Before I became a therapist, for 22 years I taught English to high school students. During that time, I had the opportunity to get close to lots of wonderful students; some of them were pretty wobbly souls (remember the insecurity of those days?). I also got close to some wonderfully strengthening poems. Here is one of my favorites by William Stafford:
For My Young Friends Who Are Afraid
There is a country to cross you will
Find in the corner of your eye, in
the quick slip of your foot–air far
down, a snap that might have caught.
And maybe for you, for me, a high, passing
voice that finds its way by being
afraid. That country is there, for us,
carried as it is crossed. What you fear
will not go away: it will take you into
yourself and bless you and keep you.
That’s the world, and we all live there.
Just because we are adults doesn’t mean we don’t feel wobbly sometimes, insecure and full of questions and anxiety. That’s why I love the comforting tone of this poem. Every time I come to the part that says “What you fear will not go away: it will take you into/yourself and bless you and keep you” I feel myself breathing a sigh of relief. I love the way Stafford expresses the empowering notion that we can find ourselves “by being afraid.”
Starting therapy can be terrifying. But a premise behind all therapeutic relationships is a respect for the belief that we are not meant to carry the fear of the unknown by ourselves. Really good counseling provides us a space to be completely ourselves with someone else. In this safe relationship we learn to stretch and touch what might, when alone, have seemed unreachable. We come to trust that through the connection with our therapist we can unburden ourselves and find the answers that really do lie within each and every one of us. Choosing to go into yourself with a good counselor: that’s a world full of hope. I wonder what the world would be like if more of us lived there?