What do Gannets have to do with Self-Discovery?

Peace of Eden Series no. 2

For those of you who read my very first ' Peace-of-Eden' column, about names I mentioned that I finally identified with the name, 'Figela' - 'I've arrived'.

Arriving at the right place leaves one with a sense of belonging. However, it can be like climbing a series of mountain ranges, like the Swartberg, you just arrive at the peak, exhausted but with an exhilarating sense of achievement, only to see the next peak just ahead! Life offers many opportunities to reach for the next peak, passing through valleys, lush vegetation and sometimes rocky deserts.

In Psychology, we have a term called, 'repetition compulsion', which describes the way we repeat certain uncomfortable, negative or even traumatic patterns of behaving, with the hope that each new repetition will lead to a different result. On these occasions, it is like climbing up the mountain, only to slip back again at the same point time and time again. For example, wanting to feel a sense of competency we enroll in a new course only to deter from writing the final exam; or we take on a new work challenge only to fail in clenching the final deal; or engage in a loving relationship, but just can't make a final commitment to the one we love. The resulting perceptions in all these circumstances and similar other occasions is: 'I'm not good enough'!

Why can't we reach the first peak, overcome the same obstacles, break self-defeating habits? Why do we repeat the same ways of 'banging out heads against emotional brick walls' with the same painful results?

At Lambert's Bay there are 15,000 pairs of gannets who nest on a land-locked island. Each pair has an individualized mating call that identifies their mate. While one partner 'nests' at home, the other flies out to sea to fish for food. As it returns home it calls out its own unique bellow. The mate hears and responds like an airport control official and sonors its mate to the right landing pad. Sometimes a gannet lands in the wrong spot, there is no belonging there, and in fact, he/she is mercilessly pecked as an intruder! However, if the gannet mate lands in his/her designated 'patch of earth' he is welcomed with sword-kissing, beaked delight. Figela!

I don't know about you, but I spent too many years of my life being like the gannet who would not find the right landing spot, feeling like everyone else had the password to a successful, happy life and I was an alien - the ugly duckling in the swan family!

Through a process of self-discovery - my own therapeutic journey, spending time in wilderness places observing animals with social behavior - I at last began to know a little about who I was, what I wanted from life, and how I could contribute on my own little patch of earth. I reached the top of the first peak - had a 'Figela' experience!

You are unique and of great value, why live life slipping down the same slopes. Find ways of honoring your existence and connecting with your own creativity. If you feel I can help you make a start, or keep on with the right journey, please contact me.