If it is time that salves and soothes, how much time does it take to heal?
(And how on earth might a thing like time-limited brief therapy work?)
Perhaps it’s worth just investigating time for a moment. What’s your relationship with time like? Does it evaporate on you, too quickly gone? Are you in a kind of ‘pursuer-distancer’ relationship with it, where you’re always chasing it down, and it usually stays tantalisingly out of reach? Or does it pool at your feet and maroon you in a rising tide of excess? Is there so much of it that it’s hard to find ways to meaningfully fill it?
Therapy itself is intimately twined with time. Measured in regular rhythms of sessions and the weeks between. Yet even here, time can play tricks. For in some sessions, the clock fairly races. In others, the ticking slows and seems to expand somehow, inviting a whole other dimension into the room.
So how can we use this nebulous, changeable stuff therapeutically – both in therapy and in life? How can we harness time for our healing?
In Part 1 of this post, we explored Rumi’s quote about opening the window of your heart, and, once open, what you might see through such a window.
Maybe, in part, that depends on the kind of window you’re dealing with.
Many years ago, I lived in Germany for a while, where the windows are all double-glazed. In the older buildings there are actually two whole windows in each window frame: one opening to the inside and one to the outside world. Technically, this is to enhance the insulating effect, but metaphorically it seems to be saying something, too.
So could you open the window towards your interior spaces, too? Is this heart window business about looking in as well as looking out? And, if so, what might you see there?
I was in a bookshop the other day, meandering through the psychology section, when I flipped through some pages and landed on a quote by Rumi (the 13th century poet):
‘Open the window of your heart’
It triggered a thousand questions. And they might be worth investigating together, just to see what they uncover and whether any answers they evoke are useful to you and your emotional life.
For although Rumi probably had some specific ideas in mind when he wrote this, in the end (as several different psychotherapeutic modalities remind us) only you are the expert on your life. Only you will truly know your own unique answers. So let’s ask a few questions and see if we can unearth some of those.
If your heart had a window, what might it look like? Just see if you can picture it for a moment…
There’s something here in this juxtaposition of billboards. Something almost suggesting that maybe depression can sort of ‘be there’ for us, maybe even be with us in some strange way, accompanying us in hard times… perhaps even in just the right size and measure.
What if that were true?
It seems a pretty shocking thought. For depression is often cast in a bad light – something simply to be overcome and gotten rid of. A villain in the story of our lives. Something to think or shrink our way out of. And fast.
Often there’s a kind of double layer to depression – a sense of feeling depressed about feeling depressed. Having a sense of failure or shame for even experiencing it in the first place.
But what if depression were more than that? What if it could actually be a messenger of sorts?
Something to take stock of? To listen to?
What might it have to tell you?
Or what might it be asking you for?
The footpaths were littered with camellia blossoms this morning, as I walked around the streets. Perfect pink blooms dropped onto the pavement.
I heard a saying, once, about this phenomenon. These flowers, falling mid-bloom from the tree, echoes the way we’ll all fall from the tree of life one day.
Unexpectedly (even when it’s expected).
And often with a sense of ‘too soon.’
So how might we prepare for this?
Are there things that could make it easier when our time (inevitably) comes?
And what might our death actually have to teach us about living?
When this street art tiger leaped out of the shadows on a rainy night recently, what struck me was the vast size of its head compared to the thin wood of the chair before it.
The whole scene seemed to echo the suspect circus routines I’d seen in my childhood, where lions and tigers would be ‘tamed’ by a ringmaster wielding a chair. Yet on this night, the chair seemed pretty slim defense in the face of such an opponent.
It also reminded me of a talk I’d heard several years ago, by a Jungian analyst who specialized in working with people who were living with eating disorders. With her client’s permission to pass this story on, she shared how that person had described their relationship with anxiety and anorexia , which went something like this:
As I walked past a junkshop the other day, this big blue box of empty picture frames caught my eye and reminded me of the therapeutic art of ‘reframing’.
Have you been to a professional framer’s lately? It’s quite something to watch your painting or photograph transform before your eyes as different frames and coloured matts are placed around the edges. Just when you thought you knew your artwork, suddenly there are certain highlights or perspectives or even entire readings of it that you hadn’t noticed before. It has new meaning for you now.
And that’s what therapeutic framing’s about, too. It’s a way of taking an image or a thought or an experience and seeing it in a new way. Trying out some new ‘frames’ or ideas around it. Seeing what that does to it, whether it’s transformed in some way, and whether it’s now easier to live with that image on your internal walls.
So what about you?
Are there any thoughts or experiences or expectations that you might like to take a fresh look at?
And how does this reframing actually work?
These sandstone statues decorate the outside of a cathedral in Nuremburg, Germany. They’re the seven virgins of something-or-rather (my memory has faded out the details). And, after some crumbling of the facade, one of them is pointing to the place her heart used to be. It’s missing. Broken off. Gone.
And now she stands with an emptiness, a square of pain that’s plainly visible.
Have you ever felt like this before? Where some piece of you was missing?
Maybe you lost something, or someone, that just seemed to fit your life, completed it in a way that nothing else quite can, and made it (and you) feel whole. And now they’ve vanished.
What do you do?
Wandering past this piece of street art the other day, I was drawn to the face and the detail of the design, and almost didn’t notice the writing:
It got me thinking…
There’s something eerie about this image. For me, it conveys a sense of being doubly locked-in.
And it reminds me of a quote by Rabindranath Tagore, an Indian Poet:
‘The one whom I enclose with my name
is weeping in that dungeon.’
Is it possible that we sometimes unwittingly lock our identities in like this, into static fixed cells? That we cage ourselves and constrict the possibilities of who we might be or become? That we deny ourselves the freedom to keep evolving?
Who might you be, if you weren’t enclosed in your name?
Who might you find if you weren’t only looking for what you already know about yourself?
Who might actually be in there, waiting to be discovered?