My Gentle Heart – A Creative Counselling Story

6th July 2019

My Gentle Heart – A Survivors Story by Tanja Sharpe

Poetry is a powerful creative counselling tool for helping survivors to tell their story and I know this from personal experience. I became a survivor as a teen and it impacted my entire life.

Over the years I met with psychologists and counsellors and tried to express my feelings but the words just weren’t there. I don’t feel the words ever will be there and believe that there are no words when you experience something like this and I found that the only way that I could express myself was through art, sandalas and poems which helped me to release what was in my head and my heart.

I wrote this poem when I was a young teenager and really struggling with my mental health. Struggling with low self-esteem, I felt too small to have a voice. I was terrified to show who I really was out of fear of judgement from others. “What would they think if they knew the truth?”

I used to believe that people could tell just by looking at me! This made me feel vulnerable and unsafe. My anxiety worsened to a place where I was unable to eat in restaurants out of a fear of being sick and I would avoid busy places.

“Poetry helped me to express my inside world on the outside”

beach sandala
Beach Sandala – My many layers and my perpetrators

When we express our inner story on the outside we start to unpick the layers which keep us in pain. As we work through each of the layers we can start to own our story and find ways to release the attachments which keep us in fear.

Layer by layer releasing until we are at the core of the pain. I knew that I had reached my core in 2017, while sat with a counsellor who used creative counselling tools with miniatures in my hand which represented my perpetrators. For the first time I told my story. I told all of it, not a watered down safer version for fear of judgement and I shared all the deeply tied, strung, tangled and bound emotions while I drew them on a sheet of paper and placed my perpetrators in the middle.

I coloured in each of the tangled area of the mess and described what they represented while walking my perpetrators over the mess like a map and I felt safely dissociated enough to be able to confidently control where I went and how I went there!

Beach Sandala Crystal
My tangled mess contained safely by a boundary from the outside world

In that moment, I knew that I wanted to offer creative counselling tools in my sessions with clients and that this was a natural fit for me as I had always processed my own pain in creative ways. At the end of the session I shared this poem and that was the final piece of my trauma puzzle! I had released over twenty four years of silence and pain.


With my soul worn by the tide

I wander across Pearls

I feel the depth of the ocean

As she swallows my secrets

I fight my thoughts and hide my tears

Silence has become my best friend

My gentle heart & unbreakable spirit

Have now met a violent end

Each day I choose a mask

to hide how I feel inside

I walk the shores of life

With heavy & burdened eyes

The words haven’t been invented yet

To help me tell my story

I’ll sit in this chair and try to show you

But I can’t speak, please back off, stop pushing

I’ve lost my voice and I can’t breathe

There’s something seriously wrong

I needed someone to listen

Without needing a verbal song

I will walk this journey alone

This stormy, lonely shore

Ill keep the words locked deep inside

Until someone opens the right door

I felt released!


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