Morning! I hope that you've all had a great week - I've had another busy one and it's been particularly warm in all of our offices in BS3. I hear it's going to be boiling this weekend too, though I am away for the next few days on some further CPD on couples counselling. So here are a few links that I found interesting, I hope that you do too.
1) The Difference Between Love And Lust, According To Relationship Experts - Huffpost
2) Forty years since Fat Is A Feminist Issue - The Guardian
3) Anxiety had made my world too small. To open it up, I needed to say yes - The Pool
I mentioned last week that I had struggled with the fact that I had been so busy living - going to see Esther Perel speak in London which I blogged about here - and taking a trip to France, where I plan to move to one day - that I felt bad for falling behind with my blogging schedule and social media presence.
Part of the way that I work to differentiate myself from the multitude of other therapists in Bristol is about anticipating the wants and needs of my clients. I've done things like work into the evening to accommodate those who work full-time jobs - interestingly this is not something that many counsellors choose to do. I have an instant online booking facility where clients can check my availability without needing the back-and-forth of an email exchange and can book independently of me. I offer online counselling via a telemedicine portal for those who don't live locally to my office (and this is something that I shall be focussing on in the next few months). I will also shortly be offering email counselling for those who prefer to write their thoughts rather than speak them.
And I blog. Because I love to write, but also because I enjoy sharing my thoughts with my past, current and present clients and this can spur conversations in sessions, or encourage someone to make contact to work on a particular subject with some confidence that I have some knowledge of the subject that they would like to talk about.
So when I don't blog, when I don't share my thoughts and interests - I feel as though I am letting others down. It doesn't feel great. But when the reason that I'm not blogging or posting on Instagram is that I'm living my life, doing the things that make me feel good as an individual - then I need to notice that the price that I'm paying for having the space in my life to travel or spend time with friends, or even rest - is necessary and proper. That I should be okay with sacrificing my schedule and routine some of the time - when it is in service of my other long-term goals and my mental or physical health.
Today I start my third set of intensive French lessons with Alliance Francaise. I've studied with them before when I lived in Devon, and it was an obvious choice for me to go back to them for an intensive course in preparation for my one-day move to France. The "problem" is that it takes 2 hours out of my regular work hours, twice a week. After reflecting on this I'm now comfortable that this is in service of my other goals in life, and that to live to work, rather than work to live is not the ethos that I want my self-employed life to embody. Are they words that you can say that you live by too?
That's my first full week back in the office after a fortnight of running around trying to do all of the things I would like to, while also working. It's been tricky but worth it. I've managed to see Esther Perel speak in London, which has long been an ambition of mine. I also managed to fit in another break to France, where I plan to move to in the future, to get more research in. So this week of regular office hours and minimal travel has been very welcome.
I say all this as I am about to run off to London for the evening for a meeting - so I'm conscious of the conflict there! And as I often say, being aware is half of the battle.
So here are some links that caught my eye very recently, perhaps we can both read them on our travels this evening.
1) Sheila Heti: ‘Not having children is seen as a minor crime against humanity’ - i Paper
2) Maintaining a healthy relationship with alcohol is an ongoing project - The Pool
3) The good men: inside the all-male group taking on modern masculinity - The Guardian
I've had a really busy fortnight. So busy that I haven't even attempted to blog or do any kind of social media posts.
At first, I started to feel guilty for not posting, not sitting down to write when I needed to be doing other things, travelling, scheduling, doing admin. It wasn't a great feeling. It brings about anxiety, concern around taking time off. But I'll talk about that more next week.
So on the 5th June, I took a trip up to London to see Esther Perel speak on the subject of lasting love at The School of Life in London .
The talk began with an introduction from the organisation's founder Alain de Botton, (his book "Art as Therapy" is a mainstay of my office's therapy book collection) to Esther's background and the subject matter of the evening.
Esther took the stage and introduced herself and gave some context to her talk, mentioning her books "Mating in Captivity" and "The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity" as well as her work and research of over a decade into relationships and couples' therapy.
Seeing her speak after so many years of reading her words, watching YouTube videos and listening to podcasts was almost surreal and it was endearing for her to begin her talk with openness and honesty around her own marriage stating:
"We all have our own relationship stuff to work out. The only question is with whom... not if... the question is who will it be with?".
This kind of honesty is something that I often try to bring to my own sessions with couples and individuals alike, remembering that we are all people, with issues to work upon. We are all fallible. I mention this because I'm no great fan of a hierarchy. I enjoy the privileged role of facilitator in therapy, but I remind all of my clients that I'm not there to advise them, or tell them what to do.
Esther talked about the difficulty that humans have in reconciling the two fundamental needs of security and desire in one person. That what nurtures love is not necessarily what serves desire - and that is something that many of those who choose long-term monogamy must learn to balance if a relationship is to survive decades of familiarity.
Love comes with care and responsibility. Desire needs movement, wanting what we don't have. To balance these Esther recommends that we do our best not to think of our partner as belonging to us. Not to take for granted that they will always be there. That a little anxiety keeps us wanting the other - it reminds us that we can't be sure that we will always have them.
She went on to talk about infidelity and how affairs happen not just in relationships that are beyond help, but in good relationships too. Often as a result of a feeling of emotional deadness that has crept up on us. That we might not want to leave our partners - but that through an affair we want to find a new self.
Affairs are about longing and loss. And sometimes in life, we find ourselves in a relationship which might feel like we are playing a role that we did not audition for - and thinking upon how different our lives might have been. We should remember that no-one has an affair to take care of someone else. That it is about resolving our own needs and longings, resentments and sadnesses. We are responsible for all of those things.
Finally, after some questions, talks around childhoods and how the attachment styles that we adopt as a result of our upbringings affect our choice of mates - Esther was asked if she knew any of the secrets to long and loving relationships. She replied:
"Firstly, monogamy is not natural, it's a societal construct. The system that we have set up demands from us certain boundaries. Secondly, we must know that we never truly know what is going on with the other person and that they need to remain "other" for the relationship to survive".
Wise words indeed. Does any of that resonate with you? I know it does with me.
Laura is an online talking therapist and writer specialising in working with millennials and the LGBTQI+ community.