I worked hard on my flower beds this weekend…given the rain we’ve had the last couple of days, it seemed like this would give them a good soak right after they got planted…and if I waited for the sunshine, it might be a long while before I could get into the dirt, given the rainfall that was forecasted for days to come.
I’d put off the spring gardening for a while…some of it due to schedule…and some of it due to bugs.I hate bugs.I avoid bugs, as well as activities that provide exposure to bugs. But I do like flowers…even more than I hate bugs…so I took a deeep breath, put on gloves to create a barrier between the bugs and I, and launched into the weeding, and preparing the earth.
As I was gardening, I was reminded of the work I do as a therapist…the logo of Bergen and Associates Counselling is that of a seed in the dirt…with the reality that a seed planted in the cold wet mud is an uncomfortable, painful, and broken place to be…and yet ironically, are ideal conditions for growth.
The years of working with clients (and being a client myself, on occasion) have taught me how difficult it is to be in painful situations…and yet that pain is often the catalyst to face things that have been “under the radar” and not explored.A richness and healing comes that wasn’t a possibility before.
So…as I was planting the flowers this weekend, I was faced with a tough choice.My friend who has super great success with planting a garden fit for a queen has told me how she, after planting all the flowers–she pinches off every last little bloom on the baby plants.
That hurts just typing it.
It’s counterintuitive really…to plant flowering plants because of the desire to see the beautiful blooms, and the moment they are first planted, to take every last flowering bit and nip it off.
I think it’s just wrong.
I dislike this more than I dislike bugs (which is saying a lot!).
But she does this with a purpose…when the first blooms are plucked off,it allows energy that would normally go into those first flowers to instead go into developing the root system.It also encourages growth of more little branches and stems…plants that have those first flowers plucked off when planted end up with fuller, bushier plants that bear more flowers.In the big picture, pinching those early blooms is worth it.
Only thing is, after a loooooong winter with months of “white” outside, my Winterpeg eyes are starved for color…and so pinching those first beautiful purple, pink and yellow flowers is something that goes against everything in me. So, when I planted the plants, I debated.
To pluck or not to pluck, that is the question.
But I did it…a deep breath (each time) and I pinched those little beautiful babies off. (OK, I kept the few buds on, rationalizing that because they weren’t in full flowers they didn’t count.)
And then today, as I walked by the basil, I pinched the top leaves off each branch…again because of the promise of a fuller plant.
As I did so (because I’m a contemplative therapist, and I am a little nerdy when it comes to quietly doing things with my hands allowing me lots of time to think), I was reminded of the courage of clients, who come to therapy prepared to grow.The pain of ________ (anxiety, depression, a conflicted marriage, etc.) is cold wet uncomfortable and painful soil.They come to therapy for relief from the ruts they find themselves in, looking for solace and comfort with a therapist.
Yet, many of them, in the process of exploring and discussing the different layers of their inner experience, find themselves feeling like the blossoms are being plucked.
And guess who the bloom-plucking gardener is?
For the record, I take no delight in people experiencing pain in the counselling room.It is truly hard to watch.Painful as clients and I collectively take a deep breath, and look at something from a unique angle to gain a better understanding….and doing so, creates an initial experience of further pain.
- It’s so much easier to blame others…it hurts to see one’s
unique role in perpetuating a painful cycle.
- It’s so much easier to just focus on “mad”…when the reason
for that “mad” is a huge “sad”…and looking at and acknowledging the reality of
the “sad” hurts.A lot.
- It hurts to be vulnerable and say things that are true and
real, but have been deliberately hidden from a spouse…not even because they are
so awful, but because it’s scary to be so very open…gosh, those risk taking
events are bloom-plucking experiences if there ever were any.
Many who read this have been or are clients who have been in counselling…and you are probably aware of how these painful blossom-pinching experiences hurt.It stings to leave a session where you have begun exploring a new level of understanding of something that you’ve avoided for a long time. When counselling is supposed to “make you feel better”, and you leave a session feeling worse…that’s no fun…yuck.
Just want to let you know that I, and many I’ve spoken to in my professional over the years, well…we admire the courage you have. Please know that we take no pleasure in nipping off blooms…but we are committed to doing so, if you let us know that this is why you’ve come.
We honor the chutzpah you have in being willing to risk with us…and we don’t take that honor lightly.We are aware of how there are times when, in the short term, therapy hurts.However, we don’t shy away from this, and will continue to do so…because we have walked this road, and believe it to be worth it in the big picture.
The discoveries, and the growth, and the greater healing are worth it.We know the pinching hurts, and we endeavor to do some “first aid” to support the pain that the therapy itself can create, to do it at a pace and level that is tolerable…but we don’t avoid conversations that may result in pain-with-a-purpose…to do so would be taking care of our own comfort, and not honoring you with the right for the very best opportunity to gain maximal benefit from therapy.
So, I will continue to be in conversations where clients will feel plucked and pruned at times…but will have an even greater awareness of it after my ponderin’ of it this weekend in my garden.I don’t take the work of therapy lightly. Let a therapist know when something hurts…and ensure that the pain is serving a valuable purpose, and that you have resources to deal with it…and know the therapist is very aware of how the work of therapy itself can create pain. We do so gently and carefully and thoughtfully, and deliberately…and with great respect.