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Acting In, Acting Out

All I ever wanted was to support people in moving from a place of darkness into light.

I feel awkwardly naïve putting these words onto paper, it makes me feel denude and exposed. However, it’s a fact: I have spent a lifetime acting out – in a manner of speaking anyway. I have engaged in a lifelong endeavour without ever realising – a confounding reality to which I became fully conscious only very recently..

During my 25 years in the theatre there was nothing I enjoyed more than doing musicals. “People leave the theatre smiling and humming,” I used to say. “Nothing fills me with a deeper satisfaction than taking part in a collective venture that spreads joy!” As I began withdrawing from my work in the theatre, gradually and spanning several years, I took up psychology and began retraining as a psychotherapist. And, lo and behold, my project was the same: supporting people in finding meaning and purpose in their lives, and with it, a deeper sense of fulfillment. More joy.

A grand undertaking indeed. Nevertheless, my career has been a successful one. Deeply satisfactory, too – meaningful and educative; I have not only enjoyed. but loved every single minute of it. I have learnt much from my patients and clients, individually and in groups, and I hope they have come away with insights and some learning of value from their work with me. I think of every one of them with fondness, and from time to time one of them will pop into my mind and I wonder how they are, always hoping they are well and doing good for themselves.

What I am certain of, too, is that I didn’t always succeed. In the larger context, instances of grave significance have been few but they all, without exception, made an indelible imprint on my psyche. Some of those instances I remember so well I think about them often, wondering what, if anything, I would have done differently, had I been able to at the time.

It all began when I was three and four and my grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. All of a sudden our home was overshadowed by dark clouds of concern and worry. I adored my grandmother and wanted her to get well. I longed for joy to replace the anguish we were all carrying – I wanted the light to be restored at home, for darkness to give way. Miraculously my nan survived. This event not just affirmed my hope and trust in life, it was fortified: always a light at the end of the tunnel, always a glade, even in the darkest of forests.

Thus my life project had begun. Without my knowing it.

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