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What do yo do when you seem to suffer from everything under the sun? Is there anything you can do? Should you let yourself be guided by professionals? But what if those people tell you your problems are too complex? All of this seems pretty hopeless, yet Rianne managed to completely turn her life around. “Now I have been healthy and happy for over twelve years.”

When I was a teenager I spent most of my time in psychiatric hospitals, from my 15th till my 19th. I was admitted because of an eating disorder, depression, hallucinations, suicide attempts, anxiety and panic, and self harm. I was often labelled as a ‘complex case’. Of course they wouldn’t say this to my face, they used their fancy language. I was also regularly rejected for treatment, or even sent away because my problems were too complex.

Now I have been happy and healthy for over twelve years

I am married, a mother of four children, and working at my own practice. A success story, because I completely turned my life around.

But how? Through the reflection of wholeness. But exactly what is that reflection?

Back in those days, I met a friend, now my husband. He saw this wholeness in me, something beautiful, he believed in me, which led to me finding my wholeness again. I also started treatment with a good therapist, who reflected trust, and thought autonomy was important. And voila, the reflection!

Care providers often tend to want to fix their clients, or heal them. Sometimes, they don’t even have faith in their client, or they think they know better than the client. And actually, a message is then being reflected unconsciously; ‘I know and you don’t’, ‘I cannot trust you’, ‘You have a problem’.

In those days it was sometimes decided that I had to be isolated

when I had seriously hurt myself. But what underlying message does this send someone? Maybe you see this as a temporarily good and protective solution. But I want to show you a different perspective. As a client I experienced emotions of fear, sadness, pain, chaos, and desperation, and it was because of this I harmed myself, it was my survival strategy. A way of not having to feel the emotional pain. If we look a bit deeper into the stress system, I was showing signs of hyper-arousal, the fight or flight reaction. I became very aware of danger, ready to flee. Because of self harm the necessary adrenaline (stress hormones) and endorphin (body’s own pain relief) were released. So the self harm also had a soothing effect on my body.

Just like animals people have the capacity to calm down through peace and connection

from this state of stress. But what happened in my situation? I was set apart, isolated. There was no peace or connection. I was left to my own devices, I couldn’t be trusted, I wasn’t allowed to feel this pain, chaos, and desperation, they were not understood and I had to be locked up. Like a child who expresses anger is told to go to their room get the underlying message they’re not allowed to feel angry. I became utterly convinced that I was not to be trusted, that there was something wrong with me, that I was too complicated. The psychiatry was the reflection of these beliefs, it confirmed my misconceptions, it was merely focussed on my emotions and behaviour.

I would like to give you another example. Imagine you’re a child and you want to learn how to ride a bike, but your parents are scared of you falling over, hurting yourself. Does that give you the confidence to try and learn? No. You would subconsciously feel their fear. It would be helpful if they ran along with you, cheered you on, if they would dare risking you to falling over. It is part of the learning process. But what kind of message are they sending if they take your bike away from you, tell you you can’t do it, that falling over is too dangerous?

Beyond thoughts, feeling, and behaviour lies the essence

The wholeness of every human being. Every person has the ability to be psychologically healthy, some people just experience so much noise to their thoughts and feeling that they temporarily lose sight if this. We can reflect this wholeness to them, we can remind them of this value, strength, and life within them, that that is unbreakable. This essence is like a diamond. No matter how bad the traumas, emotions, and behaviours may be, they are just like the mud covering the diamond.

We can reflect trust and autonomy so these people can rediscover the trust and autonomy in themselves. Every person holds an inner wisdom, only you know what is best for you, what works,  or doesn’t work for you, what feels good and what doesn’t. We can point people back to this inner wisdom, because if we don’t, we confirm these people’s ideas of despair or being lost.

Would you dare telling your client they are going to fall sometime. In the knowledge that your client has the capability of getting up again? Would you dare to refer to this strength and resilience in people? Because wow, people have gone through so much already once they finally sit opposite you. What strength they’ve shown carrying and surviving all of that. Would you dare to be the reflection of wholeness?


Rianne Levi is works as an experience expert, 3 principe facilitator en IZR practitioner in the Netherlands. She has a website.

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