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Work in Process

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Work In Process by Suzette Shahmoon

Summer 2014

A journey through the corridors of my mind.

When I first sat down to write this article I had a million ideas running through my head. I wanted to share ideas of how cognitive hypnotherapy had helped my clients and the lessons they had learned.

I then indulged myself. I took myself on a journey through the corridors of my mind opening up doors into different client sessions. I replayed conversations, experiences and thoughts. I listened to their stories again and again and then I began to notice patterns in what they were saying and when they were saying it.

It was as I wandered into a session with a woman, whom I only saw a couple of times, that I realised how often I connect with my clients and their issues. Her story was very different to mine. She had been abused by her father and battled addiction yet the words she spoke about how she felt the need to care for others more than herself could have been mine.

I have taken care of others since I was a little girl. I was always known for my caring nature and it made sense when I chose this vocation that I would take to it like a duck to water. It was only through my own therapy that I realised that there is no such thing as giving without taking. By denying myself the help and kindness of others I was denying others that same sense of fulfilment I got whenever I gave. I also became aware that giving and taking are two halves of the same coin and therefore to truly understand giving one must experience and understand taking. It makes the concept whole.

I imagined myself leaving that room with the door ajar as there are still times when I find myself struggling to ask for help in certain situations. Sometimes because it just seems easier, other times because I’m not ready to relinquish control of a situation. It is through experiences such as supervision that I have learnt the value of asking for guidance and assistance. So as I said…. I can metaphorically keep that door open to possibility.

Then as I meandered down another corridor of my mind I came to another door. This one was newer than the last success. Again the circles she moved in were far removed from my own, the opportunities life was handing her were too. However, when she spoke of her fear of losing touch with herself, wanting her life to have purpose, knowing that when you are on top of your game those things can get blurred by the elixir of success, some of that resonated. Having been practicing for a while people often ask me for my advice but my fear is that people see me as an authority. I am not. I can speak from experience but those experiences are my own with my own interpretations. That means what I learn from a situation may be pertinent to me but I am wary of making others feel that the same is true for them.

Together with my client we spoke about how she could maintain her connection with herself and use that as a means of managing her success. As she learnt so did I. It’s not about being an authority it’s about sharing experience and after that what people do with that is their choice. As long as I remain aware of the language choices I make I can make it clear that what I offer when I talk is not truths but possibilities.

As I wandered through each door I found myself identifying more and more with my clients. There were women who had been afraid to speak up and assert themselves. Teenage girls who didn’t want to socialise, because they felt so unattractive and men who had taken life’s knocks and made them their identity rather than experiences to live through.

Every client who I saw always ended up being me in the chair. I saw children and adults, men and women and each one voiced some of my most hidden fears and hurts.

I then came upon a door whose hinges seemed stiff. As I tried to open it up it fought me with all its strength. This is a door I have been faced with many times. The door which leads to opportunity but doesn’t want to open. As I stood in front of this door, frustrated I looked behind me and noticed a small group of clients. Those who like me once were afraid of change. A fertility client who was afraid of the upheaval a child would bring into her life. An abused wife who was afraid of being alone in the world. Each had their story so different from the other yet all so alike.

These are the most challenging of clients. The ones who know they want to change but are too afraid of what that means and it would be easy to shrug it off and say, “well it’s up to you.” It was up to me too not so long ago. Change doesn’t have to be hard but predicting what that means can be. I too was a victim of abuse but I was the abuser. I beat myself up daily. I was never good enough. I never did enough. I wasn’t who I could be but in my mind that was ok. I was used to being that person. I couldn’t conceive of a world where I could be satisfied with what I did or said.

Who would I be? Would I be arrogant? Narcissistic?

My self-esteem issues prevailed in all areas of my life. I could see beauty in everyone but myself. I could value everyone’s opinion but doubted my own. I internalised every knock I had taken in life and used it as a means of proving that maybe I wasn’t good enough. Is that because of low self worth? Probably but other issues too.

It was only as I started my training that I became aware that I could change. No. Not that. I became aware that I wanted to change. I finally asked for help. It took a more recent session. I saw a young woman who was afraid of me a few months to book my first session but I got there in the end. With the help of my own cognitive hypnotherapist I was able to start unravelling the beliefs that restrained me. I questioned behaviours. I re-evaluated situations. I started to become me.

Stepping out of my head for a moment I started to think about all my clients and these connections I was making. What was interesting was it was only after the sessions with them that I actually began to identify with them. When I enter my therapy room I close the door to my life and enter their world. It is not my place to start projecting my insecurities onto them. It is also not for me to use them to help me sort out my issues but the moment that door reopens I allow myself the space to reflect on myself. With each session that I watched I saw my clients find their own learnings and resolutions. I found food for thought. With each subsequent session I noticed their growth.

That got me thinking…. Had I been growing too? Yes. I must have been. I hope I still am.

I doubted so much about myself. I gave myself a really hard time. I didn’t allow myself to see the opportunities in life for so long. I saw my mistakes as my own failings rather than using them as learning opportunities. Between my own therapy and my client work I have evolved. I have found my own self worth, some self love but more than anything I found my voice.

A lovely client who had a fear of speaking up taught me the importance of using one’s voice and highlighted my own fears in that arena. Her courage dealing with her issue gave me the courage to face mine. Yes there are times when I still feel inhibited to voice my opinions. I’m not perfect, I care about the opinions of others and I also care about their feelings. Then there are times when I keep my thoughts to myself not because I can’t share but because I choose not to. And that is probably the best learning I have taken so far. I have choices. I can choose to speak or not speak.

Give or not give. Whatever the context or situation my options are more available to me now than ever before.

I continue to see myself in the chair more often than I’d like to but I think that’s what keeps me grounded. I have learnt and continue to learn. Knowing that I’m a work in progress is what helps me remain true to myself. I am not an authority, just a fellow struggler, and I have more room to grow and….. I like it that way.