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Blossoming

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” Anais Nin

This is one of my all time favourite inspiring quotes. I was reminded of it when it popped up on a social media feed in a colleague’s post today. Its on the footer of my website, so I thought I'd write a bit about what it evokes for me, and hopefully in the process convey something of how I think change happens and how therapy can help.


In a few words Anais Nin evokes the exquisite agony of feeling like the comfortable, familiar life we have known has been outgrown and that something new is needed. A sense that something new MUST happen, in the way the blossom erupts from the bud or it will whither.

The feeling of something no longer fitting, of contorting oneself to fit in with the expectations of others, or the cage of expectation we have built for ourselves without realising. Probably we are not even aware of the cage and what its made up of, but feeling stuck and trapped all the same. Somehow knowing there is more, yet not knowing what it is, where it is or how to get it. The blossom has it easy in some ways, it can’t not burst from the bud.

I love the energy implied in this. That the blossom can do nothing but become blossom and explode from the bud, in the right conditions, with the right amount of warmth and water. And, yes, there is risk here. The fragility of the blossom, the delicate petals revealed to the sun, will it be too harsh and burn? Too dry and shrivel? Will this new expression of life survive out there in the big, and sometimes bad, world.

In the lines following this most often quoted piece, Nin goes on to say

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death. Living never wore one out so much as the effort not to live. Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity and stumble from defeat to defeat. Perfection is static, and I am in full progress.”

Like Nin, I think that much of what causes us pain, or aggravates the suffering already a part of our being human, is the way we shut down feelings, try and pretend we are someone we are not and disown the range of experiences we might have in the pursuit of an idealised or acceptable self. And, how we limit ourselves and what we might do or who we might be for fear of others’ reactions and what meaning they might make. There is a death in this and it can haunt us in a range of ways. Feelings of emptiness, extended periods of depression and anxiety, difficulties in relationships, struggles at work. Where something is at play to keep the truth of who we are tight in the bud, the energy that would have gone into blossoming can become corrosive, affecting deeply our relationship with ourselves and those around us.

And this always happens in a context. Be it a family culture that disallows aspects of feeling and experience, a relationship where interlocking fears and defences get in the way of vulnerable connection, a work setting where people’s humanity isn’t recognised, or a wider culture that idealises particular experiences and rejects others. And of course, the very real impacts of social injustice, inequality and oppression that makes survival, let alone blossoming difficult for many.


For the bud to blossom it needs light, food and water.

There are many places to find the nourishment needed to blossom, sometimes changing the context can help; a new job, a new creative pursuit, a new relationship. Sometimes something else is needed, something different, something more internal, more subtle.


The cage needs to be recognised and dismantled, and the energy caught up in holding on needs to be let go so that it might flow into something new. I believe therapy can help with this, having experienced this for myself and witnessed this in friends, clients and colleagues. This is not necessarily a pretty process, its often messy, but it can definitely be beautiful!


In an age of social media influencers living their best lives and telling us all about it, it could be easy to think that blossoming needs to be a big bang moment, something dramatic or exultantly climactic....and sometimes it is. More often though, it could be the every day moments of letting go in tears of sadness when something has been lost, expressing the anger of a wrong encountered, reaching to friend or loved one in despair, expressing the joy in learning something new or delighting in something delicious. Quite basically, to just be real, to be true, to be you, as you are in the moment.


So simple, yet often so profoundly complicated at the same time!

If you were the bud in Anais Nin’s quote, what is keeping you from blossoming? What’s it like for you to hold on tightly, instead of risking moving forward? What is the cage that keeps you in the bud? What support do you need to take a risk?

As a gestalt therapist, I’m often asked to explain what Gestalt Therapy is. I hope that by expanding on Anais Nin’s quote and exploring the symbolism in it, I’ve given a sense of something of my understanding of Gestalt Therapy and my deep belief in the potential for change and growth.

If this has sparked you curiosity and these questions are something you’d like to explore you can contact me to arrange a free introductory call where we can talk and see if working together feels like a good idea.







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Adventures in Being

Gestalt Therapy and Counselling for Growth in Edinburgh with Karen Nimmo