(painting by Jan Fordyce)
Metaphors often help us understand the difficult to grasp concepts in life. Here is one of mine to help us to understand what often feel like the inexplicable behaviours we can see from the hurting children/people we work or live with:
The pebble or stone is the damaged child or person. When the stone hits the water it does not ripple, splash or change. It appears unaffected. But the water it lands into is disturbed – it rises into the air then falls with its own splashes, the waves cascade outwards unsettling the stillness and balance of anything in the way, the ripples reach far and wide until eventually they dissipate. A damaged human being can become hard like the stone. They have learnt to switch off their feelings, to close themselves up to protect themselves. But they still have those feelings, they still need to express them and experience them. So we feeling people – we are the water, and as the stone falls we are impacted – we rise into the air then falls with our own splashes, our waves cascade outwards unsettling the stillness and balance, our ripples reach far and wide until eventually they dissipate. So we feel for them, we express the emotions for them. And the stone? They hear the splash, they see the waves and ripples and they witness their feelings without having to be moved themselves. But as the stone witnesses its impact it knows it exists, even if it no longer feels, and the bigger the impact the stronger the evidence of existence.
So maybe that pain, that confusion, that anger, that anxiety are not yours? Maybe you are doing the feeling for someone else who is too afraid to feel. And maybe, just maybe, as they witness your ability to feel and not be destroyed, the stone may allow itself to feel again.
But take care and look after yourselves as being the water is challenging work.