Photo by SARAH GRANGER on Unsplash
Welcome to the first ever blog post for Nautilus Counseling! I thought it would be a good idea to start off with an explanation of the name I chose for this practice, so buckle up for my best attempt at describing this multi-layered symbol and metaphor, as well as its meaning to me.
A spiral is a naturally occurring shape that is found commonly in nature. They are the structures of galaxies and bacteria alike. Philosophers and mathematicians have marveled over the prevalence of the “golden ratio” also known as Fibbonacci’s sequence. To describe this sequence in non-academic terms, each number of the sequence is the sum of the prior two digits (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13; the 2 is found by adding the two numbers before it (1+1),the 3 is found by adding the two numbers before it (1+2)). Aside from its mathematical underpinnings, spirals are found in art, religion, dreams, and mythology across space and time.
The spirals that I was most familiar with growing up were those of seashells. My childhood was spent in the Florida Keys where the natural beauty of the world is hard to ignore. I remember being transfixed at an early age by seashells, wondering how thumbless waterbugs made such beautiful homes for themselves. An important thing to remember about seashells is that the shell is not the creature (though there is a strong argument that it is an extension of that creature), but rather its perfectly ratioed shell is a product of the animal inside. The nautilus specifically creates its shell in a quintessential Fibonacci spiral and also coincidentally is one of the oldest creatures to grace the face of the earth.
Photo by Shaun Low on Unsplash
Herein lie the first two layers of the metaphor that inspired my business name. The Fibonacci sequence parallels my beliefs about cognitive growth. New chapters in one’s life are not random, but rather built off of the experiences, beliefs, and feelings that one has experienced in the past. It also speaks to the idea of Fritz Perls’ “gestalt”, indicating that the whole of a creature is greater than the sum of its parts – indeed each section of a nautilus’ shell is greater than the building blocks that came before, but the shell in its entirety is what sustains life for the creature and inspires admiration from us humans.
It is also important to note that the shell and the animal are not one in the same. The shell is what the animal shows to the world instead of its tender body. This mirrors humans as well. The front that we present in public (and often private) spaces does not usually reflect the complexities that lie within one’s consciousness. In therapy, I hope to provide a safe space for clients to “come out of their shell” and take a look at how closely their public presentation matches their inner truth. Some mollusks (and some humans) occasionally elect to discard their meticulously created homes altogether. They become vulnerable, then sometimes find new shells that are a better fit. This, too, can happen in counseling. Within a space of trust and safety, you may decide that part of your public identity no longer matches your internal experience. We can work together to thank this part for its service, then let it go.
To add one more layer to this metaphor, I will describe a beach. While sitting on the sand, you can perceive all of the things above the water as you do in your daily life. Every once in a while though, you can see a fish or fin hop into your perception from under the surface of the water. For me, dry land represents our conscious self, and the ocean represents our unconscious. Shells can wash up on shore to give us clues of the life that lives underneath just like emotions and dreams give us clues to the activity in our unconscious mind. I hope that counseling will empower you to appreciate and inspect these little nuggets of insight as you would a beautiful, mysterious shell on the beach.
Photo by Bogomil Mihaylov on Unsplash
To me, therapy is a spiral process of discovering, growing, and integrating the many different pieces of oneself. Sometimes we re-learn lessons in new ways and new contexts. In those moments, this may feel like tedious work. However, once you step back from your process of self-actualization, you may find that you have created something beautiful.