Story: Van Gogh

This is a REFRAMING story – if you are overwhelmed and generally pissed off with life.

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van gogh

Graham told me this one time when he came to see me. He remembered the period as being very stressful. He was overloaded with work and he and his wife had decided to move house as well. Even the irrelevant had become significant

At this time Graham flew to Amsterdam on business for a two-day conference. Spotting an opportunity for business and pleasure he prepared for his trip by jotting down some time-out activities, one of which was to visit the famous Van Gogh museum. At first Graham remembered finding it difficult to leave his hotel room due to worrying about events at home, but gazing out of his hotel window he felt drawn by the warm, colourful veil thrown over the cobbled streets and canals by the evening sunshine. He decided that it would be a crime to sit and worry in his room and to miss out on what Amsterdam had to offer.

After walking a short distance Graham reached the Van Gogh museum in a calm and relaxed frame of mind, the evening stroll having vanquished the emotional baggage with which he had arrived. He spent a few moments immersing himself in the surrounding artwork before his gaze settled on one particular painting. The scene depicted Van Gogh’s bedroom, an open window and an agricultural landscape outside.

Graham stared intently at the painting, which he interpreted as a scene in which a clearly troubled Van Gogh (not visible in the painting) is trapped in his small, claustrophobic bedroom with all his peace and tranquility of the countryside beyond. But Graham also felt that Van Gogh, by leaving the window open, was implicitly suggesting that a choice existed for him. Should he stay in the room and fan the flames of his anxieties or head out through the open window and watch his fears shrink and dissipate against a backdrop of something greater and more important?

For Graham the choice was obvious. On his return to the hotel a receptionist called to him to say that an urgent fax had arrived requiring his prompt attention. Graham remembers replying that the fax can wait and going off in search of the hotel bar. When he returned home Graham made further changes to his life that he now described as the irrelevant remaining firmly irrelevant. After talking to me Graham realised that the Van Gogh had really been on to something.

Mark Evans, Human Givens therapist