Photo: Darragh Kane
Creative sector >>View video>>
The creative sector tends to be made up of really good communities; all the sound engineers know each other, all the photographers know each other, but then at the same time a lot of those jobs are independent jobs; you’re by yourself, you’ve got your own set of responsibilities so you mightn’t have that deeper emotional connection even though you have that friendship support.
Photography >>View video>>
One of things that I’d struggle with myself, in my line of photography, is that it’s very big on comparison, especially if you end up photographing one gig of a tour. If someone’s doing Belfast, Dublin, Cork, you get to see what the photographer in Belfast shot, what the photographer in Dublin shot, or, there might be multiple photographers so you’re suddenly now comparing yourself to all of them.
In a more negative thought space you might be ignoring that they have their own styles, they have their ways of post processing, the gigs might be dramatically different. You might go into one of those kind of dark cloud moments but you have to sit back then and tell yourself, “OK, wait. Let’s compare January 15th to January 15th last year. What did I shoot then? Where’s my comparison?”
You can still have that negative critique of, “OK this could have been better” or, “I missed out on that”, or “I forgot to bring this wide-angle lens that would have gotten that better shot” or “Oh I wish I had stood somewhere to the left”, but let those just be critiques. “OK I should have done better”. Accept that and move on.
It’s when that self doubt and that bigger darker cloud comes over you need to consider, “OK who’s talking here, what’s going on here? Is it just an overdose of social media and that kind of comparison, or is it really being a professional critique about my own work?”
Opening lines >>View video>>
I’ve been going to counselling for several years. It didn’t stem from, “Oh I’m now I’m suffering from depression” or “I’ve just experienced something traumatic”. I just knew for myself that things weren’t right. How I’m going through life isn’t the best way I can be going through it. There was nothing visibly wrong or externally wrong, you just know you’re not really coming at it at 100%. I started going to counselling and they were my opening lines to my counsellor, “I’m not coming at this 100%, I don’t have anything directly to pinpoint but I don’t think this is the best version of me it possibly can be”. My counsellor took it really well and was like, “Yeah you’re not the only person to come through my door with that kind of an opening.” The experience then of going to counselling, was amazing.
Your mind >>View video>>
I don’t really hide things about my life, counselling was something that I didn’t want to start hiding, so if I couldn’t make lunch plans with someone, I’d just be like, “Oh I’ve gotta meet my counsellor at that time”. What became very interesting about that, is the more that I put that out, people didn’t respond with, “Oh my God, there’s something wrong with you”. More people responded with, “Awh yeah I used to see a counsellor” or “I used to go to that particular counsellor” or “I’m thinking about going to a counsellor in the future, what steps did you take to find your counsellor?” or “How did you find it starting off?”
It turned out more people I knew had seen counsellors or had some positive experience with a counsellor through their families. So it may not have been them directly, they might be like “Oh my brother started going to a counsellor” or “my sister started going to a counsellor, it really benefited them, I can really see the merit in it”. I think that a lot of the stigma lives in your mind rather than actually in the community.
Mulling away >>View video>>
Going to the doctor is very business orientated, they’re there for a reason, you’re there for a reason, it’s all just one topic, whereas sitting with your counsellor for the hour is a bit more relaxed; you obviously have your emotions coming and you can have uncomfortable feelings, but you’re also working on it throughout the week ‘til you go the next time so it’s something mulling away in the back of your mind.
I also enjoyed being able to leave a session with something to think about for the week. The counsellor might just have pointed out my use of language or my body posture when talking about something; all very, very simple but I’m doing 90% of the work. I’m gonna leave that session and I’m gonna think about that.
I’ll have some thoughts or ideas, I might talk to a friend, “Have you ever noticed this about me, or what’s your opinion on this?” You’re thinking it over, for myself, I’m trying to distill or find what version of me is actually me and what version of me is somewhat a projection or how I think I’m viewed or how I think I’m projecting myself.
Slowly but surely you’re starting to crack away at these false exteriors that you’ve built for yourself. They’re not exteriors in the same way of having a false mask as if you’re some sort of car salesman presenting a negative false identity of yourself, but it’s just in the way that you may think, “Oh I thought I was this person” or “I thought I had to be this person”.
The first few sessions, I can’t remember them being really trying or difficult or negative in any way, shape or form, but then the later sessions, even the negative sessions, even if you’re coming to something really hard or really difficult, the pay off from it afterwards is so worth it.
I have come out of therapy sessions thinking, “I just have to go home and sit down and I can’t have any outside influence affect me right now because I just need to breathe with this and think about it”. Then sometimes you come out and you’re skipping and you’re thinking, “Oh I can’t wait ‘til the gig on Saturday” and you’re just thinking about all the amazing things in your life.
Even the difficult ones bring you back into the session the following week with, “OK, I’ve thought about what we were talking about last week, this is what I’ve discovered, this is what I’ve found out about myself, this is what I’m thinking right now, this is what I’m feeling about what we spoke about it”, and it’s compelling you to do even more work and find out more about yourself.
Blank canvas >>View video>>
I came to a point in my life where I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. The photography was still going and there were other things and I was doing a bit of international travel… it kind of came to a point where I’d a real blank canvas in front of me. Again back to that idea of, this is fine but this isn’t me being 100%.
I came home and there was a conversation with a very good friend of mine and a conversation with my mother. My mother gave me some of the best advice, she said, “What do you want to do for the next ten years?” It’s not a career path, you’re not planning the rest of your life, you’re not making the decision right now that you’re going to commit to forever, just look at it in a ten year block.
Another friend of mine said, “Well we all come to you to talk to you about our problems,” and this friend of mine had been in counselling as well for quite a bit, “you have a lot of that skillset so you should look into this”.
I actually applied for an Art Therapy Masters because I come from an art college background and I thought that would be the next continuous thing. I didn’t get that when I applied and I was actually crushed that night because this was it, I’d have to make all these big changes and it was a real deflated-balloon-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-myself moment.
I ended up looking at what could I do in the year between applying again, pick myself up, next year the course will still be there, I’ll still be here, go for it again and I’ll only be stronger and better for it. Even though I’ll still have that knock back in my past, I had to go forward so I started doing a counselling course only to build up the time to get into the masters.
I’d say I was only about two weeks into it and I thought, “To hell with this the art therapy for now, this course is really doing it” and also the collection of people I was with really sprung that on; there were a lot of different personalities and opinions. I just went on from there then to become a counsellor along with the photography.
Line of profession >>View video>>
If you’re the kind of person who looks down on counselling or thinks poorly of counselling, you’re probably the person who needs to go to counselling. Your counsellor will definitely work from a place of non-judgement. Anything you’ve said, they’ve probably heard before. It’s very unlikely that you’ll shock them, that you’ll frighten them, that they’ll feel negative feelings towards you. They have chosen that line of profession to help people.
It is not for the counsellor to give you advice, they’re not your accountant, they’re not your doctor, they’re there to listen and provide emotional support. They may make suggestions, they may inform you about certain practices or signpost to other things that are out in the world.
You going to counselling is an investment in yourself. So if you think about buying a good pair of insoles for your shoes is a good investment in yourself, it’s that sort of thinking. You’re going to get more long-term benefit for that investment than you will for your insoles. It’s up there with buying good food rather than junk food. Get started on it, you’ll thank yourself in the end.
Remember, if you’re a member of the Irish creative industry, you can talk to a counsellor free of charge at any time of the day or night. Simply call the phone number below.