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  • Fe Robinson

Meaningful metaphors

I have a gnarled old piece of wood that sits on my desk in my therapy room. I picked it up years ago in some woodland near Durham, I liked the shape and so took it home. Back then it was still covered in bark. Over the years the bark has fallen off, cracks have emerged and expanded, and the colour of the wood has lightened.

One of my kids asked me the other day what it was doing there. Excellent question I thought. The answer was easy, it’s being there. While it’s inanimate, to me it has a liveliness. It sits there, unmoving, and yet changes with time. To me it’s beautiful. I don’t ask anything of it, or it of me, and yet somehow within me it raises a smile. It connects me to the moment I picked it up, evoking the woodland and nature. It’s roughness and cracks remind me of the imperfections of life, of me, my clients, my family…it helps me remember there is no perfect, and that that is a good thing.

Beside the piece of wood sits a large stone. It’s just the right size to fill my palm, and it came from a beach locally a while ago. This one was chosen by my children. In moments when I feel heady, or less connected to my body, I find it helpful to hold the stone, to feel it’s weight in my hand grounding me. It’s smooth texture is soothing and it’s markings evoke in me a sense of time passing, and the steadiness of the earth through time. The way it fits in my hand gives me a sense of belonging and rightness, we fit together nicely.

As I reflected, I noticed my home is full of things that have meaning and evoke memories, feelings and thoughts. With this comes a sense of belonging, of place, of my story.

The funny thing is, like the objects we keep and display, our story keeps evolving, it is never still. Artefacts have their moment or their season, and our relationship with them changes. What serves us to have around us changes, and that is as it should be.

It’s useful to mental health to be mindful of the spaces you occupy, and what is contained with them. What associations and meanings do these things evoke? Are they helpful? What do they tell you about the current story of your life? What do you want to keep? What does it feel time to change?

For now, the wood and the rock are staying. I continue to enjoy their rich symbolism, which will in time change, and at that point I might just move them.

For help in understanding and reshaping your relationship with yourself and your story, psychotherapy may be useful. To find out more, check out the UKCP therapists directory, or get in touch.


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