Helping others and meeting ourselves …

4 April, 2022

Our approach at MyST to helping children who are looked after involves working with the young person and everyone else in the adult system around them. Of course, very central is the young person’s parent or carer; their main caregiver and primary attachment figure. As such, much of our clinical work is undertaken with our therapeutic foster carers. I was talking with one such carer the other day. ‘Memories of me doing stuff I shouldn’t have as a teenager keep popping into my mind uninvited’ he said. ‘I think this work of being a foster carer is disturbing old memories, bringing back old feelings that I thought I’d long since left behind.’

If adults are willing to be alongside children whilst they share their difficult life experiences and distress, then eventually, with enough years of practice, perhaps they will inevitably meet themselves. Parallels and echoes abound. After all, how could we each be so very different to the rest? So at MyST, as therapeutic foster carers practice year after year and journey through children’s experiences with them, there comes a point where carers begin to encounter themselves in new ways. In their helping roles, carers usually find that they can go no further unless they are willing to face their own life experiences and the impacts of these on who they have become. This point is usually preceded by considerable anxiety, and later accompanied by tears. Slowly, bit by bit, the carer acknowledges and integrates, welcomes and finally makes friends with the parts of themselves that they would previously have pretended weren’t so important, could be controlled, could be left behind and forgotten. But we can’t leave parts of ourselves behind of course. To ‘lose’ these parts of ourselves we need to integrate them into who we recognise ourselves to be, and through this process, these parts lose their fearsome otherness and become just ‘me’.

Being available to others exactly as they are, being at ease with whatever another person needs to show us….it’s not an easy path. Seeing another person clearly requires seeing with our whole selves, or as close to this as we can bring ourselves. This means acknowledging, looking into, including all parts of ourselves, no stone left unturned. And the benefit? Being fully present and available for another person.

If we imagine that we can just ignore the difficult relational experiences that have been part of what has made us into ourselves, this work will find us out in the end…. if we do it well enough.

Jen & Jael


A Gwent Partnership Board Service