Fall

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This is officially the first day of autumn or fall in the northern hemisphere. The beginning of Keats’ Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

The aspen change minute to minute outside my window, becoming gold. The temperature drops.

For some people there is a tinge of melancholy but for others this is a time for new beginnings, changes, re-adjustments – habits begun with the cycle of the school year and which go deep and continue,

Journal prompt: What does autumn/fall mean to you? What changes do you notice in yourself, in your surroundings as the season changes?

Are you looking for a new educational, professional or domestic activity? Check out the local or online offerings for groups or classes that interest you, make your ‘to do’ list including the ‘want to do’ items.

Do you have a favourite poem or book for this time of year? (leave a comment at the bottom of this post). Ali Smith’s novel  Autumn, called by the New York Times ‘the first great Brexit novel‘, came out a year ago but still seems timely and uplifting – celebrating the connectivity of people and things in uncertain or confusing times.

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A Writing & Hiking Workshop in Boulder, Colorado

Books…..

Environmental Expressive Therapies: Nature-Assisted Theory and Practice (Paperback) book cover

 This is a  new textbook which covers a wide range of creative therapies, and how people incorporate nature into the work. Mary Reynolds Thompson & I co-authored the chapter:

Inner and Outer Landscapes: Bringing Environment into the therapeutic relationship through Expressive Writing

 

 Don’t forget:you can request this or any of the other titles from your local library

Journal Prompt: Explore your relationship with reading over your life – has it changed? Can you remember learning to read? Who was involved with your early reading?

What ‘bookish’ memories come to you?

A version of the following article appeared in the June edition of Integrating Connections

I am a compulsive reader – I read to learn about the world and to understand my own world. The urge to create a meaningful narrative from the events of a life, to understand and to learn, is one of the reasons people come to psychotherapy. Psychotherapists and authors might therefore agree that we read to make sense of our lives and our experience.

Sometimes our professional and personal lives align in a novel in ways that can illuminate both. Recently I picked up a couple of novels from the New Books Shelf at my local library. By chance, they both contained adoption themes:

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane – Lisa See

A Book of American Martyrs – Joyce Carol Oates

I work a lot with clients with adoption stories (from different parts of the adoption triad). I run a group for adoptees. I am an adoptee. Perhaps this makes me particularly sensitive to these themes; I know I am profoundly grateful when I find them. These stories occur in adult fiction from Wuthering Heights to The Orphan Train. Children’s literature has always been full of adoption stories  – think of Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, The Once and Future King. Novels are extra resources I can suggest to clients and show me new perspectives on their stories and my own.


The Novel Cure – An A-Z of Literary Remedies (Berthoud and Elderkin 2013) has a very short section on adoption – if you have come across any books (fiction, non-fiction – as I said, I’m eclectic) with these themes please do let me know at kate@katethompsontherapy.com or leave a note on this post.

Doorways, thresholds and liminal spaces……

How many thresholds do you cross each day? How many doorways do you pass through? These can be literal (your front door, the grocery store, workplace) or metaphorical (moving between parts of the self, embracing a new activity, authoring a change in behaviour). Do you linger in front of the doorway, pause in that liminal space or cross the threshold boldly, with determination?

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Journal prompt: Make a list of doorways you enter and thresholds you cross as you go through your normal life. Make a map of your day by listing the thresholds you cross – see how many times a day you make that decision.

Adrienne Rich’s poem Prospective Immigrants Please Note  begins:

Either you will
go through this door
or you will not go through.

The poet weighs up the possible implications of going through and then of not going through:

If you do not go throughdoorway
it is possible
to live worthily

to maintain your attitudes
to hold your position
to die bravely

but much will blind you,
much will evade you,
at what cost who knows?

 

The poem ends:

The door itself makes no promises.
It is only a door.

Click here for Adrienne Rich reading her poem.

The poem tells ‘prospective immigrants’ that going through the door will involve both losses and gains, but that there are choices to be made about how to live, and consequences of choices. In that sense we are all immigrants and face those choices often.

So what does crossing the threshold mean for you?

Journal Prompt: What is the door in front of you right now? What is on the other side? What is the choice you are being asked to make? What holds you back? Imagine you open the door – will you go through?

We also have choices about what to take through the doorway and what to leave behind, for example, from one year to the next.

Journal prompt: What have you brought with you from 2016? What have you left behind?

(In December I became a citizen of the United States of America. I went through the door,  I’m waiting to see what is on the other side.)

 

Reading and reflecting….

turkeys-in-the-snow
Happy Thanks Giving Turkeys

Reading is one way of finding solace in uncertain times – and reading about other people’s lives can help us think about our own in new ways.

Writer Alexander Masters discovered 148 diaries (or journals) in a skip in Cambridge. He, of course, tried to make sense of the life described. Eventually his exploration became his book A Life Discarded: 148 diaries discovered in the trash and as readers we come to understand the title refers to both the diaries as representative of a life, and the lived life of the diarist.

The entries from this time raise the interesting idea that, although Laura wrote the diaries, she didn’t read the. She filled the pages but didn’t know what they said.

A Life Discarded p 195

Masters recognises her missed opportunity:

Laura clearly did not read what she wrote, or did not understand what her words meant…she did not grasp the essential message of these pages, which any other reader spots at the first glance: namely, that …

A Life Discarded p197

So journal or diary writing alone is not productive; it provides the seeds for learning and insight but another stage is necessary – that of reading and reflecting. Jean-Paul Sartre reminds us that every writer needs a reader – and in journal therapy we can be both writer and reader.

As I thought, catharsis is not enough, though for many it is the necessary first step.

Do you read your own journal entries?

If not you may be be missing the key opportunity for reflection and insight, the way to turn your journal into a healing tool.

Journal Prompt:

the-first-snow
The first snow

Look back over one of your journal entries. Read it through and then write a few sentences of feedback to yourself beginning:

When I read this I notice……..

When I read this I feel…………..

The Feedback Loop (Thompson 2010 p34) is a simple process with real therapeutic gains. It’s also one that we all forget to do  – especially in difficult times.

Leave a comment on this post and share your experience of this process.

And of course:

What are you reading at this time?