Concentric Counselling



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Legacy - walking in the footprints of female healers

Happy International Women's Day to you all! One of my favourite days of the year; the chance to celebrate the special women in our lives and in our public sphere, and to acknowledge the contributions of women to our culture and society. These are the women, named and unnamed, who are working tirelessly to #pressforprogress, toadvance true gender equality, for the benefit of all. 

This is an idea that has particular significance to my work, because it is the inspiration of these women that I inform my work. Every day, I call on the women who have come before me.

This idea is nothing new; without naming it, we are inspired every day by the people we have met and the stories we have heard. My own inspiration for this came from Maya Angelou, talking about the rainbows in her clouds; it's a beautiful video, only two minutes long:

Just like her, this is how I start my day; I think of the long line of women who have come before me, and I imagine taking my place at the very end of that very long trail. Named and unnamed, I think of the countless women who have administered healing throughout the centuries: through their emotional awareness and medical knowledge; through their advancement of the political and legal rights of women; through their activism. I think of Maya, the Pankhursts, Audre Lorde, Bertha Pappenheim, Millicent Fawcett, Kimberle Crenshaw, Judith Lewis Herman, Emma Gonzalez, Joan Baez, Malala, the suffragettes and suffragists, and all the forgotten names who have worked and sacrificed to press for progress. Mentors, teachers, colleagues, community workers, aunties, sisters, mothers, friends. I think of all the counsellors and preachers and storytellers and troubadours; all the wisewomen and midwives and witches and nurses who have supported and nurtured and cared for others as a calling and a vocation. And I draw on their strength, and on their wisdom, and ground myself, ready for my work. And like Maya, I say, 'come with me, I need you now'.

One of my favourite therapy books is Judith Lewis Herman's book, Trauma and Recovery, and it was there that I first read about Bertha Pappenheim. I was struck by this excerpt:

Her dedication, energy, and commitment were legendary. In the words of a colleague, “A volcano lived in this woman... Her fight against the abuse of women and children was almost a physically felt pain for her.” At her death, the philosopher Martin Buber commemorated her: “I not only admired her but loved her, and will love her until the day I die. There are people of spirit and there are people of passion, both less common than one might think. Rarer still are the people of spirit and passion. But rarest of all is a passionate spirit. Bertha Pappenheim was a woman with just such a spirit. Pass on her memory. Be witnesses that it still exists.” In her will, she expressed the wish that those who visited her grave would leave a small stone, “as a quiet promise . . . to serve the mission of women’s duties and women’s joy... unflinchingly and courageously”.
— Judith Lewis Herman, trauma and recovery, about bertha pappenheim

My work is my small stone - Happy International Women's Day.