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A Turning Point

I entered the field of psychology relatively late in life. My previous career, although successful, had felt imposed upon me by circumstance, rather than authored in any meaningful way. 2010 marked a turning point, one that would ultimately end in a professional career in psychology. Two events stand out for me; my wife and I volunteered to facilitate a community based 12-step addiction recovery program (-ARP), and I made an appointment to see a psychologist regarding a problem I had struggled with for some time. Together these events began a ground shift in my self-awareness and a dissolution of the pretence that had characterized so much of my life.

Getting Real

Both therapy and the ARP required, what I felt, were terrifying levels of self-disclosure. My life experiences, to date, had discouraged either privately facing or publicly expressing “unacceptable” or “shameful” thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Unwanted or distressing private events were to be hidden, suppressed, or strictly controlled. Being eternally “happy” and “normal” was the only (but unattainable) way to be!

Now I was being asked to do the opposite; openly accept and express unhappy aspects of myself that I had been convinced I should attempt to disengage with or deny in order to save face.
To my real surprise, my honest self-disclosure was met with acceptance and compassion, rather than judgment. I had believed I was unique in my struggles, I alone had thoughts and fantasies that were awful, selfish, or taboo. Self-disclosure of similar thoughts by other group members was wonderfully comforting and provided me with a kind of “welcome to the human race” feeling. It was relieving to learn that suffering was an everyday state of affairs (and not some mental “disease”) and that it was, after all, normal to be “abnormal.”

More of a self

I experienced “more of a self” as I began to slowly abandon my futile efforts to hide from, escape or control these previously denied or “unwanted” aspects of my life. Making room for them in a less judgemental, more accepting, and compassionate way, allowed me to be more mindful and present. I learned to view unwanted experiences and emotions as a gift and that when vowed with an attitude of openness and curiosity, rather than denial and flight, these experiences and emotions had much to teach me. I learned to “disengage” from distressing thoughts, seeing them as transitory mental activity, rather than indisputable fact.
Overly harsh judgement and self-criticism, combined with an aversion to distressing emotion, had locked me into my “analytical” mind and created a toxic combination that interfered with my capacity to be “present” in the precious here-and-now of my life. The result was a constricted life, without much moment-to-moment contact with immediate events and people. I was left with an inwardly focused escape to worry, regret, fantasy, and intellectualism. A distracting background drone that was seldom silent.
I had created an “I’m all good” façade, out of a desire for connection and intimacy. But of course, a façade cannot be connected with, and others were instead left silently questioning where the “not so good” half of me had gone? Perhaps my previous addictions and compulsions had been an effort to compensate for the vacuum left by this poverty of connection and self? In hindsight, I recognized that to deny or hide any of our human experience, even if those experiences cause us distress, constricts our lives, and sickens our spirits.

Charles Clark
HPCSA registration PRC0039209
BHF Practice Number 9990810000960071

The Price of Avoidance

Ironically, the price I had been paying for my avoidance was impoverished relationships. Now I found quality and intimacy to this more transparent connection, developed with my therapist, members of the 12-step-group and significant others, that I had not previously experienced, but had unconsciously longed for. I was finally allowing others to get to really see and know me, and I them.
I witnessed similar changes with others in the 12-step-program. The small part I was playing in their recovery brought me tremendous satisfaction. There was a sense of gratification and meaning in this work that I had not experienced previously.
My past immaturity had distracted me from my values and life direction, but no longer. “Natural attraction” replaced “aversion” and I could finally hear that previously silenced, authentic, inner voice. I responded by enrolling at the South African College of Applied Psychology. The start of a professional career is more aligned with my identity, passions, and interests.

I maintain a private practice in Dainfern, Midrand, and it is in my practice where I provide evidence-based and person-centred counselling & strategies to facilitate behaviour change.
If you’re ready to schedule a session with me or have any additional questions about my practice, I look forward to speaking with you!

The Price of Avoidance

Ironically, the price I had been paying for my avoidance was impoverished relationships. Now I found quality and intimacy to this more transparent connection, developed with my therapist, members of the 12-step-group and significant others, that I had not previously experienced, but had unconsciously longed for. I was finally allowing others to get to really see and know me, and I them.
I witnessed similar changes with others in the 12-step-program. The small part I was playing in their recovery brought me tremendous satisfaction. There was a sense of gratification and meaning in this work that I had not experienced previously.
My past immaturity had distracted me from my values and life direction, but no longer. “Natural attraction” replaced “aversion” and I could finally hear that previously silenced, authentic, inner voice. I responded by enrolling at the South African College of Applied Psychology. The start of a professional career is more aligned with my identity, passions, and interests.

 

 

Charles Clark
HPCSA registration PRC0039209
BHF Practice Number 9990810000960071

I maintain a private practice in Dainfern, Midrand, and it is in my practice where I provide evidence-based and person-centred counselling & strategies to facilitate behaviour change.
If you’re ready to schedule a session with me or have any additional questions about my practice, I look forward to speaking with you!

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