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The child within

I have a general perception of humanity that all adults are like little children walking the Earth. We may reach a level of self awareness and feel more mature but inside there will always be a part of us that is a small, innocent, vulnerable being that does not know how to be in the world.

The construction of self is highly complex and is quite obviously open to interpretation but within those vulnerable moments where we experience emotions such as deep loss or shame, or conversely joy, deep curiosity and dis-inhibition, we connect to the child within. When we realise that humans have this basic innocence we can become more forgiving and compassionate. Regardless of age we are all still learning how to navigate life.

I had the honour to be part of an event with Irvin Yallom the other evening. Whilst many aspects of his work and life interested me, I was captured by his willingness to disclose that whilst he had worked with grief for much of his career, in all of his 89 years, the recent grief he had felt for his wife was completely new to him. He had felt grief but not in this way before. He said he was back in therapy to explore this with another therapist.

I love the fact that Yallom was willing to show his vulnerability and be real about his humanness. Psychotherapists are not special, super humans who do not have problems or feelings. There is not a higher echelon of humanness that psychotherapists stand within. We are normal, everyday people who will experience the same stuff that everyone else does. We cry, we get hurt and we make mistakes. However, the nature of the training in psychotherapy is unique. We are primed by entering intensive long term therapy as well as having supervision to highlight areas where we can keep growing, both within ourselves and within our practice. This focused attention to the self never stops. Supervision never stops. The most accomplished and experienced psychotherapists and supervisors still enter therapy from time to time or seek out specialist supervision when they need an objective viewpoint. No matter how wise or knowledgeable a person is, they still have the child within, there will still be times when life throws up an anomaly.

Regardless of age, experience and expertise, life has much that we need to learn and understand. Even if we have gone through something, there may also be another way of going through something and experiencing the same thing differently.


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