
Gently sobbing; grieving in part because he was hurting and also aware that his ex-partner was deeply upset, Gareth was asking both me and him why he had left several relationships, for “no obvious reason, because there was really nothing wrong; except that there must be something very wrong with me as I am the common denominator ”
I reflected on his pain, the power and strength of his vulnerability and questions and his obvious desire to find a way out of the depths. Gareth wanted an answer. I was aware from what he told me of his own history that his family and intergenerational history was also spattered with grief and loss. I reflected that Gareth was perhaps being impacted by the “ghosts of the past”, influences that neither of us fully understood at that time.
So often it is pain; loss, grief and trauma, questions about the self which bring a client to therapy.
It is vital that these are questions are heard, understood and cared about in an atmosphere of warmth and acceptance.
As it was with Gareth it is frequently also important to reflect on who we are and who and what people and experiences have shaped us in order to answer these questions and “find our way out of the depths”
Gareth became aware his pattern of leaving was in part, related to a fear that his partners would tire of him and described that he would, after a few months into each relationship find himself feeling anxious, low in mood, a bit dead and then opted to leave “before she would because it seemed inevitable the life had gone.”
Our genogram exploration (looking at ancestory to identify patterns and events and their effect on family members) identified a great grandmother who had died giving birth to his grandfather. The family story was that she died of exhaustion, tired after a long and difficult labour and that his grandfather had carried a sense of responsibility for his mother’s death.
Gareth and I relfected that he like grandfather, had no intention to cause pain. Each seemed to carry a deep fear that there “was something wrong with me” and for Gareth that there would be an inevitable loss. In this context we might see that Gareth’s leaving relationships before the inevitable occured, was a life preserving action.
He was however caught in a dilemna between the fear of pain if I don’t leave and the pain he was certainly experiencing when he did leave. Either way he was in pain.
We became aware that at least in part related to this sense of inevitability, that Gareth tended to move away from communicating with his partners. His confidence for relating intimately, his mood and over emotional resilence had been affected as a result.
Our therapeutic work focused mainly on building his sense of strength and vitality so that he had a strong sense of his own aliveness; so that Gareth knew that he did not need to diminish his wn life energy, to move away from himself or from partners he wanted to experience aliveness with.
Using this approach Gareth would be heartened and encourged, envlivened by his own life force.