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Wallow, Reflect, Transcend

There’s nothing like a good wallow in the confluence of the sticky mud and muck of our past history and current circumstances.  It’s familiar territory for me whenever personal emotional disaster strikes and I dive head-first and bury myself in the warm, dark underbelly of self-hatred, self-sabotage and sometimes self-destruction.  I slither and slide, turning cartwheels and backflips until I am so immersed in the experience there is almost nothing that can draw me back up to the surface again.

At this point I need instant validation of my pain and suffering.  I think we all do.  The reason for the suffering, whether self-inflicted or inflicted by others is immaterial.  For me to be told my suffering is valid and reasonable gives me the invigorating courage to draw myself up out of the murky depths to my full height and start to soldier on.  When someone witnesses my story of pain, abandonment and rejection, the underworld does not feel as enticing as it did beforehand and I start to reflect from an observing ego level or a perspective of emotional distance, that this is old familiar stuff.  I’ve been here before and I’ve let go and moved on many times.  In fact I’ve even managed to transcend the situation several times before descending back into chaos again when life goes pear-shaped.

Reflection, meditation and sometimes just mere background pondering leads me to being able to rise above the situation and see it for what it is; something that happened in the past when significant others let me down.  Nothing on earth, not even Superman can turn back the world and change what happened back in 1975.  I have to live with that history, incorporate and integrate it permanently into my being.  I am not the sum total of what happened to me.  No-one is ever that.  What happened is a mere small part of who I am.  It does not reflect my strengths or my achievements.  It does not define who I am.  It does not make me a victim.  It is simply a minor part of my lived experience.

My therapist once said (and I bit her head off for saying this at the time) that “the past is in the past and the future is what counts.”  When I am in transcendence what she says makes perfect, logical, rational sense and I can see her point of view.  When I am reflective I can ponder on this past -v- present -v- future conundrum without crying and wailing and making myself emotionally ill.  When I am wallowing in self-pity I need support, warmth and comfort.  When I have this safety and security, I can start to see myself not as the centre of the Universe, but as a part of humanity like everyone else.

Perhaps if someone had reached out to me back in 1975, I would not have mental health issues.  But then I would have missed out on this vast, multi-dimensional experience with all its highs and lows, tragedies and triumphs.  Without excessive wallowing, reflection and transcendence I would not be who I am.  I feel a deeper, closer, more compassionate stance towards people, animals, trees and plants.  Because of my situation I have always valued Planet Earth.  But I had to learn with much daring and difficulty how to value myself and my life experience.   

I am valued by the Western Australian Mental Health Commission because I am paid to work as a peer worker to use my lived experience of recovery in the hope that my story will inspire and motivate others who are on the same journey, but at this moment, traveling on a different section. 


Wallow, Reflect, Transcend

Sonia Neale

Sonia Neale was recently awarded the Inaugural Barbara Hocking SANE Australia Fellowship to study and research Borderline Personality Disorder overseas in the USA, Canada, UK and Ireland. Her previous Psych Central blog was called Therapy Unplugged. She is the author of two books, The Bad Mother’s Revenge and Death by Teenager, both published by ABC Books/Harper Collins. She lives in Western Australia, is married with three adult children, has studied psychoanalytic psychotherapy, has a Certificate IV in Mental Health and is studying for a Psychology/Counselling degree. She currently works as a peer support worker in the mental health field.

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APA Reference
Neale, S. (2011). Wallow, Reflect, Transcend. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 12 Jul 2011
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