How does your garden grow?
From the window in my office, I can see ivy growing up the side of next doors house and this summer it has been slowly encroaching onto our house. I’ve spent a lot of time watching the birds that nest playing in among the branches and, while this brought me joy, I was aware that, if left, our house risked becoming like our back fence: 90% ivy. So we started cutting it back and as I look out of my window now, I can see the leaves begin to fall as it dies off. While I know that in the long term this was the best thing to do, it is hard to watch the green leaves shrivel and fall off and wait to see what damage is revealed underneath it.
When I trained as a counsellor a large part of it included working on myself, through my own counselling and personal development activities. This involved letting go of ways of thinking and being that I had adopted so I could present a surface image that matched societies expectations. It is easy to get stuck into ways of being that we think will make the people around us happy and in the short term, this can make life easier and avoid conflict. However, every time we hide who we really are, we pay a price. Eventually, we can lose ourselves and become like my back fence, being held up but something that isn’t us, worried that without the external scaffolding we will fall down. We may even forget who we really are and start believing the version we show to other people.
Just like the ivy on my house, as I shifted and sorted through my identity, pruning the parts of my life that were not helpful, I revealed the damage that had been caused by it. Luckily I had the support to be able to start healing the damage that I had done to myself in the search for a peaceful life by reinforcing who I really was and letting go of external expectations. It wasn’t an easy journey and I would have struggled to do it without the support of my therapist.
Just like the ivy in the garden my internal self needs regular maintenance to stop it becoming overgrown and I’ve learnt the things that help me like journaling, being in nature, running and creativity. If I neglect these practices, or external events are impacting on me then I might need some help to keep my own ivy under control, this is when I might talk things over with my supervisor or if necessary, go back to therapy for a time.
I’d love to know what activities help you to stay true to who you are.