staying home


there is a crack in everything
that’s how the light gets in

leonard cohen

when i discovered psychotherapy, it was like walking into a parallel universe i’d been meant to inhabit all along. in that universe humans spoke this marvellous language i had always known on some level, had always needed and wanted to speak, but couldn’t access before. life made sense. i’d come home.

most of the essential lessons came slowly and stutteringly. but the vocabulary itself was an immediate revelation. finding out that we don’t get to choose what we think or how we feel lifted a great weight from my shoulders. it meant our emotions and thoughts aren’t inherently good or bad, and began a lifelong process of dismantling the moral maze i’d got lost in.

being home isn’t a constant state. we can lose touch with it when the going gets tough and the ground beneath our feet becomes unstable. when we lose our balance we can forget how to find our way back there, sometimes for so long that returning feels impossible. when we are away from home for ages, and despair of ever regaining our bearings, that’s when the pull of our crazy culture can be so strong, so overwhelming. it tells us its reality is the reality; its values are the only ones worth having.

it takes discipline to hold onto our moorings.

i think this is the reason i am still regularly amazed and filled with gratitude when something external echoes my inner world. when i read something another has written, or look at a painting, or listen to music, and my insides say “oh yes, i recognise this. i have been here”.

but i am trying to work out why i also experience a very different reaction to this echoing effect. why alongside gratitude there is also disbelief and unbalance, almost as if i must have imagined that book or image or song; as if the source of this deeply felt resonance cannot be real. i think this connects to having spent the first part of my life not accessing that language which makes sense of my existence. that not-belonging-ness is always with me to varying degrees, and when i feel its presence particularly strongly – when i lose my bearings entirely – it doesn’t seem plausible to have my inner world mirrored back at me from the outside.

it seems the human condition is a continuing balancing act. a tightrope with our individual experience on one side, and the world we share with everyone else on the other. holding on to our own private reality, our personal terms of reference, inspirations and dilemmas, and keeping these in some sort of workable proportion to our shared experience, is an ongoing practice.

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