Clean slate

Lately, I had wished for a reset button. A button that could start my life from this time where I feel more confident and contained within myself and, more importantly, offer a clean slate on which I can rewrite the story of my interpersonal relationships. Somehow, I imagine that I will only write stories of success now from a place of heightened self-awareness on this clean slate. I will make better choices to ensure more happiness and fulfilment in my relationships. I believe that true joy in life mostly comes from the people we surround ourselves with. Money, professional accolades, and life goals are secondary to the human need for belonging and connection to others for love and safety.
I realised that in this wishful thinking, implicitly, I imagined that my journey of growth and individuation would have the power to define the quality of my relationships; now that my wounds have started to heal, they won’t hurt the people who did not cut me. I alone can design a new relationship with minimal and resolvable conflicts, laughter, and light and love that will grow on its own. Inadvertently it came to my awareness that rooted in this narcissistic belief around a utopian fantasy was my inherent belief that I was responsible for the failure of my prior relationships. No matter how much I tried to zoom out and give the devil its due and cut myself some slack, I had been taking the blame for ruptures in my relationships. I saw a repeated pattern in my emotional needs from the other, manifested in the relationship and the expectations of the other.
As my awareness of myself grew, I could see how I was re-enacting a typical and familiar response to a significant other, which was a repeat of my childhood response to the direct trauma repeated over and over again throughout the span of my adult life.
This fantasy of a clean slate came from the sheer exhaustion of seeing myself behaving habitually and experiencing shame and fear. Every time I was in an emotionally safe relationship, I could see myself starting all over again, hypervigilant and waiting for the other to be like the original wounding ‘other’ who had hurt me. I wondered if this pattern would ever change. Can I have a clean slate on which I can paint a psyche like a newborn’s without the blueprint of any trauma?
But I am beginning to understand that life will never be a clean slate, and it’s futile to imagine that growth will be a progressive path. Now and then, a new relationship will be a mirror that will reveal another hidden fragment of my psyche, and that fragment perhaps will not be all shiny and pretty but scarred and ugly. Will that make it any less magnificent? That this is, in reality, a sign of life in the body, mind, and soul, an energetic ebb and flow of the psyche continuously organising its needs around the others and pushing forward with an all-encompassing life instinct to thrive and grow.
Will I stop wishing for a clean slate when I question my brokenness and how it affects the people I care for? Maybe not. But I will continue to strive towards holding these broken precious parts with love and acceptance and celebrate the spirit and drive to move, change and transform. I hope the people I cross paths with can appreciate the essence of human nature, and we can experience a shared space of understanding that our broken parts will bleed and cut each other, but the healer and healed are both within us. Repair is around the next corner of every rupture.
Self-love is embracing and accepting your broken parts. It’s a lifelong process, so rather than wishing for a clean slate, I choose my psyche with handprints of invited and uninvited experiences as proof of a well-lived life.

The writer is a BACP (British Association For Counselling and Psychotherapy) accredited individual and couple psychotherapist based in Islamabad. She can be reached at or her official website.

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