Henri Nouwen on friendship & shadow

“There is a twilight zone in our hearts that we ourselves cannot see. Even when we know quite a lot about ourselves – our gifts and weaknesses, our ambitions and aspirations, our motives and our drives – large parts of ourselves remain in the shadow of consciousness. This is a very good thing. We will always remain partially hidden to ourselves. Other people, especially those who love us, can often see our twilight zones better than we ourselves can. The way we are seen and understood by others is different from the way we see and understand ourselves. We will never fully know the significance of our presence in the lives of our friends. That’s a grace, a grace that calls us not only to humility, but to a deep trust in those who love us. It is the twilight zones of our hearts where true friendships are born.” 

Henri Nouwen

We think there is a close analogy here with the mirror held up by the therapist in therapeutic relationship. We offer back the reflection of those who work with us, and – at a deep, subtle, energetic level that may often be unvoiced – we offer too our experience of them, infused with presence and the core conditions of empathy, congruence and love. The loving, unthreatening space created by this ‘other’ perspective, allows the person in the client chair to encounter more of themselves, and supports therapeutic movement, unfolding and emerging.

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

Counselling Exeter since 1994

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