By Dr Kate Owen
Clinical Psychologist and Family Therapist
I am very excited to share this artwork and story with you. Beau Pennefather Motlop has captured my vision of how to describe my philosophy regarding life and therapy.
More than just what I have studied and practiced in my career, as well as learned from my clients, this story captures the essence of what I believe is true for us humans as we cycle through this adventure called “life”.
Just as there are seasons in the year that endlessly cycle around, there are also seasons in life and in therapy. These too are circular in nature and always evolving. In my philosophy, the experience of each season does not necessarily relate to the calendar year. Moreover, these seasons may last days, weeks, months, or years, with an appreciation that time works differently for each unique individual in their journey of life. Lastly, no one season is “better” than another. All seasons are interrelated and interconnected. We cannot have one without the other.
For me, the season of Autumn symbolises a time to release the old and rest. This is a time to release all pressure and expectations weighing you down, shedding all that no longer serves you, so that you can recover before moving into winter. Like leaves on the trees, it is time to let things go. When you let go you create a space for future growth.
In therapy, clients evaluate what they want to keep and what they want to release and change. This is a time of choice in deciding what you want to release from the past or to detach from something in the present, including relationships, behaviours, patterns, thoughts, beliefs, limitations, expectations, unhelpful stories, and burdens.
“Every leaf speaks bliss to me fluttering from the autumn tree”
For me, the season of Winter symbolises a time of hibernation and retreat to take care of your needs. It can symbolize “going it alone” for a time either through turning inward or withdrawing from others. Although you may feel uncomfortable in the dark of winter, take solace in knowing that the season of Spring and growth will always follow.
In therapy clients spend time in quiet contemplation and reflection, allowing them to think about their next move in life. Often clients feel disheartened when they do not see progress and change, however, stillness and sanctuary are vital in the therapeutic process.
“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness”
For me, the season of Spring symbolises a time of growth. Winter is over and it is time to come out of hibernation. It is a time to embrace the change that is on the horizon and allow your dreams to become reality. The season of Spring is all about potential and hope.
In therapy, this season is a time of hopeful anticipation that things will be better and that the clients' hopes for change can be realised. There can be nervous energy as my clients consider what their preferred future would look like, and start to become clearer on how they will get there.
“Where flowers bloom so does hope”
Lady Bird Johnson
For me, the season of Summer symbolises a time to relish in joy, light, and energy. A time to shine. This season is about adventure, making memories, and enjoying the present moment. The season of summer heralds a time of expansion.
In therapy, this season is a time of appreciating achievements towards therapy goals, cheerleading small changes, and recognising one’s own strengths and resiliencies. This season in therapy is filled with hope and gratitude.
“There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart”
The Sun and Stars
Regardless of what season is being experienced, the Sun and Stars are always present. The Sun and Stars are the constants in life and across time - not just my one lifetime, or that of my clients, but that across the many lives before us and the many lives to come after. Even before humans were in the evolution chain, the mystery of the Universe and the Sun and Stars were there.
For me, the Sun symbolises the life force that is needed to survive and exist. An ever-present energy that will always be there, even if we cannot see it. In therapy, this represents the essence of the human experience. Our effervescent life force.
“Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows”
For me, the Stars symbolise the infinite possibilities in life and being open to magical experiences – isn’t that why we say “wish upon a star?”. The Stars also represent the hopes and dreams of our ancestors, the hopes and dreams we hold today, and the hopes and dreams we have for the next generation. The Stars are used as a navigational guidance system that tells us we are heading in the right direction.
“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff”
What Season Are You In?
Let’s end this article with a reflection on which season you are currently in. Are you in a time of releasing, retreating, embracing change, or basking in joy?
“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on”
This article is educational in nature and does not constitute therapeutic advice.