The aim of this article is to raise awareness of what ‘New Beginnings’ means and the importance of being open-minded in life situations. It is poignant that I’m writing this at the beginning of a new year, often a time for reflection and making New Year Resolutions, which I believe are an attempt at ‘New Beginnings’.
Professor Stephen Hawking explores whether time has a beginning in his Big Bang Theory. This possibly puts things into perspective in that we are all part of a bigger picture, as big as the Universe. Alongside the work of philosophers over thousands of years, it seems mankind has historically tried to make sense of human existence and predicaments to try to understand where we fit in the world.
Emmy van Deurzen writes about Existential Therapy in the Handbook of Individual Therapy (2001) and conveys how, “The person is in a constant process of becoming. Everything passes and nothing lasts. One finds oneself somewhere in the middle of this passing of time, grappIing with the givens of the past and the possibilities of the future.”
I consider that all we can do is operate within the confines of our environments and experiences. We all have a unique set of circumstances that we have either been born into, inherited or achieved for ourselves. Emmy van Deurzen distinguishes “four basic dimensions of human existence: the physical, the social, the psychological and the spiritual.”
This suggests that we are capable of creating our own life experiences, identity, material possessions, health and connection with others. The onus is on us to be open to challenge and change. Another important point to recognize is that to be human is to experience the good and bad and to be confronted with positive and negative influences. It is our choice whether to work with these experiences and influences in a creative way or not.
My experiences as a ‘Baby Boomer” born in the early 1950s and as a therapist for over twenty years provide me with a rich tapestry of life and human struggle. One of the most important points I identify is that to have a ‘New Beginning’, an ending is a prerequisite.
A quotation which resonates with me is uttered by Maria, played by Julie Andrews, in The Sound of Music: "The Reverend Mother always says, 'when the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window'." This emphasizes that having an ending provides new opportunities. In Maria’s case, she decides to leave the Abbey where she was to become a nun and to become a wife and mother instead, a ‘New Beginning’ of some magnitude and contrast.
I often admire the courage of clients I‘ve worked with and the momentous changes they’ve made. Drawing upon my work to convey how changes have been managed, my intention is to illustrate how ‘New Beginnings’ can be achieved with any reference to case material purposely anonymising clients. It is important to note that there is no expectation in therapy that a person follows a certain route. Values are explored and individual character traits and personality taken into consideration. ‘New Beginnings’ are about learning to make choices with more understanding than previously and throwing off the shackles of the status quo.
A person in a senior position in his workplace came to see me after he had been signed off work for anxiety and stress due to being bullied by his line manager. Bullying is one of the negative aspects of human behaviour and can be carried out in any setting. Often it isn’t dealt with for a variety of reasons including misunderstanding and avoidance. Tim Field in ‘Bully In Sight’ (page 51) states, “Bullying can be defined as “behaviour, which consistently undermines another’s confidence, reducing feelings of self worth and self-esteem”.”
I worked with this gentleman to help him gain understanding of his situation, validate his feelings and to explore what he could do. One of the outstanding themes within the work was that he learned to give himself time and not put pressure on himself or others to make decisions or to take action quickly. Eventually he recognized that the organization he worked for would not make changes to support him and he decided he could no longer make a difference there. He took the decision to leave and embarked upon his ‘New Beginning’ of a new direction in his career. He realized he had the resources, knowledge and experience to move on and aimed to apply his expertise in a place where it would be valued. He quickly found consultancy work in his transition and had interviews in place when therapy sessions ended.
Another area of frequent difficulty is when relationships end and it is often very hard for people to move on. Sometimes this occurs through the death of a loved one or, at other times, a partner has left or a decision has been made to end a relationship.
A young mother came to see me when she was having difficulty negotiating an ending to her abusive marriage. She needed to build up her confidence and resilience in order to assert herself. Slowly she learnt to say “No” to her very controlling husband and the outcome was that he eventually agreed to sell the house and divide their finances, take care of and return the children as per their agreement and stop harassing her. By taking responsibility for her self and handing back any coercive control he tried to place on her she was able to move forward and gain a sense of freedom to be her self and make positive changes in her life. This was her ‘New Beginning’.
Another young lady attended who had already divorced her unfaithful husband but she was ‘stuck’ in being emotionally attached to him. Part of the work was exploring her values and ideals and learning to let these go. Once she achieved this she was able to move on and commence her ‘New Beginning’.
To reiterate, one of the main themes in this paper is the emphasis on achieving an ending in order to start a ‘New Beginning’. Endings are so varied that it is impossible to do more here than cite a few pertinent examples. Phases in life provide fundamental instances of endings and ‘New Beginnings’. From conception the baby is a potential new person nurtured safely in the womb. At birth a ‘New Beginning’ starts when the baby is thrust into and encounters the world. For the mother, her old life has ended and her ‘New Beginning’ starts as a mother. This transition can be challenging to adapt to for both mother and child.
A new mother recently came to see me seeking help. As we worked together on her issues she discovered she had been traumatized by the birth of twins a year after having her first child. Her ideal had been destroyed when she became a mother to three children instead of the planned for two. She suffered post-natal depression and found it difficult to bond with her two younger children. It was only after extensive expression of thoughts and feelings, exploration and clarification of her values and experiences, that she was finally able to accept her new situation. She ‘turned a corner’ with new insight and awareness and with the help and support of her husband she began to play with all her children. It gave me great pleasure to help this mother as she learnt to embrace all her children in her ‘New Beginning’ of happy family life with five members.
These examples highlight that people often seek counselling or therapy at times in their lives when they experience loss or significant change and become ‘stuck’ and unable to move forwards. Counselling provides an opportunity to express painful feelings, explore difficult issues and make sense of situations. New understanding and awareness, insight and acceptance can lead to motivation for embracing creativity and journeying forward in life in new ways.
It is only through reassessing our own attitudes and values, tolerating uncertainties and eventually making choices that we can move on to our ‘New Beginnings’. In doing this we must move through chaos, avoid hiding from change and take opportunities to refocus our priorities in order to choose and embrace ‘New Beginnings’.
Bully In Sight, Tim Field. 2009, Success Unlimited.
Handbook of Individual Therapy, edited by Windy Dryden, 2001.
Sage Publications, London.
February 10, 2017, 2:59 pm