When I was little, My Mother suffered with depression and often took herself off on her own in the house. To me it seemed very simple, she was sad and just needed cheering up and I was the one to do it. One day, I had a brilliant idea; I made her a plate of food and arranged the food to look like a smiley face. I was so pleased with my efforts and it was sure to make her feel better again. I presented it to her with such expectation, and I don't remember what she said about it, I just remember the feeling when my efforts did not have the desired effect. The feeling was that I must not be good enough to fix her. Of course, it was a juvenile philosophy but a powerful one just the same. I can see how it shaped me and my idea of myself in the world. Now I am older and it’s not surprising that: 1. I am a therapist and 2. I find it is easy to drop into the dynamic of being 'the fixer', as indeed anyone who is in the healing profession will know. 'If I can fix others then I am a good enough therapist' is deliciously tempting to fall into. I constantly have to remind myself that it is the strength of the human relationship between therapist and client which heals, not the interventions one uses.
When I have a problem, I want it fixed right away! I want to analyse, understand and fix it all as soon as it happens. I find it very difficult to just sit with something and not ask 'what's the answer?’ It has taken me such a long time to become aware of this and have any kind of patience with myself. I still find myself lost in trying to find the answers most days. For Christmas, my Partner bought me a wonderful book containing letters written by the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. A young aspiring poet named Franz Kappus had written to Rilke for some advice on his poetry, from which began a 6 year correspondence. I was moved deeply by his advice on patience:
"I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." ~Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903
When we feel broken and get caught up in the idea that we need to find the answer and get 'fixed', it is a poignant reminder from Rilke for us just to sit with whatever is unresolved, without needing to know. Just simply sit with the heart as it is, however heavy. By doing this we allow space for the questions without immediately needing answers. Sitting with what is, we can drop the idea that we need to be fixed and come into a sense of ‘I’m ok as I am'. When I remind myself of this I can breathe again, I can start again from a place of acceptance and self-love. Start each day with 'I'm ok as I am' and breathe deeply.
With love, Elaine Akal Dev.