Sunday, 29 March 2009

Contact

I was given the wonderful privilidge of saying a few words to a group of students graduating from a counselling skills course.

Was pretty nervous about standing up in front of people I didn't know and talking about my experience.

I had agrees to talk about my own experience of doing this course at the beginning of my counselling training and it stirred memories of contact.

I remember sitting in the class on the first day so anxious that my body shook, I had left school at 16 years of age and had basic qualifications, and here I was at college with no idea what was next.

As the weeks rolled by I relaxed and started to enjoy the new experiences and relationships that were opening up to me.

I remember being in the group and having a profound discussion about suicide. The anxiety of being asked to draw and express myself using art materials. The challenge of being in a triad and the fear of the other person stopping talking and having to think of something appropriate to say. And I remember being in the encounter group, 3 hours of silence! Well maybe not 3 hours but long stretches of silence where my mind was screaming out for the tutor to say something!

As I thought about those experiences the theme that emerged was "contact", the possibility of an open and honest relationship with another human being and the risk and reward of that experience.

When I was anxious about using art materials to express myself I think it was about the risk of exposure. Something from the inside of me could be seen on the outside.

I clearly remember the feeling I had during the group discussion about suicide and worrying my thoughts wouldn't be acceptable, the risk of putting my feelings out there and the reward of being heard even if not agreed with was very satisfying.

Of course working in triads is exposing, bringing live issues of my own to work with and the exposure of trying to bring myself as a listener was terrifying and thrilling. To experience the contact of relationship in those moments had a dramatic effect on my feelings of wellbeing.

I think this was most felt during the encounter group when there was no set agenda to work to and to speak up in the group with no specific purpose.except to be "there" and to hear each other.

In those moments when I was able to make contact, to hear and be heard without judgement felt so exciting and fulfilling, in those moments in the course I got the bug for contact, my desire to be met in that open and honest way and to offer that to others. This desire for contact has formed the basis of my ongoing training and work, it's what motivated me and shapes what I offer in my professional and personal relationships.

As much as I was bitten by the experience of contact I had much to learn! I had the idea that the harder I worked, the more I developed and the more therapy I received perhaps I could be fixed, yes you can see how much I had to learn :)

As I noticed this week how difficult it was to stop and think about what I would say in this talk, in fact my mind was refusing to think about this, I noticed the issues that I am struggling with in my personal life and my working life. Standard issues that we all have to deal with. And I realized that the risk of contact by offering my thoughts via this presentation and the risk of exposure was keeping away from getting to grips with what I would say. To put myself in front of others as a trained and experienced professional while at the same time struggling with how screwed up I still am! I realized that I was having the same reaction as I had the first day of the course when I was sitting there shaking, a part of me trying to protect myself from the risk of contact and another part if me that needs and wants this and can allow myself to be seen as I am.

For me this is the real challange and value of contact, when it is offered while being "screwed up". To me this is the thrill and challenge of being alive, to make contact in an open and honest way from where I am, which isn't perfect or fixed or finished but flawed and struggling and mixed up and yet still available to meet and be met as much as I possibly can.








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1 comment:

Space Is Good said...

what a great experiance mate! they must really value you. Well done!