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Joanne Gilhooly - Psychotherapist & Counsellor - Dublin City

B.A. (Hons) Counselling & Psychotherapy, Dip. Gestalt, MIACP

Dublin Counselling and Psychotherapy Blog

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Pandemic Life: Understanding Backwards and Living Forwards

Posted on May 4, 2020 at 5:31 PM Comments comments (613)


Existential philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said “Life can only be understand backwards, but must be lived forwards”. There is a limit to what we can control and what we can plan for and if 2020 so far has anything to teach us, it is that.

In these pandemic days we have been plunged into uncertainty, into a situation that will only truly be understood backwards and must be lived forwards. There are times that we can get around this to a certain extent, we can keep our personal world small and surround ourselves only with the familiar and predictable. This will be boring and unsatisfying, but it does offer an illusion of control which can be enticing. But, an illusion it is. Despite our defensive walls, a global disaster can come along and remind us that there is no certainty.
Eventually, whether we like it or not, if we want to live in a satisfying way, we must live forwards. We must take those tentative steps into the unknown, however shaky they may be, however terrified we may be that we are going to mess this up. You might mess up, of course, but you might also learn something precious, maybe even something life-changing, that could not have been learned in a tidy or organised way. You might even find that you have given yourself a gift, that the messiness and unpredictability of life is anxiety provoking, yes, but it can also be joyous and celebratory.

On the other side of this coin, is when we try to live without ever planning at all, without reflecting on the past, without integrating our learning. We might jump from one emotional impulse to the next, telling ourselves that we live in the moment, but instead what we find is that, while life can be exciting, we seem to repeat the same mistakes again and again. Remember, life can only be understood backwards, but it does need to be understood.

Slowing down and taking the time to reflect and understand might feel boring and unexciting, but it is the other part of what makes life satisfying. Living on impulse alone is a little like eating chocolate for every meal. It tastes great, but it doesn’t last long, you’ll be hungry again soon, and you’ll likely have a blood sugar/emotional crash shortly afterwards. You need some vegetables.

So, what was Kierkegaard trying to teach us? I believe it was that satisfaction and fulfilment are only available to us when we find a balance between the work of reflection and risk. Do your work, live reflexively - that's important, but remember that we will be messy humans too. Sometimes, no matter how well prepared we are, no matter how much homework we have done, we will find ourselves unprepared (or in the middle of a pandemic). And then, we will do our best, and while we might delight ourselves with the discovery of previously untapped capabilities, there is also a chance that we will get it wrong. Or both.
Whatever happens, we will be living life to the full, and that is all we can do.
As that other great existential philosopher, Alanis Morrisette, said “You live, you learn”.

Onward.

 
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Your brain in anger or distress, and the power of your breath.

Posted on October 8, 2016 at 4:46 PM Comments comments (0)

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I Haven't Shaken It Off Yet....

Posted on October 8, 2016 at 2:48 PM Comments comments (0)
"There is much that is wrong with the world. The road twists and turns and it is long, and I forget, sometimes, about the horizon and the mountains and the blue. I forget where I am and I narrow my eyes and clench my fists when strangers approach me to offer me kindness, and when I stand alone on an empty beach I check the time in case there’s someplace else I need to be. I haven’t shaken it off yet, this instinct we have to annihilate our moments, to turn them into dust and build them into hours and days and weeks and months and years, just so we can look back and see all these piles of time that we’ve collected, burial mounds of dead time, because we didn’t have the sense to live the moments that it’s made of."

~ Daphne Kapsali, 100 Days of Solitude



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On Guilt...

Posted on November 20, 2015 at 3:36 PM Comments comments (0)

"You should never reduce the mystery and expanse of your presence to a haunted fixation with something you did or did not do. To learn the art of integrating your faults is to begin a journey of healing on which you will regain your poise and find new creativity. Your soul is more immense than any one moment or event in your past. When you allow guilt to fester and reduce you like this, it has little to do with guilt. The guilt is only an uncomfortable but convenient excuse for your fear of growth."

 ~ John O'Donohue
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On Missing the Journey...

Posted on January 26, 2015 at 6:12 PM Comments comments (0)
"No one imagines that a symphony is supposed to improve in quality as it goes along, or that the whole object of playing it is to reach the finale. The point of music is discovered in every moment of playing and listening to it. It is the same, I feel, with the greater part of our lives, and if we are unduly absorbed in improving them we may forget altogether to live them." 

                                           ~ Alan Watts






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Look for the Learning...

Posted on October 18, 2014 at 7:28 AM Comments comments (0)
“Painful as it may be, a significant emotional event can be the catalyst for choosing a direction that serves us - and those around us - more effectively. Look for the learning.”

~ Louisa May Alcott


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Risk...

Posted on September 8, 2014 at 10:18 AM Comments comments (0)








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In-sight...

Posted on August 1, 2014 at 7:45 PM Comments comments (0)

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What Does 'Like A Girl' Mean To You?

Posted on July 9, 2014 at 10:56 AM Comments comments (0)
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Shadows...

Posted on May 30, 2014 at 12:59 PM Comments comments (0)


















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