I can’t find my mother

I can’t find my mother in work,

but I can locate her

in the deepest of hurts.

I can’t find my mother when I drive,

as people cut me up, in the

conflict they contrive.

I can’t find my mother when I cry

for what I’ve lost

and my lungs are turned dry.

I can’t find my mother in love

that’s pretend; a glamour

that’s just a rubber glove.

I can’t find my mother when

betrayal means bereft.

There’s nothing left then.

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a poem to my therapist

You’re there when I’m not there,

when I shut down, when I don’t care.

You’re there when I feel full

when I’m empty, when I’m cruel.

You were there when someone died,

when I’ve hated, when I’ve lied.

You’re there when I’m absent

You hold the space, just when I can’t

cope with what’s going on. You hold

what’s in here, from loo bowl to fool’s gold.

You’re there when nobody else is.

Thanks to you, I’m re-finding my fizz.

A poem: who owns my shadow?

While you’re that shadow under the tree

out there,

you own me.

While you’re the road rage in that car

over there,

you own me.

While you’re that person who snubbed me

back then,

you own me.

While you’re that mess in my cupboard

upstairs

you own me.

While you’re that bilious resentment

in my heart,

you own me.

While I blame everyone else

for my own faults

you own me.

But take back all that stuff

and make it my own?

Stop the blame.

Retract the same-old-same?

Well, maybe day-by-day

I will start

to own myself.

Expressing your fears takes their power away

It’s something therapists and writers have known for years, but now psychologists have confirmed that naming your fears stops them having so much power over you.

Giving a name to something, or expressing exactly how you feel, means you don’t have to deny the feeling or keep squashing it down. Sometimes the energy needed to keep it at bay is more painful and stressful than just talking about it anyway. Writers use that technique all the time: expressive or reflexive writing puts into words their feelings and stresses, and therefore externalises what’s going on inside and helps to process feelings and look at them objectively.

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) did some tests on people who are afraid of spiders, asking some of them to approach a tarantula, and to experience and label their fears. For example, to say: “I’m anxious and frightened by the ugly, terrifying spider.” People who were able to express their fears were able to get closer to the tarantula, and had less of a stress reaction.

Michelle Craske, a professor of psychology at UCLA and the senior author of the study, said: “The implication is to encourage patients, as they are exposed to whatever they are fearful of, to label the emotional responses they are experiencing and label the characteristics of the stimuli — to verbalise their feelings. That lets people experience the very things they are afraid of and say: ‘I feel scared and I’m here.’ They’re not trying to push it away and say it’s not so bad.”

The crucial point is this: “Be in the moment and allow yourself to experience whatever you’re experiencing.”