Be With - Naomi Bateren / by Richard Bentley

Naomi Bateren has just joined the ThinkWell team as a Workshop Leader. She is a psychology graduate currently studying for a masters in Dramatherapy at the University of Roehampton. She has worked in the charity and voluntary sector for six years, using theatre in education to raise and give space for discussion of issues such as mental health, sex and relationships, and disordered eating. Having worked with young people on self-harm awareness, she assisted them to create a performance for their peers, and led follow up workshops. Passionate about mental health and creativity, Naomi is interested in forensic settings and breaking cycles of negative behaviour in individuals and society.

Two simple words. Two simple words that I understand. Two simple words that confound, evade and exhaust me. Being with is such a simple sentiment: to come alongside; to support; to exist in space together. And yet it has proven to be one of my biggest stumbling blocks whilst embarking on a career as a dramatherapist.

You see, I am friendly. I am supportive. I have worked in mental health with young people for years. I see work as being something that can directly help other people, although I realise this is not a view shared by everyone. 

So a career that helps people to overcome trauma, emotional blockages, mental health issues and a whole myriad of other issues seemed perfect for me. And it is! I am loving it; I feel totally myself and totally in the right place.

But on this journey to qualification I am having to dig deep and understand myself better. After all,Jung said that you can only take your patients as far as you are willing to go yourself. And I have discovered that ‘being with’ is difficult. I want to be there, sitting in the fire with others, but haven’t we sat here long enough? Isn’t it time to get up and move away from the flames? I’m starting to feel the burn myself – surely it would be wise for us to just put the fire out? ‘

'Being with’ in therapy requires me to embrace difficult emotions, to sit in the fire long after I have stopped being comfortable, and accept that these emotions need to be put into the therapy space. This means I need to accept my own emotions and the emotions evoked in me by others.

I have found this a real journey: am I allowed to really feel and embrace all the feelings inside of me? I think there are wider cultural reasons for this denial of emotions. The role and perception of women does not always allow anger. The chaos of life can get in the way of feeling sadness. The pain and tragedy in life can push out space for joy and happiness. Sometimes feeling can be seen as a luxury; just ‘getting on with it’ is more productive and useful. But for long term health it is important to sit with emotions, really feel them, rather than deny them. Then we can know what is truly going on for us, be honest, and function more fully. This in turn will allow others to feel what they are feeling and thus continue a cycle of discovery and healing.

‘Being with’ is a privilege. I have been allowed to see real humanity and witness development, realisations and breakthroughs. But to get to these moments there has also been resistance, running away, seemingly unbearable emotions – from both me and my clients! All I can do is give time and space. Time to be with myself and allow my emotions. Space for my clients to do this for themselves as well. This is what dramatherapy is: a potential space for exploration into an inner world, to give new possibilities and alternatives to what has been before. This new world can be intimidating but the unknown can be better explored if we know what we are bringing with us.

Be with. I am trying to be with me. Then I’ll be better able to be with you. Then, just maybe, we’ll all be able to be with each other and this connection, this knowledge that we are all human, could bring about real, lasting change.

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