So, after a very good recovery from my mastectomy I awoke yesterday with immense pain which I am reliably informed is a result of my over doing things! It should be no surprise that my wonderful friends have rallied around, taking my children to school, bringing me food, making me toast and generally making sure I’m OK. Every since I decided to proceed with the operation they have supported me, and helped me with the practical things. I’m sure none of them know how much this means to me.
This year I undertook at Counselling course at Goldsmiths College. Such a course inevitably leads to a lot of self-reflection. There are two things in particular that I have realised I define myself by and which give me meaning. One is that I feel an overwhelming need to be busy. By this I mean to take part in as many activities and experience as much of life as I can and the other is that I define myself very much by my reationships.
I have been drawn to the work of Carl Rogers and his belief in the human capacity to strive for fulfillment and greater integration. Self exploration and analysis lead me to the pursuit of growth, which genuinely occupies me. Over recent years I have taken up many new hobbies, active fundraising through experiences like skydiving and fire walking, studying, volunteering and am always visiting new places and trying new places. This relates to my self concept as a person who is useful, seeks to make a difference and try new things. My friends have absolultly supported me in this.
Rogers looked at the work of Raimy and defined the idea of the self-concept being about the ‘perceptions of the self which are admissible to awareness.’ The perceptions may be related to abilities, environment values and experiences. I’m interested in those parts of myself I am not aware of. I wonder what I see in myself that differs from what my frinds see.
Johari’s window is a self-awareness tool I have always been drawn to ( –http://www.selfawareness.org.uk/news/understanding-the-johari-window-model) which defines the self into four areas, those areas known to the self and others, those known to others and not the self, those known to the self and not to others and those hidden from the self and others. I wonder what the perception I have of myself is to that of others. I consider myself to be transparent person which is interesting as I was a very shy child and have transformed into someone more sure of themselves. I think this has partly come about because of my pursuit of new experiences and my adoption of a growth mindset. I wonder whether others define me in the same ways I do and at times I doubt myself and wonder if people find me too honest or too passionate or generally difficult. Friends regularly joke about my compulsion to be busy and so it is something that very much forms part of my outward identity. I wonder if others view it as a positive or negative attribute.
Van Deurzen (2002: 43) argues that existential anxiety and therapy is about finding your own purpose and living authentically: as your conscience dictates and being true to yourself. This really resonates with my in terms of attitude and drive, and I must be honest and acknowledge I have a fear of discovering I have been living inauthentically and ending my life with regret: this is what spurs me on. I seek to live visibly in accordance with my own value base which I relate to the Gandhi quote ‘Be the change that you wish to see in the world.’ and the Neil deGrasse Tyson quote ‘For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others.” (Both quotes taken from Goodreads.com). I have both written on my wall. I am aware this might sound sanctimonious but it really means a lot to me.
I have concluded that activeness is tied up with my self concept and the conditions of worth I place upon myself. I strive to be useful, to make a difference and be of value and without this I feel lost. I then wonder does that make my actions in helping others to be self-serving?
Analysing myself it is clear that being a good friend is a major part of my perceived identity, in regards to how I view myself. I’m fortunate to have a lot of very enriching friendships. For the last two weeks being reliant on others and not being able to give anything back has been a new experince, this coupled with my inability to be as busy as usual has forced me to look at myself in a different light and accept that sometimes I cannot take control and must accept help.
But what of what my friendships bring to me. In On Becoming A Person Rogers gave the hypothesis ‘If I can provide a certain type of relationship, the other person will discover within himself the capacity to use the relationship for growth.’ Over the past two years, particularly since I lost my mum, this has really been the case for me. I’ve been enthused to try new things and, most importantly I’ve found acceptance of myself as a person who is fine as they are. Carl Rogers also said ‘It is only when I have accepted myself that I can change.’ Like most people I used to worry about what people thought of me. I was never popular at school, the way I walk, dress and talk seemed to annoy some people. As I have grown in confidence I honestly have little regard for if I am not to some people’s taste. I strive to be a better version of me, not someone else, but me with more knowledge and making more of a difference. You know what makes that possible? Supportive friendships that are characterised by acceptance, encourement and a genuine want of the best for you.
So as I write this from my sofa where I convalese, knowing two of my friends are coming over to help me later I just want to say to my friends, thank you so much for letting me be me.