“Why do we like the frantic, the unmastered?” Asks Virginia Woolf, in her diaries. This is a question I also return to time and time again as I look out to sea. Feeling the disquiet holds an edge of excitement for me, there is a thrill to its wild and unknown nature.
For me there is something quite awesome about being made to feel small, insignificant, vulnerable.
Something playfully cherishing about being sprayed by the sea and even more so when seeing the other’s surprise as they are splashed by the sea spray as they walk along the promenade.
Even more touching is when I am in the sea, bobbing around, apparently trusting its capacity to hold me, softly caressing my form, knowing its strength could take me over, its sometimes silent, sometimes roaring power could take away any sense of control I may feel I have, at any time.
For me that makes me feel free. For others I am aware that feels like the opposite of freedom. Perhaps it is the sense of disquiet that is not thrilling for the other. Of course that is completely understandable and perhaps very sensible.
The sea, our relationship, has taught me a lot. Not just what was said above. Many other beautiful things too, some known, some still unknown.
It has deepened my capacity to feel, to reach into sensations, when to let go and when to push forwards. It has taught me how not to take things personally, how to play and take risks, how to feel and experience joy, it has taught me, or at least invited me to be open even in the unknown and when I think I might be unsafe; not to judge or believe every thought that emerges from the reckless mind. It has taught me there is much I don’t know and that it is ok not to know. It has taught me lessons about connection, intimacy and friendship.
It has inspired me, filled me with awe. It has provided beautiful gifts, delightful and magnificent gifts. Whether seeing elusive pods of dolphins in the early dawn, as I witness the wonder of the full moon and the rising sun in unison. Or the simple drama of playful young seagulls dipping and diving into the waters. It has yielded me a space to dive deeply into the unknown, into pleasure, and held me patiently on its voluptuous and flowing surface as I come up for air, breathing, resting and trusting.
And when its roaring form prevents me from entering its embrace it still teaches me much. It teaches me about patience, power, movement and change, and it quietly, continually gives me permission to become. It invites me once more to come into contact with and enjoy the unmastered within me.
Even if one only feels a slight desire to see the sea, and not even consider entering it, there are many gifts to receive, lessons to learn. But if that desire increases I recommend dipping a humble toe into that vastness, you never know what might happen.
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Susanna Petitpierre, BACP Registered, is an experienced psychotherapeutic counsellor, providing long and short term counselling. Her approach is primarily grounded in existential therapy and she works with individuals. Susanna is available at our Brighton and Hove Practice.
Further reading by Susanna Petitpierre