A Soulful Solstice

Lynne Gabriel, School of Psychological and Social Sciences, York St John University

For me, the winter solstice is an important time for simply being, for reflecting on the year and for heralding the return of the light.  I am usually to be found winding down at this point; feeling mellow, ready to ‘down tools’ and give the practitioner-/researcher-/academic-me a much-needed break. As a high-functioning introvert fairly high on the autistic spectrum, ‘down time’, plus time away from social and relational activities, is absolutely crucial.  

Reflecting upon recent UK political events, I profess to despair at our human propensity to destroy peoples, projects, politics… And yet, I also sense glimmers of self-soothing, along with soulful seeking of collaborative, cooperative, and directional ways through the individual, group, and UK distress.  Following the emotional rollercoaster of, firstly, Brexit, swiftly followed by the election and compounded by turbulent personal and professional landscapes, it has been a gruelling year; one that is mirrored across newsfeeds and social media.  

We need a period of respite and time to evaluate and prepare for moving forward. Embracing one’s own, others’, and the nation’s plurality and complexity can empower us to hold seemingly chaotic multiplicities whilst advancing the regrouping of pluralistic perspectives and psyche.  This quest to corral, and quell, fragmentation benefits from a process that pluralistic practitioners refer to as metacommunication: a reflexive curiosity about communications with self and others.  This can be brought to life through reviewing, interpreting, and checking our communications and interactions.   

As reflexive pluralistic practitioners we acknowledge and value the plurality of self and others.  We work intentionally to collaborate with clients in myriad ways, to support their personal ‘regrouping’ and to facilitate the development of mindful, meaningful, and directional advancement in their lives and living.  We compassionately engage with them to hold and elicit hope; we ease apart and draw together peoples’ disparate and chaotic threads into a coherent whole.  We navigate complex discursive and dialogical processes.  Not only that, we also explicitly invite clients to be active agents in the identification and formulation of next steps in therapy. Evidence indicates that a truly collaborative client-therapist relationship makes for better outcomes for clients. These powerful relational processes epitomise metacommunication and collaborative client-therapist work at its best. 

So, despite the distortions and disappointments of recent times, there really is light ahead; moreover, there is hope and healing in my thoughts and steps as I move towards 2020. As I do so, I fondly recall the 2019 pluralistic conference at Roehampton University; when the swell of a diverse, respectful, and collaborative community of researcher-practitioners acknowledged the power of collective presence.  Together, we can make a difference.

Solstice blessings, festive warm wishes and Christmas greetings everyone.  In whatever way you choose to celebrate this winter break, please lovingly and compassionately embrace the plurality of you and those around you.  You, and they, deserve it.