When people come for therapy, it is always because, on some level, something needs to change. Whilst it is true that there are often external influences in our lives that hinder our ability to thrive, to change what is outside of ourselves, when possible, can only go so far. The real transformation, the lasting change, comes from the internal shape-shifting, re-storying and realignment that we do. These are the changes that build resilience, that lead us to value ourselves, and relish without shame, the unique combination of strengths and flaws that make us who we are. For like the mythical bird, the Phoenix, there is only ever one of us.
There are legends spanning continents, religions and cultures that refer to a glorious bird that symbolises renewal, resilience, starting afresh. The earliest version belongs to the ancient Egyptians, who called it Bannu, and it was the ancient Greeks who named it Phoenix, closely linked to the Phoenicians. What links all versions of the Phoenix are its strength, long life, sparkle and wondrousness. But there always comes a time when it knows it needs to be “reborn” and so it builds a special nest where the old version of itself burns and from the ashes a new, stronger and breathtaking Phoenix emerges. At any one time, there is only one Phoenix.
As humans, like the Phoenix, we sometimes need a “nest”, a safe space, in which to stop what we are doing, take stock and rebuild ourselves. Unlike the Phoenix, we do not need to set ourselves on fire, nor, indeed, die, in order for this transformation to take place. And, as humans, we have the chance to share our safe space with another, or others. That might be someone close to us, who can help support us through troubled times. It can also be a therapist, who will sit with us, explore with us and help us work out what is truly ours to carry forward, and what needs to be shed in order to live as our most resplendent selves.
We inevitably pick up dust in our feathers, along the course of life. Sticky bits that slow us down, make going about our lives tiring or painful, create a sense of not really being ourselves and make us anxious. Therapists, irrespective of what model they practice, aim to help us understand what is truly ours and what we have picked up or been given to carry along the way: habits; ways of thinking; unhealed wounds etc. Therapists set out to create a safe space in which we can shake out our feathers and watch the dust cloud settle, be with us as we get used to the new feelings and mourn the loss of what was familiar, despite not being wanted. Above all, therapists want to help us rise from the ashes of our suffering and, along with our scars – for they are part of our uniqueness, leave the nest refreshed, enlivened and true to ourselves.