I just finished reading the latest novel by one of my favorite authors, Louise Penny. It’s entitled The Madness of Crowds. This is Penny’s 17th installment in the adventures of Inspector Gamache. Readers have fallen in love with the inhabitants of the fictional village of Three Pines. One of the more eccentric characters is Ruth Gardo, a truculent old poet with a goose named Rosa whose vocabulary consists of f—, f—, f—, usually in triple succession.

Penny includes some of Gardo’s poetry (of course written by Penny) in each book. The poetry is always thought-provoking. This quotation in the most recent book caught my attention:


“Long dead and buried in another town

My mother isn’t finished with me yet!”

I won’t include any spoilers, but this stanza is central to the theme of the book. Her point is that even though people in our lives may be gone, they still impact what we believe, what we see, and how we behave years after. This is so true both in my own life and in the lives of my clients. And what can be more insidious is that impact is often unconscious to us.

My mother died of cancer when I was 21 and she was 46, but our relationship has impacted every facet of my adult life: The kind of spouse I was, the parent I am, the citizen I am, often in ways I’m not even aware of.

Clients come to me because they want something to be different in their lives or they are at a place of transition, or they are stuck and can’t move forward. In spite of the varied reasons, there is usually an underlying theme: They are not aware of their own unconscious beliefs and assumptions, many of which were formed decades ago.  This lack of awareness keeps them stuck. There’s a saying that “awareness precedes choice which precedes change.” Until we can become aware of our assumptions, we are controlled by them. Once we are aware, then we have a choice of how we react.

In other words: If you don’t see it, it will manage you. If you do see it, you can manage it.

Are there people and events and places from your past that aren’t finished with you yet?