Be the mooring, not the boat

Are you the mooring or the boat in your clinics and classes?

Here are two scenarios: in one, we are calm and centred in ourselves, so we can be flexible and agile in response to the needs of our clients, changing track, side stepping or pausing as necessary. In the other, we come to work with the intention to help people to the best of our abilities, stifling our own emotional challenges, and getting busy without first attending to our own self regulation.  We can then easily be pulled around in the session by the clients’ erratic or charged  behaviours and emotions, distracted when our plans are not working: in essence, we join them in the whirlpool while trying to throw them a buoyancy aid. We feel the struggle and meet it by increasing our energy expenditure, trying to “do” more with our techniques and say more with our explanations to turn it around. We can feel stressed, vulnerable and just plain not good enough. It is exhausting.

Notice that in both cases, we are in motion, but in only one of those scenarios are we stable.

More than ever over this challenging past year, many of my patients have illustrated that often what someone needs from me is not to be a font of scientific knowledge or provider of sparkling new techniques, but to be a stable mooring. They are like the little boats which might swing around in the wind and tide on the end of a rope, but if I am able to be calm and secure as the mooring, they can settle enough to feel a little safer, a little more self aware, and subsequently, their nervous systems allow the possibility of a change of state. Rather than prioritising doing, I keep my awareness with being.

In order not to be pulled along with the tide and the wind, I need to be aware of my own emotional temperature. I have a little ritual of my own before the clinic day begins, to make sure I am grounded enough to hold the space for my patients.  When things are personally particularly emotionally challenging, I must take even more care to prepare. (There is a saying that if you don’t have time to do this, you probably need to do twice as much). On those days, it is extra important to become self aware not just before the day begins, but within a session: perhaps noticing a niggling sensation of self doubt, or the beginnings of a rising tension, an urge to “fix” the problem, a change in my breathing or voice. With self awareness I can remember that I am the mooring, not the boat. Soften. Breathe. Be present.

The patient or client may be coming in with background stress, specific anxieties, uncertainty and vulnerability, difficult histories and a mix of hope and terror that this might or might not work. So alongside knowledge and skill comes this third and most critical element: the practitioner’s self awareness and self regulation. Now more than ever, this is a crucial element necessary to preserve the well being of the practitioner but also, the element that can make all the difference to the patient.

As we close the week, might we set our intentions for the next week to simply becoming aware of when we feel more like the boat, and when we are the mooring?

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