Usually when we are thinking about seeing a counsellor or having some kind of therapy, be it coaching, or art, or breathwork, it is because we recognise we have along the way lost our sense of equanimity. We need that set point of our self-determined contentment to be restored, and we consult with a skilled practitioner to help us with the process.
Reed and I both share a love of art, and we were talking recently about therapy in all its forms and art, and how we see ourselves in our client relationships in a metaphor of art conservation.
When beautiful works of art need restoration, there is no question that beneath whatever is on the surface, there is intrinsic value and beauty worth restoring. The years may have added some layers of grime, or a tear in the canvas here or there, or discoloured some paint, but that doesn’t detract from the essential beauty that lies within.
As therapists, our clients are priceless art and we are the conservators. We see that innate beauty and the space we hold is consciously restorative. Our years of restoration with other great works give us the experience to assess the uniqueness of each presentation and how it will be approached.
The client is the maestro who has the perfect skills to remove what no longer serves them, without judgement or shame. As therapists we can have a vantage point that helps a client to reach the hard-to-get-to spots, or places where their own light is a little dim to see what to work on. It is an inherently collaborative process.
A conservator knows that to restore the work, the right tools have to be used to reveal what lies beneath, and sometimes that takes some time to uncover and a team of specialists. Restoration is a gentle and careful process, the work is lovingly tended to, with respect for its fragility and resilience.
Little by little, week by week, session by session, what emerges is what was always there. There is always a wonder and joy when the beauty becomes visible again, and is able to delight and inspire as it was intended. Eckhardt Tolle, in his book ‘The Power of Now’ describes art this way:
“Art should be a portal to the sacred so that when we see it or experience it, we experience ourselves through it, we see ourselves reflected in it – the formless shining through the form.”
I love this quote so much, and how it aligns with the metaphor of counselling as an act of conservation and restoration back to our own essential goodness. As Tolle says, art is there to show us moments of beauty for the sake of nourishing our soul and reflecting our own sacredness. Attending to our own restoration with a conservator who sees our innate value gives us the capacity to shine for ourselves – and for others.