In February 2000, in England, I began working closely with an uncompromising and unconventioanl therapist called Karaj. His approach was grounded in Transactional Analysis (TA), but he believed in using everything we do and everything we experience for our self-development. Under his guidance I learnt about TA and how it applied to my own life:
- How important it is to be able to predict what will happen based on known patterns of behaviour.
- How much we need to involve others in the process, without whose feedback we cannot form a complete picture of who we are.
- What happens when we interact with each other.
- How easily we all become involved in the (psychological) games people play.
- Why we play those games and how can we change our behaviour.
Whilst my situation at the time was by no means a hopeless one, I was nonetheless downhearted about the life I was leading – I had been working in Germany for a few years and although I loved the country, I was not happy about the work I was doing. Neither was I particularly impressed with the person I was.
So this was the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to work closely with someone whose insight and commitment meant I could make the most of every waking minute to further my own development. The whole time we worked together, the focus was on developing myself:
- Becoming aware of my behaviour.
- Seeing for myself its effect on the people around me.
- Understanding why things happen the way they do.
- Owning my emotions (rather than the other way around).
- Gaining awareness of the patterns in my life and their causes.
I was challenged to grow up, stand firmly on my own two feet and move away from a dependence on other people to look after me. I was not alone in this work because I was part of a group of like-minded people, all with their own issues and all dedicated to supporting each other on our respective journeys.
I had originally planned to stay for a short time before returning to Germany; a few months, perhaps. I stayed for four years. I stayed because, despite the intensity of my learning, it was clear that for effective, long-term change I had to keep practising the things I was learning. Breaking the habits of a lifetime is not achieved in a matter of months. I shall always be grateful for having had that experience. It helped to make me who I am today, and everything I learned during that time accompanies me wherever I go and in whatever I do.
A month into my training I began keeping a detailed journal. On 7th March 2000 – 4,017 days ago – I wrote the first entry. It ended with the line: ‘Write down my thoughts and feelings.’ From then on, I wrote every day until 24th October 2003. Two months after that final entry, my training ended, and for a few years afterwards I did little with the whole experience except continue to work on myself and support the people around me when the opportunity arose. Then, in 2008, I met someone who, when I talked to her about the personal development work I had done, simply said: ‘You need to do something with that.’
When she said those words, I was a little surprised by my initial reaction. I was calm, clear, and ready. The time was right. I had no idea how it would work out, but she and I began to discuss the possibilities. Everything that has happened since then has grown from one comment and one intention. I have taken it step by step, not rushing and not getting ahead of myself. The calmness and clarity persist, and I am more patient than I ever thought possible of myself. I still have worries, but when they surface I tell myself the same as I tell others: ‘Know that you will succeed, relax, and enjoy what is about to happen.’