Holistic Centre for Body, Mind & Spirit

THROUGH THE OTHER DOOR

This month, we hand over our feature to a friend of Anam Cara’s. For four years, he has worked with us as a supplier on the business side of things, helping us communicate and market ourselves as the business has developed and grown. Then we said ‘You’ve been working with us for four years, observing from the outside. Isn’t it about time you tried a session of therapy yourself?’ He said yes (after a while), and this is what he wrote afterwards...
Anam Cara is an interesting place to be an outsider. It has a curious energy all of its own and an underlying sense of both seriousness and compassion. Where other companies have to learn to act as if they have real concern for their customers, Anam Cara shows what it really looks like when that concern is genuine, heartfelt and spontaneous. People are treated with respect, and they repay the service they receive with trust and openness.
Yet somehow, what they are offering is for some - like me - daunting. Many of us are well aware of our imperfections and compromises, our dissatisfactions and worries...but somehow it's a case of the better the devil you know. If life is ok, work is ok, relationships are ok, then isn't 'ok' enough?
So I stepped into the room where Sonia does her therapy sessions. I hadn't crossed that threshold before, it was the door I always walked past as we went to our meetings. Today wasn’t about work, passing civilities or drinking coffee (I tried, I was refused). It was about me. This was strange. Not many of us feel comfortable talking about ourselves. As I sat on the sofa, however, the weight of expectancy sat heavy on my shoulders. This was the first time I'd been in the building without knowing what I was talking about.
I'd been running the opening moments over and over in my head in the days before my session with Sonia. How will it start? What should I say? What should we cover? Will she be looking for meaning behind every word I say, however flippant?
I've always been a better listener than talker. Talking about myself seems impossibly self-indulgent and inward-looking, when all the real problems in the world are 'out there' for all to see. What about the millions of people with real problems? What would they make of me sitting on a comfortable sofa about to talk about myself, while they are facing war, disease, famine or other life-and-death situations?
Anyway, it was talk or sit in silence for the remaining 118 minutes of our session, so talk I did. Not just me. But mostly me. Having made a fairly pedestrian stab at an opening, we were soon on to issues entirely unrelated (or so it seemed initially) to what I began talking about. From not knowing what to say, I soon had so many lines of thought crashing around my head that I lost the majority of them, having to pursue the one that was shouting loudest. I wonder if the other ones will come back?
As I spoke, Sonia listened and reflected my thoughts in such a way that connections became clear between apparently discrete and diverse issues. As these connections emerged, they made total sense. In fact, they were not entirely unfamiliar but I'd never previously been able (or perhaps willing) to devote time to these nascent thoughts to allow them to crystallise. Drawing on her theoretical knowledge and practical experience, Sonia also added a context to what I was saying. It was reassuring to know that my thoughts and actions were understandable but equally disappointing to be so predictable. Perhaps I've watched too many films - but who wouldn't want to be the genius who flummoxes the expert?
Anyway, life is not a film. We spoke. I recalled things I didn't know were important, things from many years ago. I was able to talk about them with the objectivity of someone who has rationalised them. Remarkably, though, Sonia seemed to be feeling what I must have felt when these things happened all those years ago. She was living the emotions of the experiences as I spoke about them, emotions I had long since consigned to a different compartment in my brain, a compartment with a good, solid 'Do not enter' barrier all around it.
How exhausting her work must be. To experience her clients' emotions as if they were her own. Again and again and again. But this is her work, her calling and I know she does not resent it.
We continued. We made connections between experiences, travelled down lots of different routes - a few dead-ends but mostly roads that began to look long and winding. I arrived at Anam Cara that day wanting to know where I was heading and what the result would be - but travelling the road is of more interest to Sonia than the destination. The destination is simply a result of the journey travelled.
Despite a hesitant start, I could see now the clock was ticking towards the end of our two hours. I was disappointed. I threw in a few thoughts that needed to be said but were impossible to explore in a few minutes. My way, perhaps, of saying 'thanks for doing this with me. Can we do some more?'
Afterwards, thoughts continued to rattle around. Looking ahead made me feel at once nervous, curious, fearful, excited, impatient, relieved, energised. Contradictory and confused feelings - yes; but that's life isn't it?
I've worked with Anam Cara for years and heard countless other peoples' stories. Now it's my story. The journey has started. The rubicon has been crossed. As you move from child to adult, you experience the starkness of the unknown less and less, you get used to knowing what's coming next. No more the feeling of fear as you walk into a new school or class or situation. Until something like this. It's slightly unnerving. Knowing Anam Cara as I do, however, I think it'll be ok.