If you’ve spent any time in the North End of Dartmouth you’ve seen them: Dartmouth’s prefabs. Located between Windmill Road and Victoria Road, on the blocks south of Albro Lake Road these cheery little homes were built to house returning soldiers and their growing families.
Initially they were all the same simple boxes. No upstairs. No basement. Walk through that neighbourhood today and you’ll see that very few remain as they were initially built. Many now have basements, upstairs, second stories or add ons that leave them hardly recognizable from how they were originally conceived.
They each evolved in their own unique ways over the decades. As such, they have remained useful and endured. I have recently acquired a prefab. Located just down the street from the taxi business my grandfather started, my prefab looks nothing like the original. It has been lifted up, a usable attic space added and a huge addition on the back. In its seventy years of existence, my little prefab has grown and changed.
Some of these additions/modifications aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing. For someone – at one time or another, they made sense. They worked. They seemed necessary.
The people I work with in my Dartmouth office arrive trying to change some aspect of themselves. Perhaps they are experiencing anxiety or depression. Others are coming in with the new ‘diagnosis of the month’. Folks enter with a sense that they are ‘broken’ somehow. That they need to ‘fix’ something. Or they need to understand ‘why’ their lives are they way they are.
What does this have to do with therapy?
People aren’t broken. They are prefabs. We all come out human. Babies. Pretty much similar. Over time we develop ‘add ons’. In Gestalt, we call these behavioural, dynamic ‘add ons’ creative adjustments. A creative adjustment is something that each person on this earth has had to do in order to survive. Like the add ons in the prefabs, these creative adjustments made sense. They were functional. With overuse and neglect they can be a problem.
My work with clients is to help them become aware of these ‘add ons’. First we become aware that they exist. Then we explore how they are functional, useful. Then finally, instead of tearing them down, how do we abide by ugliness as well as the utility. Typically that results in new creative adjustments.
I guess in some ways, the renovations never end.
Take a moment. Think about what’s ugly in your life. How has that served you well? How do you abide by the ugliness?