We are so quick to play the blame game, especially when faced with challenges. At these times, says Omar Sattur, I find it helpful to remind myself that I am the sum of every moment that I have ever lived, and this helps provide a little perspective…
Having counselling is a big deal. Thinking about the cycle of change and the time it can take to find oneself ready for this degree of introspection, reflection and commitment to change reinforces just how big a deal it is. Many people, when asked what they want to achieve in counselling understandably express the wish for things to be as they were. They wish for a relationship that is on the rocks to revert to the happy days of mutual enjoyment and wonder. Or for a difficult loss to dissolve back into the days when it was still possible to while away the time with the deceased and much-loved parent, partner, child or friend.
The impossibility of doing this is of course unavoidably apparent. The impossibility is clear, yet seemingly manipulable. I fantasise that I can turn back time. I fancy that, by thinking enough about what I did or didn’t do, about what I said or didn’t say, I can forge a different present and future for myself. But my efforts, alas, do the opposite. I flounder, my nights are restive, I am continually distracted, and my work suffers.
Then perhaps come thoughts of drastic measures. A determination to change at all costs, like a desperate new year’s resolution. I will jettison unhelpful behaviours, I wish away unhelpful thoughts as if simply thinking in this way will achieve the desired results. Wishful thinking gives no credence to the power of acceptance and self-compassion. Not an idiot compassion that simply lets me off the hook but real compassion, an acceptance of myself as I am, alongside due acknowledgement of my commitment to change for the better.
At these times I find it helpful to remind myself that I am the sum of every moment that I have ever lived. I am who I am, because of all that has happened to me and the ways in which I have responded to those events. I may have understood them or misunderstood them, I may avoid thinking about them or I may sit down with myself and take them into account, searching for the lessons I can learn. I might let go of unhelpful thoughts and learn a greater lesson, or I might steadfastly grasp onto a fragment of my past as to a piece of driftwood in a sea of uncertainty.
James Fenton’s poem, The Ideal, brings home to me the importance and healing power of understanding that, when I deny or try to excise some part of my experience, I damage myself. When I try, and keep trying, to understand and accept myself as I am, I learn self-compassion and that, in turn, helps me to be tolerant and compassionate towards others. But doing this is no walk in the park.
You can find out more about Omar’s work here.
This is where I came from.
I passed this way.
This should not be shameful
Or hard to say.
A self is a self.
It is not a screen.
A person should respect
What he has been.
This is my past
Which I shall not discard.
This is the ideal.
This is hard.