Being afraid of the future is an act of fabricating an image and then reacting to it emotionally, as if it were true. The same happens with something that we look forward to: we have positive expectations, and we decide to believe in them, and that perhaps gives us the courage to take action. But these expectations, whether negative or positive, whether accurate or inaccurate, are still just predictions, in essence different from the actual experience that is yet to be.
This happened to me when I moved to London. I piled up hopes and fantasies to create enough of a pull to yank me out of my old life. What I ended up in was nothing like I imagined - or maybe London was just London, but I turned out to be something I hadn’t realised I was. I learned, or rediscovered, that I’m not made for big cities, that nature and quiet are essential for my well-being, that I don’t actually take part in almost any city activities.
What does this have to do with psychosynthesis? Well, it’s the same story, in a way. I moved to London to study psychosynthesis, having signed up for the Essentials weekend, planning to do the Foundations year (assuming I’d get in). On the one hand I was simply following an intuition: feeling inspired after reading one book and checking out the Trust’s website hardly constitutes careful investigation. On the other hand I thought rationally that this would be just what I needed, because after years of individual therapy I still had difficulty connecting with people. What better way to jump in at the deep end than to sign up for a year-long course that’s essentially group therapy?
Those were my expectations, and now I’ll tell you about the reality. It is better than I thought. But it is also much harder than I thought.
In the beginning of the course I thought a lot about being an introvert. The best description I can come up with is: “if there’s another person in a room, it feels like someone is gently but constantly poking me in the arm”. If there are five people, it’s five times as energy-consuming, and if there are 22, like in my group, it’s 22 poking fingers. I still sometimes use the misnomer “shy”, but it’s not accurate. The conflict is that I am at my best in small settings, but most social situations involve more than 5 people. However, wanting to make the most of this very special year has helped me become more active, demand that space and time to express myself. What I thought would be the biggest challenge for me seemed to evaporate after the first weekend.
Another issue I’ve had to face is my sensitivity. The weekends are so intense that I fantasise about a sensory deprivation tank I once saw in a sci-fi series. I sometimes spend lunch hour by myself just because of the sensory and emotional overload, and on most days I hurry home to get some much needed peace and quiet. This is a dilemma because the personal connections are formed during the breaks and meetings after the official hours. I compromise, but I’m always aware of the consequences of opting out of one or the other.
But it is the emotional roller coaster that the course has put me on that has really revealed to me what it means to be sensitive. Expressing emotions has been extremely difficult for me, and I have been able to deduce that this is because I have found them scary or unmanageable. However, thinking about something and experiencing it are very different things. What this course has brought up for me is a deeper, stronger and more continuous flow of emotions that I’ve ever known. I can only guess the reasons behind it, but I think it’s a combination of: the richness of psychosynthesis exercises that are informed by the unconscious, the emotional, the symbolic, the spiritual; the effect of being in a group of people, who are searching for answers, trusting each other; the real-life dramas that come up in the group, in likes and dislikes, in emotional reactions and recognising old patterns; and the mysterious process that is activated when the muddy waters of the unconscious are stirred.
As a result, I feel more than I have ever felt. I understand my younger self better, understand why she felt threatened by these waves and storm winds of emotion. I feel like I’m losing my balance, and it is unsettling. What was just a word is now tangible: being sensitive means that I experience every sensation and emotion acutely and intensely.
At the same time, it is exactly where I want to be. Maybe I’ve never felt safe enough to be this overwhelmed. I feel like I’m learning something invaluable about myself. All these emotions have a root, a reason. They are a part of me. Maybe this is who I always was, and after years of muted existence it will take me a while to get to know the full spectrum of what it is to feel. Or maybe this is a bottled storm that I have to weather to get to the calmer and brighter days.
Maybe it doesn’t make sense trying to know where this is going – my predictions will never match the rich complexities of reality anyway.
I am looking forward to the rest of the Foundations year, but with much more respect and awe than I had before.
Veera is currently a student on the Foundation year at the Trust