My mother has always stood by me. She worries about me. She calls to check up on me. She is proud of what I have tried to do with my life. She is a doting grandmother who my son loves dearly.
Like all of us, she has her doubts. She imagines that she could have done better. When you look back on your life, you imagine how things could have been. While she has those doubts, I do not.
Bouquet of Flowers, Odilon Redon (1900)
Thank you for your example, your patience, your insights and always loving me, Mum!
It was my first night alone in the 6+ weeks since lock-down started in Aotearoa New Zealand back in March. I won't deny a certain amount of trepidation, as I thought of being home without my son. We are close. I might be coding. He might be working on his art, his guitar or school work, but we always take a moment or two to express ourselves. It is a wonderful relationship and also very comforting.
So, my first night alone as he goes to his mum's! I began to imagine all of the things I could do. There is cleaning to be done, my Cannondale is a bit dusty and could use a trip around the coast, there is always website work to do . . . I then realised that what I really needed was time with my own mind.
I am in no way religious. When I first began meditating before my Jack was born, one of the things I wanted to avoid was Buddhism. Over the years, I began to see Siddhartha as someone who observed pain around him and wanted to understand and help. This one to whom we generally refer as the "Buddha" - "Enlightened One" - wanted to help others suffering and (like many in his world) believed the solution was somewhere within his grasp. Some imagined they could torture the body to make it give up its secrets. Siddhartha tried this, but realised it was a dead-end. After years of struggle, he sat under a tree and decided not to move until he had the solution. He focused on his breath. When he believed he had the answer, he refused initially to share it. It is all too easy. No one will believe me, he thought.
He found the answer was within him and within all of us. We could minimise suffering by an attentive life, what came to be known as The Eightfold Path. When others asked for supernatural explanations, Siddhartha brushed away their questions. Some have argued, such as the former Buddhist monk, Stephen Batchelor, for a Secular Buddhism. Deities are not required for Buddhism. Reincarnation is not required. Actually, the historical existence of the Buddha, although rarely seriously debated, is not even required, as long as the conclusions are "true" (contrast this with Western theologies). The message is that there is suffering and there are ways to help. Some, like me, consider the Buddha to be a proto-psychologist (to give a Western context) whose words were later used to create power structures we often refer to as "religion".
So, I sat and focused on my breath last night with another seeker.
May you find peace.
Lee Jordan, MBA, MEd, MCouns
When another labels you, be it a therapist or someone else, this attempt to label is a function of power, a form of control.
Control of Therapist
We may understand this statement within - say - a racist context. The person labelling you is trying to humiliate or otherwise control you, but what about within therapy? Traditional therapeutic paradigms attempt to "understand" by fitting the client into current models - social and therapeutic. These labels confine the client within "norms", emphasising the aspects of self which fit into the norms and minimising or ignoring those aspects of self which do not fit into the label.
These labels allow the therapist to treat the client as a symptom, a condition or something else that can be "easily" understood, controlled or manipulated. These labels minimise the experiences and individuality of the person seeking help.
Loss of Personal Control
When the person defers to the labels of another, she or he gives up power - power to define self and power to create self. While these labels can provide temporary relief from individual responsibility and choice - in effect deferring an existential crisis - they limit the options of the person seeking to overcome problems and evolve.
Keeping Power With The Client
How can this power be minimised within the therapeutic relationship? Attempt to understand the experience of the client, rather than trying to fit it into a predetermined paradigm. Realise that the client is the expert in his or her own life (a central tenet of Narrative Therapy). Learn to sit with the ambiguity of the lives of others, without forcing experience into narrow preconceptions.
For many, this loss of control is unsettling and means recreating their relationships with others. The benefits - both within the therapeutic relationship and within wider social interactions - are well worth the initial discomfort.
I enjoy podcasts and started thinking of creating a therapy podcast back in 2013. I was working full-time, a full-time daddy (my favourite and most important role) and spreading myself across a number of other things. I then became single in 2014 and had other things upon which to focus. Creating a podcast became a lesser priority.
Counselling and Therapeutic Modalities
Since I became a counsellor back in 2009, I have bounced a bit between modalities. As a student, the emphasis was upon Carl Rogers' Person Centered Therapy. This is a good starting point, but just that - a place to start. I then became interested in the various iterations of Cognitive Therapy (Cognitive Therapy, Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, Rational-Emotive Behavioural Therapy), but they didn't seem enough. I then chanced upon Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy and felt this covered a few more bases in the approach I wanted to use. I realised that it was important for me to include mindfulness in some form in my therapeutic practice. Then there was Narrative Therapy and Compassion-Focused Therapy (among many others). All of these things began to come together to strengthen my practice. I have also been exploring Positive Psychology in the last few years.
I began to consider that Narrative Therapy could be a framework from which I would work, supplemented by other modalities and tools - meditation, compassion meditation, cognitive therapeutic work, etc. I took a course last year in Adelaide, Australia, at the Centre where Narrative Therapy began. I continued to consider the possibilities after this course.
The lock-down of COVID-19 has given me time to further explore possibilities. I have been working on audio resources for meditation and other things that might help others during self-isolation. Yesterday, I created a podcast and will be migrating some of these resources to that podcast.
The podcast is available at:
Content will be added over the following weeks, but I anticipate Narrative Therapy theory and sessions, guided meditation (mindfulness, compassion and chanting) and poetry that I might want to read.
Gifts From My Son
My son was awake until almost 3am this morning, making my birthday presents. Whenever he asks what I want, it is always something made by him. These were my presents today, my 53rd birthday!
New Zealand Pōhutukawa
This is of one of our most iconic trees, the pōhutukawa.
Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate)
My son knows this has significance for me, both as a student in 1989 West Berlin and also for the trip he and I took to Europe in 2018.
Happy birthday to me!