Saturday, February 21, 2004

“This above all: to thine own self be true” 

“And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

The most subtle, most dangerous form of dishonesty is perhaps to be dishonest with oneself; to deny self in order to fit with the expectations of others or with one’s own self-image. To suppress feelings because of their effect on others; or their effect on the status quo; or because of judgements as to whether such feelings are appropriate, or right, or beneficial. And to suppress them to the extent that they cease consciously to be felt. In the end, such dishonesty defeats its own purpose; how can the hollow shell, that is all that remains when the feelings have been denied, serve those others for whom it was created, if it is in effect no longer alive?

Suppressing feelings doesn’t eliminate them; they may not reach consciousness, but they exist within the self all the same. All kinds – hope, fear, anger, love, resentment, jealousy – all exist, all valid human responses to the glorious, confusing, frustrating, inspiring, depressing, uplifting, topsy-turvy human world we inhabit.

And paradoxical though it sounds, it is possible to have these responses, and at the same time not to have them. For one’s core being to respond, but one’s own consciousness to reject the response, to ignore it, pretend it isn’t there, because it doesn’t fit with my idea of who I am, or it would rock the boat, or it would upset someone, or it wouldn’t be appropriate, or it wouldn’t be right.

Yet the human soul, or psyche, or whatever word you want to use that encompasses mind and heart and spirit, has unfathomable wisdom. It speaks to us often, sometimes so quietly we must be still and calm to hear its whisperings; sometimes in gut-wrenching visceral responses that threaten to overwhelm us; sometimes in hidden messages we must be attuned to recognise. Yet equally often we choose to ignore this wisdom, believing it to be founded on shifting sands and preferring instead the solid foundation of rationality and fixed beliefs. And in a sense, the wisdom of the soul indeed has no firm foundation; it is not static, it responds to the flowing truth of the moment, not to some rigid artificial model of structures, rules, if-then clauses, held fixed for all time.

The words up until this point were written yesterday morning; my learning from the previous day’s counselling session. I had found a space where this honesty, denied for so long, could exist, and it seemed that I was learning to listen to this inner wisdom; the more I listened, the wiser it seemed and the easier it was to discern the voice above the distractions of the day.

But then something totally unexpected happened, which seemed to throw the words back in my face, taunting me to live them or abandon them. And my involuntary reaction was to slam shut the door so recently opened; to stop listening to my own inner wisdom, to the voice of my own soul. And with the door shut, even though I listened for that voice, I couldn’t hear it. I’d lost that connection.

For the moment. But what had allowed it to be in the first place, was the uniquely accepting and judgement-free relationship with the counsellor. Free to think anything, say anything, feel anything, be anything. An environment where words can be given to unspoken thoughts, unexpressed feelings can be felt perhaps for the first time. A place where the shutters over that inner wisdom are gently drawn back, allowing it to be heard.

And in a very few, very unique relationships outside of counselling, it is possible to have that same level of freedom and acceptance. I’m fortunate enough to have such a unique friendship. And the connection has been remade.

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