I had a fascinating counseling session today with my Wise Woman, Lynn, involving a set of Russian dolls.
I daresay that these little gals (and guys, as it turned out) are a relatively standard counseling aid, in that they provide a physical and visual focus for the metaphorical unpeeling of the layers of the self.
After all, everyone knows that Ogres are like onions, parfait or something else with layers, and it turns out that I’m much the same. I’m not entirely sure that I was arranged in quite the layers which were expected by the Wise Woman, who seemed to be probing a little for something I wasn’t able to offer.
She introduced the idea of the dolls and asked me to describe myself as the doll on the table – the one which everyone sees. Having had a little infertility wobble yesterday, and because the counseling is in direct relation to miscarriage, I had a small moment of panicked teary-ness due to a terrifying vision that the doll would be empty and there was no baby inside, but that wasn’t the plan at all (phew!) and the idea was to take an introspective look at myself and what I reveal of myself to others.
For a long time now, I’ve had in my mind a circle of friends, which I suppose would realistically cover all the relationships I have with other people. The point of the Russian doll exercise was to turn this all inwards and ‘uncover’ what was lurking in each layer of myself.
Layer 1 – the outside
I was asked what people see when they see me. It wasn’t specified which people, but I assume the people-on-the-street; nodding acquaintances, that kind of a person. Joe public, who’s happened to somehow show up on my radar or I on theirs. I suggested that they’d see a generally likeable, nice person, who has their ups and downs like everyone else; a fairly decent, good person, who likes to be funny and make people laugh.
We didn’t go too much into it, but I was asked about why I felt that making people laugh was important. I explained that through life, humour and I have gone on something of a journey, from a point in school where I aimed it at myself and got the denigrating joke in before anyone else did (as a form of self defense) via a time with a different set of people where I realised that making people laugh made them like me to a place now, where I know I can make people laugh but it’s just to enjoy laughing with them and sharing joy and funny moments in life, because laughter is awesome and makes life taste better.
This layer (to my shock) was a boy doll, and my evident surprise even made Lynn laugh. She asked what this version of me looked like and who would see it. I explained that this was probably the level that the furthest circle of friends would see – the people I know and speak to regularly or have a connection with, but wouldn’t necessarily feel it appropriate to the relationship to bare my soul or go into detail about my innermost feelings. This seemed to go down ok.
Back to a girl doll – a far smaller, sweeter looking one. This layer, I decided, was the one that the next-level-up of friends would get to see – I’d go into more detail about my feelings (if appropriate), but still come across as essentially the same person. I tried to describe it at this stage (and failed horribly) as layers which deepen. I guess in the end, the best description I can think of is a spectrum of light splayed out through a prism, with layers bisecting those lights – the people on the outside get to see a ‘thinner’ amount of the colours, whereas the people in the centre of my ‘circle’ get to see a ‘thicker’ amount of the colours, but the colours remain consistent. Now why couldn’t I think of that at the time!
A boy doll again (I sensed a pattern by now) and I suggested that this might be the layer which closer friends know about – those in my cell group from church, in particular. In thinking about this, I realised that I don’t have all that many groups of friends from different areas of life, because there aren’t that many areas in my life. My Wise Woman tried probing a bit here to ask what they’d see, and although I could offer ‘less defensive humour, though not less ‘for the fun of it’ humour’, there wasn’t a lot else which was different. If I’d had the above picture, I’d’ve shown her it at this point, for sure. As it was, I stuttered to a halt and was left facing a long silence (which, by the way, I’m sure is another ‘counselor’s trick’ – leave a silence long enough and your uncomfortable client will be sure to try to fill it with something, and that something might be the important revelation you were waiting for). She broke before I did, and we went onto the next layer.
The doll was still quite big, and I voiced worries that if there were many more layers, I wasn’t sure I could match them. This layer is the one which my ‘most trusted’ friends (and family) are in. They get the full range of the spectrum and there’s sufficient trust for me to be utterly honest with them (overall – each person in the group may get slightly different parts as I deem suitable) and between them, I don’t think there’s a speck of my soul I wouldn’t bare. My Wise Woman was pleased to hear that I included Husby in this level, though with the proviso that in the instance of needing to ‘bounce ideas’ off someone in trying to make sense of a feeling myself, I’d probably pick one of the others (Mum, Sis, WonderAunty or Bezziefriend) to do this with before going back to him with a coherent thought, just because his brain works differently and he sometimes struggles to understand me when I don’t know the answer myself.
This is the layer which, when I ‘looked’ at it, was less shiny than I would have liked, and I had to admit that it was quite a critical little layer with high expectations (of itself and others, especially poor Husby) and struggled with disappointment and frustration quite often (especially about the little things), yet couldn’t just ‘chill out’ about these things for fear that, once let go of, no-one else would pay mind to them and standards would slip.
It’s more impetuous, this layer, and quite happy to come out with something which may seem shocking or outrageous, but can do so in the knowledge that the people who will hear are in my corner and will help me sort things out and get my thinking back on track.
It’s also the layer with the most violent reactions, which Husby (bless him) gets to see more frequently than most (case in point, I caught my arm on a door handle this morning and it really hurt – anger (at the situation? at myself?) instantly flared and I gave the door a resounding punch, only to be immediately told off because if I break this door as well, it’ll need fixing and will cost money we can ill afford to spend fixing things which suffered a fit of my pique) and which definitely needs reining in.
Anyone in this most intimate level of my friendship circle knows most of the highs and lows of me and has journeyed through enough with me to have a reasonable understanding of my reactions and the stepping stones which have led to me being the person I am today, as well as how this will likely impact on whatever’s going on at the time. All of them can cheer me up, hold me up, offer sage advice or well-timed, well-meaning reprovals.
Again there seemed to be a lot of focus on ‘what else they’d see’, as though there was something I’d missed out. I’m not sure, but I got the impression that the session wasn’t quite going how she’d meant it to.
The little doll I uncovered next proved something of a conundrum. By this time I was certain I’d run out of layers. To be honest, I was beginning to struggle after about three, but the more I thought about it, the more layers I found (perhaps it’s like finding the number of numbers between any two integers…who knows?)
In the end I decided that this layer may be the one which knows what’s going on and is a bit more cool, calm, collected and rational than #5. It’s the layer whose voice gets lost or ignored when something big is going on with the layer before. It’s the layer whose voice knows the answer before the rest of me is prepared to accept it. It’s the layer which sits and waits silently in the midst of hardship while I noisily rail against it and have something akin to a three year-old’s tantrum, then am told in no uncertain terms what I already knew by those people with Level 5 clearance.
At this point, the session was drawn tantalisingly to a close – there’s still another doll inside the 6th layer, and I was told that it will have to wait until next week as we’d run out of time.
Apart from the fact that I was astonished to find I had so many layers, I can’t wait to find out what’s in the next one.
The only thing which mucks up my entire analogy and way of thinking is this blog, in which I pour out to friends, relations, acquaintances and the internet at large, huge portions of my inner thinking in a manner which would almost certainly not happen spontaneously were I face to face with many readers. Or maybe it would, it’s just more up-front – as I identified, the layers of my person are all present and correct at every level, and I can’t imagine that unless I find someone utterly repugnant I’d have a problem going into more detail once we’d started getting to know one another a little better.
I can’t think of many people I wouldn’t be happy to have a cup of tea and a chat with.