hi all. I wanted to offer something up that I really hope will be of help to some of you that could benefit from knowing this.
at the very beginning of 2020 I had the immense privilege of attending a rehab in scotland (which is its official title but is now what I refer to as the university of life) for 12 weeks
one thing happened there that has changed my life in such a profound way and I wanted to share it with you all in case it helps anyone to navigate the harder parts of human relationships and life in general
one morning I attended a men’s meeting at 9am. my amazing therapist jim ferguson happened to be the facilitator that particular morning. as the meeting began he asked me to read the preamble, a piece of text read out before each meeting to set the intention for that hour.
This was after many of us in that room had been there for 8 weeks plus. so the preamble was so familiar it had lost some of its power. that day I looked round at the men and thought if I injected some life and colour into the reading of it it might lift some of the more depressed spirits that morning up a little and help the meeting be really beneficial to us all.
having been to LAMDA and acted/publicly read lines for many years I felt I could. and so I began to read. about 20 seconds in my always quietly spoken gentle therapist raised his voice to a level id never heard him use and attacked me saying “do you think this is funny? you guys are suffering from a disease that can kill and that IS often a matter of life or death. stop clowning around and read it properly james”
I was shocked. I had no idea why he would say that. I read it again monotone, handed it back to him and proceeded to stare at the floor for the entire hour, not contributing, not listening, wrapped up in a fog of resentment, anger and hurt for being publicly attacked and shamed when I had been trying to help.
The meeting ended. everyone went their separate ways. 6 hours later I had my one to one with jim which happened two to three times a week. when I arrived at his door I hadn’t forgotten that morning’s incident but when you’re in a place like that so much happens that it wasn’t forefront in my mind as I walked in. we gave each other a hug like we always did and called each other by our fun nicknames we had created for each other ..he would call me “james james carrington carrington” (like the poem james james morrison morrison) and I would call him Sir Jimathy of ferg!
as we sat in our respective chairs he said.. “ we’re starting a very important next stage in your treatment today but before we do there’s something I need to say”…a little confused and in the dark I said “oh..what’s that then?” he said “I need to apologize for this morning. since that meeting I have realized what you were doing and how I had no right to shout at you like that…how do you feel about it?” I looked at him and said “oh well jim you were the facilitator ..suppose it was fair enough”…he replied “no james, that’s not good enough..how do you really feel about it?” surprised I shrugged and half laughed…he stared at me…it took me 5 answers to give him the one he was looking for. when I eventually said..”well yeah..you were bang out of order. I don’t know why you shouted and shamed me like that when I was just trying to help everyone and it really wasn’t ok to do that”
he looked at me, paused and said “why didn’t you say that to me at the time?”
surprised I replied ..”I don’t know” and shrugged.
he said ...”I do”…perplexed I looked at him…how could he possibly know why I didn’t and why I behaved the way I behaved?
“ever since you were 8 years old and in your first 3 weeks of boarding at your prep school you cried every night hating it and wanting to go home..and you weren’t heard..you learnt at that crucial age that your feelings didn’t matter and weren’t important when they deserved to and needed to be heard and so you have become a people pleaser and a avoider unable to face the difficult situations that happen so often in life. you need to unlearn that and learn how to approach them differently. “
I sat there in silence. my mind blown. suddenly all those millions of situations I had been in throughout my 38 years on the planet since being 8 years old came rushing back and I realized how I had gone about them all like that, unable to use the much healthier and productive method of calmly dealing with it in the moment. shouting in arguments (the weakest thing you can do in one), getting hurt, not being heard, teased painfully or cut down unfairly so many times and taking it all inward where they remained festering into untreated resentments. years and years of behaving and reacting in a way that was so detrimental to me and often to those I was in the situations with.
“I’ll help you change this james”, he said, “we’ll find a much better healthier way for you to live and love the rest of your life”
3 days after I left rehab I was at home with someone ive known all my life. so our DYNAMIC has been forged over many years. an incident occurred in the kitchen like many incidents had over the years. but this time something profoundly different occurred. instead of reacting how I would have always done previously by engaging in a full-blown row or storming off in a grump or a rage I paused quietly, looked at the person calmly in their eyes and said “that just doesn’t work for me. I understand why you might need to say that but it doesn't work for me so let’s just agree to disagree. I’ve got some things to finish off upstairs. i'll see you for dinner in an hour”
as I walked away, leaving the person with a shocked look on their face (as every time in that type of situation for so many years until that day it would have ended differently) I climbed the stairs to my room, entered and sat down on the sofa. at rehab they advised us to try and remember how we felt after such an occurrence to notice the difference.
I realized I was calm, unruffled and not at all upset. instead of sitting there with that toxic anger and resentment flowing through my blood, furrowing my brow and ruining the next few hours I felt serene and calm and accepting as to why the person had behaved that way
an hour later I went down for dinner and all was peaceful, calm and the atmosphere was warm and loving.
this was probably the single most profoundly life changing experience I had ever undergone and it HAS changed my life completely ever since. its helped me to grow, its helped me to face my fears and it'
s helping me learn to live life on life’s terms.
almost every time I’ve been in difficult situations I have approached them with a different mindset and a set of tools that helps me navigate them in a healthy and beneficial way and is better for those I come into contact with too.
I will never forget what jim did for me and what that amazing university of life did to help me turn my life around completely.
my life has been so different and so much better ever since.
I wrote this in the hope it might help even one other person. when you are given
something so special its so important to pass that on to others who would benefit from it. so if you would like to share with others please do. I hope it will bring great relief to the many difficult challenges we all face.