by Anne Morrison, BA, MSW, RSW, is a professional counsellor and therapist registered with the BC College of Social Workers. Her private practice focuses on personal, relationship and family healing. She can be reached at 250 324 5521, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.annemorrison.ca
When my husband Hugh and I re-located back to Vancouver Island 7 years ago, we moved into the delightful small community of Chemainus, population 4500; it does not even have a stop light! As I breathed in the space and beauty of this charming village, I realized I wanted to do this transition differently. Of course, I was ready to start up my private practice but I also wanted to reach out to our village with inspirational columns that would serve the dual purpose of sharing who I AM and also give them inspiration and hope for how their lives could be different.
And so I approached our local monthly newspaper, the Chemainus Courier, to see if they were interested in a mental health columnist who could write about topics that everyone could relate to, in a way that was down-home, very simple language, so that anyone could resonate with my topics.
That was 7 years ago and ever since, I have written my monthly column for this paper. It is entitled: Wings Unfurled. I am so appreciative of its editor, Warren Goulding, for the faith he had in me and his generosity about letting others beyond our village read these columns.
Writing in this way was new to me. When we lived in Port Alberni, I had written columns for the Alberni Valley Times, entitled “Seniors Scene” as I was immersed in seniors’ exciting life stories within the position I held at that time. It was so much fun to interview the senior and find out the rich tapestry of their past lives that was part of the life they were knitting together in the present.
But this column was different; as the topic choices are wide open; I write each month about what moves me at that particular time. My Satir training and calling are woven right through every column.
I will present two such columns for this blog which I hope you enjoy. This whole columnist experience has been such an exciting adventure for me and I love the responses I get from every direction. Folks leaving anonymous telephone messages of how that topic went right to their heart; folks stopping me on the street to share the new hope they had from my columns; and one woman saying she left the column on the kitchen table for her husband to read and he did! In fact, it provided an opening for a much deeper connection between them. Many have sent off my column to friends and family who do not live here. I have also fanned it out to a list of folks I connect with all over the world. One woman shared it with the Director of her Assisted Living Residence and the Director sought me out to share what a difference it made to how she connects with the residents!
I guess what I am realizing is that how important it is to spread the Satir Model through the infinite ways of using our Self. Yes, Satir is alive and well in our beloved community of Chemainus – and beyond.
I am pondering a Buddhist parable that describes a man trapped on one side of a dangerous and fast-flowing river. He knew there was safety on the other side, however, there was no bridge or ferry to get him there. So he gathered leaves, twigs, and logs and made himself a sturdy raft that carried him to safety on the other shore. The parable’s question is, “if the man kept the raft strapped to his back, because it has served him well, would he always have that strength with him? Or should he lay it down gratefully, knowing it has served him well, but no longer of use?”
That parable made me wonder when I have needed to build a raft to find safety? What has my raft been comprised of? I realize that I have built numerous rafts throughout my life to help me feel secure: a raft of interpretation made about another; a raft to make sense out of my childhood upbringing; or the raft of much needed assurances to help me navigate great waters of uncertainty and fear.
The notion of choosing which rafts I need to keep is freeing. I want to keep the raft that is woven with an intricate web of ribbons and cords, which colourfully demonstrate my inner most values and principles. I never want to jeopardize them or let them go; they fuel me and keep me grounded.
I also realize that for years I carried a certain interpretation of my past, which I kept strapped to my back, that was laced with old fears and pain from unresolved issues. I needed to take the time to process and neutralize the pain that was weaving the raft together and then I was able to leave that raft on the shore. Along the way, I was also able to leave a raft holding longstanding grievances on the shore; they only weighed me down. Freed of these rafts, I could then renew my own inner spirit!
What kinds of rafts have you built in your life? What firmly held beliefs do they hold? Are they still relevant today? How open are you to taking a fresh look, or to consider a new perspective? Sharing your raft stories with a good friend or counsellor can help you navigate the stormy waters. Sometimes just naming the kinds of rafts that you have built to help you stay afloat in this world can help you to recognize the ones you are ready to leave on the shore, thus enabling you to move forward free from the burden of rafts no longer needed.
Wishing you all peace within, between and amongst us all.
LIFE RAFTS: Part 2
Last month I wrote about the freedom we can feel when we are able to park, or dis-assemble, any of our life rafts that are woven together with grievances and resentment that hinder the quality of our lives. Many of you shared your stories of how liberating it was to leave some of those rafts on the shoreline in order to move on in life. Others also shared that while they fervently want to let go of what no longer serves them, they were worried that letting go meant condoning or excusing the behaviours of those who had hurt them.
The good news is that letting go, or forgiving, does NOT require condoning unkindness, forgetting that something painful happened, excusing poor behaviour, or dismissing or minimizing your hurt. Rather, letting go, or forgiveness, is an internal process, which you undertake for your own mental health, in order to heal the corrosive resentment that can drain your precious life energy.
Common examples of feeling betrayed can include experiencing physical, emotional or sexual abuse; infidelity; death of a loved one; a sudden change in life circumstances; major illness etc. Even a sudden fall can leave us feeling like our bodies or indeed the whole world, is letting us down! We commonly feel deeply wounded and hurt, often very angry, righteous, indignant, outraged, and sometimes guilt, shame and humiliation. We yearn for the suffering to stop.
The empowering truth is that even though we cannot make another person take responsibility for what their actions have caused us, we can take full responsibility for the hold they have had on our inner world. Letting go definitely puts you in the driver’s seat! By being able to honestly name the situation or event for what it was, you can get to a place of accepting the truth of it without liking it. Acceptance of what took place moves you a step closer to being able to admit its hold, and that, in and of itself, can help to reduce the sting of your grievance and wounds. We no longer need to try to get even, or level the playing field.
To reach that acceptance, we often need to grieve many levels of losses: the loss of a certain role, relationship status, physical capability, or a certain future we thought was ours. As we loosen the power of our reactive feelings, we are able to discover what we have NOT lost, our ability to treat ourselves well with an inner grace and dignity.
With the help of a trusted friend or counsellor, we can neutralize and defuse the powerful feelings which are woven into such beliefs or worn out life rafts. We can transcend the injustice of it all.
Each of us deserves that gentle inner healing that brings us peace within, between and amongst our beloved community!
I hope I have inspired you to reach way out of your comfort zones of how you live and practice the Satir Model to consider uncharted territories of how you can add in new ways to use your Self to connect with others at their core!
Perhaps we can use the upcoming New Year as a time to truly discover new possibilities for ways we can impact others, knowing that we truly make a difference! One of my loyal readers keeps nudging me to put my columns into a book – so that is my nudge – to move beyond columnist to author a book. At first I flatly rejected the idea, but it keeps surfacing, so I have new food for thought as I continue this adventure we call LIFE.
Wishing you all a blessed holiday time and a beautiful New Year ahead, filled with Love, Joy, Peace and your special brand of Creativity!
Love and Light,