Becoming ourselves. Everyone is invited

8 September, 2021

From time to time we meet together with someone outside of MyST who acts as a consultant to help us to reflect together on how we are approaching our jobs in leading the regional MyST programme, to identify blind spots and to recognise how we might be able to do better. It is useful to speak to someone outside of our system, someone with fresh eyes and no vested interests. We often see things differently as a result of these meetings. 

Since the pandemic has hit us all, we, like so many others, have moved to having these meetings online. Our consultant is working from home and we dial in to him there. Over the past year, we have seen him a couple of times and we’ve noticed how he has started to look a little different lately. At our most recent meeting, as we were saying goodbye at the end and getting ready to go, we gently remarked on his new beard and how he looked so well. ‘It suits you’ we offered our appraisal of his new look. ‘I’ve always wanted to grow a beard’ he said ‘ever since I was a little boy, I loved Captain Haddock in the Tintin books, and I always admired his beard. Since working from home during the pandemic, I’ve felt able to put away my razor and try to grow one myself. Somehow I’ve felt a little more freedom in how we can all look since not working from the office.’ As he spoke it was easy to feel the warmth he felt for the Tintin stories and their characters, they had clearly meant a lot to him in his boyhood. Without needing to know why exactly, it was obvious that Captain Haddock represented an important part of who our consultant is as a person. We enjoyed the warm moment with him, a small personal silver lining of the pandemic cloud, and said goodbye, going our separate our ways and thinking no more of it. 

The next day we were together, spending time with one of our MyST teams to train them in approaches arising from humanistic models of psychological therapy. Discussing some of the core principles and key founders of this school of therapy, we looked at the work of Carl Rogers, the great American founding father of person-centred therapy. His model of human development being about the universal human drive towards self-actualisation, and the unstoppable development towards this once we humans are provided with the right ‘core conditions’ of growth; empathy, congruence (genuineness) and unconditional positive regard (acceptance). Just as a seed cannot stop itself springing to life given soil, water and sunlight, so we humans cannot fail to grow and develop towards self-actualisation when we experience these core conditions. 

At MyST, this theory has remained amongst our core approaches throughout the 17 years since we began. Time and again we challenge ourselves; if a child isn’t growing and developing psychologically in our care, then it is not some deficit within them, but that we haven’t yet identified the right conditions that they require from us to activate their self-actualising tendency. This has led to something of a mantra for us at MyST, ‘never the wrong child, only the wrong approach’. 

Winding down following our team training day we found ourselves remembering the day before. We remembered our Captain Haddock loving consultant and his beard which looked so well on him. ‘By growing his beard he’s become even more himself!’ we reflected. Is there anything more lovely than someone just being themselves, fully becoming themselves, ceasing striving to be anything else? Perhaps it’s about sparing the energy otherwise spent on trying to be something else. Perhaps it’s the relief of self-acceptance glowing. Whatever the reason, the development towards being who we really are is one of the joys that life can bestow. No wonder Carl Rogers cited self-actualisation as the pinnacle of human development. 

At MyST, we, like so many others, both enjoy the hope and take comfort in the confidence of Carl Rogers’ ideas that everyone, absolutely everyone can change, heal, grow and develop given the right conditions. As public servants, our challenge and privilege is to create services which rest upon this.

Jen & Jael

A Gwent Partnership Board Service