With the backdrop of COVID-19, a recovery from cancer and the death of my father all within the space of a year, the natural environment and all it symbolises to me became a constant, soothing, significant and patient presence during my life in 2020.
More than ever before, I’ve felt the natural world’s safe and timeless embrace. The sun warming my face or pushing through wind and rain. I’ve reflected on the meaning of those connections that mean the most to me, what I’ve lost and what lives on – including the relationship I have with myself and my own body. My internal and external experiences have been re-evaluated and re-examined during hours of trekking across muddy fields. I've breathlessly hiked up hills. At the bottom, I was sure I’d never reach the top.
Nature has been my friend and my challenger, pushing me to face what I feared couldn’t be faced – helping me shed tears, bestowing solace, angering me and granting me a place to be on my own. It's sustained a deeper way to walk shoulder to shoulder with those I cherish and love, allowing new connections to flourish.
Mother Nature became my holding environment (Winnicott, D.W. 19601), protecting me, echoing yearnings, carrying my pain and understanding what was needed from her. All without me ever uttering a word. Her sensitive touch and rays of sunshine. Responsive care, with soft grass under foot, allowed me to experience physical and emotional satisfaction and growth in an integrated way, my mind and body in tune.
Launching my own private practice remotely at the beginning of March, I’m now preparing to open up face-to-face and this holding experience is very much in mind as I set up my therapy room, much like a mother entering a state of primary maternal preoccupation as she prepares to cushion her baby’s transition from womb to nursery.
It’s important to convey clients are worthy. Their new environment is the non-verbal communication of empathy. One that's cared about and they're welcomed within it, their physical and emotional care is being thought about.
Winnicott’s holding takes account of the infant’s body and skin sensitivity – touch, temperature, auditory and visual sensations. It captures both the psychological and physical nurturing which I strive to provide my patients.
I aim to express and visually represent this through natural elements. I work with light, warmth, neutral colours reflecting nature’s hues, plants, flowers, pebbles, landscapes, floral artworks and seascapes.
The hope is this will facilitate the shoots of growth for my clients as they discover an authentic way of being in a new relationship, just as the natural world’s holding is at the root of my own recent personal development.
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1 Winnicott, D.W. (1960). The Theory of the Parent-Infant Relationship. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 41:585-595 and Winnicott, D.W. (1984). Primary Maternal Preoccupation (1956) In: Winnicott, DW (ed.) Through Paediatrics to Psychoanalysis: Collected Papers. London: Karnac, 300–305.
Views expressed in this article are the views of the writer and not necessarily the views of BACP. Publication does not imply endorsement of the writer’s views. Reasonable care has been taken to avoid errors but no liability will be accepted for any errors that may occur.