The book is called Opportunity and its first page is New Year's Day
'‘The other day, I made the decision to move house. It’s time to leave. I've been like the curator of a museum for too long. And the funny thing is, when I made the decision, I said to myself ‘I'm proud of you, Jayne’ and it felt really emotional.’’
Jayne's partner died just before New Year’s Eve five years ago. Jayne had dealt stoically with her terminal illness, dealt with her death and dealt with the aftermath too, supporting the children in their grief. Then, she just 'got on' with her life.
They had planned for their retirement, and now Jayne tried to carry out their plans, but on her own. The routine stayed the same; shopping on Monday, cleaning on Tuesday, golf on Wednesday, an annual holiday to Bournemouth with the family, and so on. It seemed okay for a while but, one morning, Jayne hit an invisible wall.
A deep depression descended on her and she now started to question how she was living her life.
What I was interested in was why Jayne had felt so emotional when she said the words ‘I feel proud of you’ to herself. It seemed to me this had been a real turning point for her and very significant.
Be a good girl
The idea of who we are and what is expected of us develops in childhood. This is driven by, and is under pinned by, the many core beliefs implanted by our environment, culture and family. Like many children of the 40s and 50s, Jayne was the product of a rigid parenting style. There were many unwritten rules and expectations in her family which had become internalised as deeply held beliefs and it felt to Jayne like the love of her parents was dependent upon her always being compliant. The ‘rules’ were:
- Be a good girl
- Do as you are told
- Don't question authority
- Respect your elders
- Don't rock the boat
- Don't make a fuss
- Just get on with it
- Put others first
- Don’t be a cry-baby
When we looked at these powerful beliefs, Jayne realised she had unknowingly been driven by them all her adult life and, even though her parents were long dead, she was still trying to please them; still trying to win their love and feeling guilty when she thought she 'got it wrong.'
So, when her partner died, she just 'got on with it', didn’t make a fuss, put everyone else first and didn’t cry. Jayne had always wanted her parents’ approval but it was with a deep sense of sadness that she realised they had never actually told her they were proud of her.
When she chose to say those words to her self, everything began to change. Professionally, I would describe it as a shift in her ‘locus of evaluation’. In a sense, in that moment, she became her own parent and her own best friend. It explained why the experience had felt so emotional, as she began to release herself from ‘the tyranny of the shoulds’ and the old expectations of the past.
Those words, and what they represented, were so significant for my client, I wanted to help her by bringing into the light something which had been sitting in her subconscious mind for so many years. Harnessing the imagination in guided visualisation is powerful stuff, and something I use regularly as a professional tool.
After I had shown my client how to relax very deeply, I spoke to her softly. Jayne loved the beach and had identified it as a good place to go and relax and meditate, so I used the beach as a setting for an exercise I hoped would finally resolve her inner conflict.
A script for resolution of childhood issues
‘Jayne, you might now find yourself on that familiar beach with soft, golden sand and a turquoise sea
Noticing the movement of the waves as they gently lap the shore
Seeing the shimmering light reflecting on the surface
Gazing out to that distant horizon where the sky comes down to meet the water
Observing the smooth, calm, serene surface of the sea.
And while a part of you can just relax and breathe stress away
Another part of you can become aware of a young girl standing at the edge of the water
And she is you, aged seven, feeling so sad and wanting so badly to hear those special words that mean so much to her
Longing to know she is loved and she is accepted
That she is good enough, just as she is
And, in your imagination, you can walk towards her, reach out and hold her close
And you, the adult, can tell that little girl exactly what she needs to hear ‘Jayne, I am so proud of you’
And you can fold your arms around her now, support her and make her a promise
‘Jayne, I will always be here for you. I will always support you and I will guide you. You have nothing to prove. You do not need to win my love. I love you, just as you are.’
As I gently spoke the words to Jayne, large silent tears rolled down her cheeks from behind closed eyes and she let out a long sigh like she was setting down a heavy burden. In her imagination, I encouraged her to throw away the old rulebook that had confined her for so long, watching it sink without trace into the deep blue sea.
Now she was finally free to live a life without guilt. Afterwards, she told me the experience was ‘cathartic’.
These days, Jayne describes herself as ‘a work in progress.’ She's moved on with her plans to relocate and, with every cupboard she clears, and every box she sends to the charity shop, she says she feels lighter and less burdened.
Five years after the death of her partner, as another New Year approached, Jayne had a moment of insight about endings, beginnings and the power of letting go that would change her life forever.
Moving from one year to another is much like moving house and, in that moment of transition from the one to the other, we have a choice about what we take with us and what we leave behind.
As Jayne came to realise, a New Year, like a new house, promises so much and presents us with a true opportunity for a fresh start. It reminded me of a quote from author/philosopher Vern Mclellan
‘What the New Year brings to us will depend on what we bring to the New Year’