Many insights into aspects of human experience can be found in literature, theatre, cinema and other art forms.  A few weeks ago I saw a play at the Young Vic, The Beauty Queen of Lenane ( which left me with a lot of feelings and thoughts.

I was actually quite irritated by the first half of the play as I felt it was drawing on stereotypes of older people and of single women in a way which provided some comedy but which I found rather uncomfortable.  All that changed in the second half which became much darker and more psychologically complex.  I was left with immense sadness by the end about the main characters in the drama.

So the first point of reflection was how important it is not to judge on first impressions or take the surface for the whole truth.  Behind the apparently easy-going humour there might lie some very difficult experiences and feelings.  By taking the time to listen and watch, we can find out more about what is really going on for people.         

My other thoughts were about how easily frustration and disappointment can lead to cruelty, how we expect family relationships to be loving and supportive but how often they can become hurtful and even abusive, and how often such distress within families is hidden under a cloak of secrecy. 

Uncovering and validating the impact of abusive family relationships is a significant theme in psychotherapy.  Facing the reality of what can happen behind the closed doors of our private homes is sometimes frightening and distressing.  But for many people, owning and stating the truth of their experiences is ultimately liberating.

At the same time, it is important also to understand our own capacity for cruelty as well as kindness.  It is when we attempt to deny our frustration, anger and resentment that we are more likely to act cruelly towards others. If we can reflect honestly on how we feel, what we want, and how we might address the possibilities and limitations of our life situation, then we can face the choices available to us with courage and sensitivity. To take full responsibility for who we are and how we relate to other people is a lifetime project of self-understanding and personal growth.  It is also the route to greater fulfilment in our life and relationships.