I’ve been trying to write more about my therapeutic principles and I am finding it challenging. Which is good, but because that makes me WORK . I have been trying to explain to people in conversation, and in my writing, how we store up feelings in our body, how it is stuck energy, and our dogs can sense it and respond to it.
This story is an example of this principle in action.
A while back I had a builder working for me, helping get our house ready to sell. One day he was up a ladder, painting a window. Later on that day he came down and said to me.
“Joanne, I’ve done you a favour. While I was up the ladder, I vandalised the swallows nest that was under the eaves,to stop them nesting there”
Internally I was thinking “WHAT!!! That’s’s the home the swallows have been coming back to for years. The beautiful, graceful swallows that annually fly 1000s of miles from Africa, where they were sunning themselves on backs of hippo’s, to come here, to my house, to bring their next group of chicks into the world. How could you even think that’s a good idea?”
Externally, I smiled and joked and made some lame comment I didn’t want to offend the guy, he clearly thought he was doing me a favour. What he’d done made sense to him, his beliefs and values. He started to tell me about the damage that can be caused by swallows nesting. I smiled and thanked him and put it out of my head. There was, after all, nothing else to do, the damage had been done.
I had tried to forget about it and then one morning I heard swallows outside. There was a lot of screeching, flying low past the window. The swallows had returned. But the commotion was noisier than I remembered. I hadn’t noticed them flying so low before.. I had to assume that their behaviour was in some way a result of finding their home vandalised and having nowhere for them to roost. One of the swallows kept landing on the top of the open kitchen door. They had done this in previous years. I had enjoyed their company. But this time it was different, for me, and difficult.
“It wasn’t my fault” I said “I would never have let him do that if I had known, it was that bad builder man, I’m so very, very sorry” But I knew I felt guilty because I hadn’t told the builder exactly how I had felt. I felt bad. I rang the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) Helpline, to see if I could make it better. The eaves were at least 20 ft high. No, I was told, there was nothing I could do, the swallows needed to work it out for themselves. I felt bad. Every time I went into the kitchen I was reminded of my betrayal.
I felt bad, and I felt helpless. Part of me felt like I was being blamed for something that I hadn’t done, that I would never have done, but I couldn't get rid of the blame. I have been working quite a bit on feelings and what they tell you, both as a therapist and in my own personal work. I started to notice that I was trying to push these uncomfortable feelings away, blank them out. My mind was trying to get rid of my feelings of guilt and shame, put the blame on someone else. I decided to take a bit of my own advice and just let the feelings in.
It must have taken only a few seconds. The tears started to well up in my eyes. I found I wasn’t crying for the swallows, I was crying for my marriage break-up. I was crying because I felt that I had been solely responsible for breaking up the family home, for putting my needs before the needs of others. The feelings and emotions that I let through showed me how much I had been blaming myself, unconsciously, for a situation which, when I thought of rationally, I could NOT take full responsibility for. It truly wasn’t my fault. Nobody else was suggesting it was. But somewhere in my mind-body, my own psyche, I was holding onto the feeling that IT WAS ALL MY FAULT. I hadn’t known that’s what I was doing. It was a true learning experience. I mentally thanked the bulider for leading me to this deeper understanding.
One of the swallows came into the kitchen shortly after that – I was going to say mistakenly, but I’d like to think something more is going on. I cupped him in my hands and took him to the door to let him out. He seemed to have no nervousness. It meant something to me, that he trusted me to hold him. And I’m relieved to say they have managed to repair their nest, and they are happily swooping around and singing from the roof tops as I write. I look forward to seeing the young practice their flying lessons soon.
This is an example of how paying attention to our own feelings can help us heal, become whole. I thought it was the builder’s fault, he had made this thing happen that made me so unhappy. I thought I was worrying about the swallows and their safety, that it was their plight that was making me uncomfortable. What I discovered was that I was holding onto negative feelings about myself and my chosen path that I wasn’t allowing myself to feel. The situation allowed those negative feelings to come into the light and be released, simply through the decision to feel my discomfort.
And its these feelings that our dogs can feel.
My motto has become
“Follow the discomfort, for that’s where the gold lies”….
I’ll maybe need to work on it to get it a bit more punchy 😉