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  • "I felt it shelter to speak to you." ~Emily Dickinson

    It is scary to be a beginner.

    This weekend I am learning how to be a psychotherapy supervisor in Bristol. It is scary. To do supervision in front of a group of experienced psychotherapists. To expose my hopes, my vulnerabilities, my mistakes.

    And yet. I feel that I am in the shelter of the group. They want me to grow. They hold me with their warmth. It is a safe space.

    It didn't start out this way. I met these people a few months ago, and they most certainly did not feel safe!

    How do we find the shelter that Dickinson is speaking of in our everyday lives? How can we find the people, groups and places that become our havens?

    Our instinct is to protect ourselves from pain (rejection/ridicule/judgement etc), and to be very careful about what we share, how we share it, and who we share it with. We have good reasons for this. We have been hurt and disappointed in the past, and the longer ago the hurt, the deeper it cuts.

    We might hold back from saying we felt upset with our friend for standing us up, because we're worried they might get annoyed. Or from asking if we can have a window open because we're burning up (but everyone else might be feeling chilly). Or from sharing our anger, as it wasn't safe to do this when we were growing up.

    I propose that the only way to find shelter is to do the opposite of what we instinctively do.

    To take a little risk, and to speak our truth.

    To walk along that big old open path, like the walker in the photo above (which is called 'the shelter is this way').

    I did this with my group when I told them I felt like an outsider on the first weekend (as I trained with a different school to everybody else), and then shared that I felt like I'd had a 'chip on my shoulder' for our first few days together. It felt shameful to share. I blushed as I said it.

    Others in the group have also shared their truth by speaking about a fear of being judged or their impatience with the group process.

    As we've heard each other, and nobody has run screaming from the room or kicked anyone out (this is actually rarer than you might imagine), it has become a safer place. We have created shelter for each other. As we continue to meet, the shelter gets cosier and cosier.

    This way of finding shelter sometimes involves bruises. We might share something and the other person might not receive us in the way we hoped. Unfortunately, other people are human beings and just as prone to getting things wrong as we are.

    And that's OK too.

    It helps to remember that there is bigger container, which holds us safe. The mountains and the sky in the photo. The sun in the sky, which shines whether or not the clouds are between us and it (and there have been a lot of clouds recently!). If you don't believe in this bigger container right now, then that's fine - you can borrow my faith in it until your own returns. It'll work just as well.

    The shelter is all around you, really.


    'The shelter is this way' by WarzauWynn with gratitude.
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