The Little Bird and the Whisking Storm – the importance of self care in counselling

A thought and a story from Toni.

Imagine you are a special little bird.

All the other birds choose to fly away each morning and spend their time swooping through the sky and chasing the sun. But you are a special bird and want to do useful and important things instead.

So every day you fly down to the world of people. You land on the ground and hop around excitedly, happy to be among them all. You sing beautiful songs to uplift them and you take pride in the importance of your purpose.

One day, halfway through your finest song, a terrible wind begins to blow and the sky darkens. The people around you become afraid. They start to run around wildly and knock you with their hard feet. Your feathers ruffle painfully in the rough wind, and you are hit again and again by leaves and twigs and pieces of rubbish that spin around in the gale like a school of fish in a warm sea current.

Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of drama and disagreements, pulled into battle and hurt by careless words. Sometimes people want you to solve their problems, and you feel guilty if you know you can’t, but it doesn’t stop you trying and trying until you feel ill.

You fly in and find yourself small and vulnerable, buffeted by the cruelty and recklessness of others. You feel that you should be helping. You feel that you should be able to stop the storm of lies and hurt and pain. And you feel that you need to make the world calm again. But you are only a little bird. You can’t control the wind and you can’t stop people running and being scared while you hop around on the ground being battered and hurt.

But then you remember, you are a little bird and you have wings.

It’s hard to leave the ground because the wind is blowing and the storm doesn’t want to let you go, but your wings are strong and clever and they know what to do. Finally, you are above the chaos and you can breathe again. Your muscles tremble and tears float behind your eyes, but you slowly calm your body and look around.

Far below, you see the whisking storm and people running around in fear. You remember how it felt to be so powerless on the ground. You feel sorry for the people who are running because they are not lucky enough to be birds.

Ah! But now that you are flying high above the storm, you can see a big friendly tree with strong branches that push against the wind and curve to form a sheltered place. So you fly down and perch safely inside its canopy.

Soon, a running boy comes to the tree and looks around, desperate to get away from the relentless wind. With wild, tearful eyes, he sees that your feathers are still and understands that you are in a safe place. He crawls underneath the straining branches and sits with his back against the trunk of the big friendly tree.

Soon, there are many people sheltering with you under the tree. They have stopped running, but you notice that they are still afraid. So you sing to them, and they feel that they are in a safe place. And you stay with them, and they feel less afraid for having had the company of a kind little bird.

The moral of this story is that you can’t help anyone if you’re down on the ground getting battered and hurt. Sometimes you need to get some perspective to find a way to be involved that’s safe for you. And when you’re safe, you can help the people who come to you and offer them a safe space too. You can’t control the wind and you can’t stop the people from running and being afraid. But you can be a lovely little bird who cares enough to be there for those who find their way to you.