Creativity Found

Cecilia Poullain – Gestalt therapy, writing and performing solo shows

April 18, 2021 Cecilia Poullain Episode 16
Creativity Found
Cecilia Poullain – Gestalt therapy, writing and performing solo shows
Show Notes Transcript

Cecilia Poullain has had a successful career in law and finance. When she started seeing a Gestalt therapist, she discovered a source of creativity that she has continued to explore, from writing short pieces in French, to writing (and performing) a one-woman show and now working on a novel.

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https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Ketsa/Raising_Frequecy/Day_Trips

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Claire Waite Brown:

Following in her father's footsteps, Cecilia Poullain has had a successful career in law and finance. When she started seeing a guest out therapist, she discovered a source of creativity that she has continued to explore. Hi, Cecilia.

Unknown:

Hi, Claire. I,

Claire Waite Brown:

you started actively exploring your creative side quite recently. Tell me what avenue of creativity you are pursuing?

Unknown:

Well, it's writing really this Well, there's there's been two things the writing started relatively recently. But when I was a child, I did a lot of I played the piano a lot. And when I was in London in the early 1990s, I joined a choir with my, my brother was also in London joined the choir with his flatmate. And one week, she said to me, Well, I can't go to my listen on on Saturday with this with the choir masters, so she was taking singing lessons. And she said, Would you like to go? And I said, oh, oh, yeah. Okay. You're singing listen. And then I, I loved it, and just kept going. So I've actually been sort of singing and taking singing lessons since the early 1990s. So that was my, that's my old creativity. And my new creativity is the is the writing.

Claire Waite Brown:

Brilliant. How was your experience of the arts at a younger age, so as a child at home or at school,

Unknown:

my mother was extremely artistic. She grew up on a farm in Queensland, and she loved horses. And so she used to draw, you know, fantastic horses. And I remember when I was about seven or eight, I've been struggling all day to draw an elephant and my elephants just weren't coming out the way that I wanted. And she got a piece of piece of newspaper and a pencil, and she just went, put a little alert, and out came this amazing event. And so, from that point, I said, Well, you know, there's not much point in me continuing this, so I, I stopped any idea of drawing or painting, but she was always influential in, in the arts, she had a shop for a while. So she called it the wall hang shop. And so it was in the 70s. And it had, you know, a crummy and it had, you know, wallhangings that were made of wool and very textured, and lots of Aboriginal artefacts and bowls, and all that, all that sort of stuff. And she was also very interested in doing up houses, so she would buy ruins for very little. And then she would get very excited and start doing houses. And so looking at the sorts of colours that would be good and just making them really beautiful. So she she did that. And I remember to when I was quite young, she gave me a book called introduction to art, which I still have, which is just like the masterpieces through the ages. She was just sort of always pushing. I think that the artistic side, and as I said, I was I was playing the piano. I played the flute for a while as well. My father didn't have any of that he was much more the breadwinner, the lawyer I'm doing master's degrees and much more intellectual so there was a split in my family between my my father But who was he was like, you know, in law he talked about the reason the man on the on the clapper maandag Omnibus, and it was like the reasonable man and my, my father was a reasonable man are still is the reasonable man. They were my mother would ask him, what would you like for dinner? He would, how much would you like for dinner? He would say, Oh, just reasonable. Whereas My mother was much more about intuition and emotion. And it was very much a sort of classic male female split in my in my parenting.

Claire Waite Brown:

Right? You mentioned that your father was a lawyer and you studied law? Are the two connected? And did you want to be a lawyer from a young age?

Unknown:

The toy definitely connected. I was very, I was very influenced by my father when I was young. And I always thought that I was like him. And the older I get, the more I move away from the way that he is. And more towards my mother, actually, you know, I was a good student, I was very conscientious. But I was not interested in sciences at all. I think the only the only exam in my life actually, where I've ever walked out early. Was my it was year year 11 chemistry exam. And I'd studied for it half an hour the night before. And I thought, well, there's absolutely no point I don't have a clue what they're talking about. It's just point. So there was no way I was going to be doing medicine. And if you're a good student in Australia, then if you didn't do medicine, then you did law. And I was always interested in words. And so it seemed like, it seemed like a good fit. And, you know, a good solid profession. And of course, I'd seen my father being a lawyer, it just seemed like the obvious thing to do. Yeah.

Claire Waite Brown:

You've worked in law and finance, and have always been good at what you do. Have you enjoyed your work.

Unknown:

I've always had a struggle with my work. There are bits of it that I've enjoyed. And what I've really enjoyed as a lawyer, in fact, has been writing contracts. I saw contracts as a as a puzzle, because you've got the definitions, and you have to make sure that the definitions are always used in the way that they were intended to be used throughout the contract. And it follows a certain logic. And so I loved getting those contracts. Right, and using exactly the right word, so that it was crystal clear. I realised over time that it wasn't the writing the contract that I enjoyed, it was the writing. But at the same time I I struggled with politics, you know, office politics, and I struggled with how to be, there was always something that just wasn't quite right. I complained a lot about my job. I complained a lot about my bosses a lot. I had times when I had real conflict with my bosses. And I had difficulty working out how to deal with those conflicts. More and more, I saw my friends who were becoming partners in law firms and who were becoming senior counsel in in business, and really enjoying it. And looking at them and thinking, Well, what am I doing wrong? I finally realised that it wasn't what I was doing wrong. But when I was looking at positions that I could be applying for. I just actually wasn't interested. There was one position at work recently, that was training people. And that was training people about financial products. I thought I could do that. There's lots of writing involved in that. And then even that position, which was slightly more corresponded to me, in the end, I just didn't want to do it. So that was that was telling me that maybe this just wasn't the job for me. Wow.

Claire Waite Brown:

And I think that possibly leads on to my next question. Your creative discovery was helped along the way by your Gestalt therapist. Can you tell me a little bit more about this stop therapy, why you sought it out and how it has helped you?

Unknown:

Sure. So Gestalt therapy is, I mean, I've never really looked into the history of it. I think it comes out of the, the West Coast of the US and it's all about Feeling very much about what you're feeling right now? And what do you need right now? And it's holistic in the way that the therapist will look at how you're moving to say, Oh, that's interesting what you're doing with your hands. Or she will look at how you're dressed, say, Oh, that's funny, you're dressed, you know, all in black today, huh. And the therapist, the therapist will be very reactive to what you're saying. So it's not like typical psychiatry, where you go into a room and lie on a couch and just talk and talk and talk. And then my psychiatrist will say a couple of words, it's, it's much more interactive than that. So I might say something. And then the therapist would say, that makes me feel really uncomfortable when you say that. Or she might say, when you say that, it feels so right. At first, it feels so right to me. So it's very interactive. And it's also very much about using the imagination and about creativity. So there's an exercise that we do, or that I've, I've done on a number of occasions, actually, where you will picture the emotion that you're feeling. And you'll picture it in your body. So for example, if you're feeling scared, she, my therapist might say, well, where? Where is that fear in your body? I'll say, well, it's in my stomach. What does it look like? I say, Well, it looks like this Cannonball with with sharp spikes on it. And how big is it? She goes through a whole series of questions so that you can really clearly picture this fear. And then she'll say, when what does it need? And in my case, what it needed was to explode. And then after that, then she'll go into Echo, and what does it look like now. And so it's very much about using your imagination and imagining the future, for example, how you can imagine your future is going to be, so I've done individual therapy, and I still do group therapy. And there's a group of, say, seven or eight of us with two therapists. And it is unbelievably powerful. And I've seen people change, just extraordinarily over the period that we've we've been doing that. So it's been now probably four years, I think. And so the reason why I sought out the therapist in the first place was because of this frustration with my work. Because it's like, what, what am I doing wrong? What is wrong with me? Why is my career not going anywhere?

Claire Waite Brown:

And did you at that time? Did you know it was this style of therapy that you wanted?

Unknown:

No, it was fairly random. I just talked to somebody in human resources at work and said, Can you recommend somebody I knew I already knew about Gestalt therapy because my aunt, she lost her husband. And when he was 42, and then she lost her son who fell over a waterfall two years later. So she had a very, very tough time of it. And she did a whole lot of work on grief. And then she became a Gestalt therapist. So I knew about Gestalt therapy from her. But without really knowing what it was,

Claire Waite Brown:

and how does the therapy and starting writing, how does that connection come about?

Unknown:

Well, my therapist said to me one day, okay, well take a piece of paper and write down on a piece of paper, everything that you would love to be in a perfect job. And so I read write down a whole lot of different stuff. And then she said, Okay, we'll choose one of them. And I went with it, which 1am I gonna choose? And I just went writing. And she said, Okay, well, there's a writing school in France called lF. And they've got a three day introductory course. So why don't you go off and do that? And so I did. And I had three days in this grotty basement. It's in Hussain shack, which is about 500 metres from Nottingham. And there were 10 of us sitting around the table with a with a tutor. And it was just amazing. It was I was just on a high for three days, and it was doing exercises. So she would get us to give us a subject and get us to write for 45 minutes and then read out what We'd written and it was so natural to me. And it was just like I was slotting into part of me that had been waiting there that I hadn't used for 40 years.

Claire Waite Brown:

I must just point out that you are Australian. But this course you were doing in French. So you were writing in French?

Unknown:

Yeah, that's right. Yeah. Yeah. So I've been living in France now for since 1996.

Claire Waite Brown:

How did you find writing in French? Did you find it restrictive in any way? Or did it flow very easily for you?

Unknown:

I wasn't trying to write perfect French. And I, my written French is, you know, it's okay, I still make mistakes. But it's, it's okay. I tend to write in a way that's very direct. Because English tends to be written English tend to be more direct than written French. So that I wasn't trying to write perfect French, I was trying to get down on the page, what I could see, I think my role as a writer, is to write down as faithfully as possible. What I can see in my image, in my in my imagination.

Claire Waite Brown:

Yeah. So in a way, just necessarily matter what the language is, comes out in as long as it comes out. Yeah.

Unknown:

And then I get people to correct my ss, my ease that I've left off. And they'll sometimes say, that doesn't really make sense. Or you wouldn't say it like that. And I get people to go go back through it and corrected. My long suffering husband has been very kind enough to do that for me.

Claire Waite Brown:

I love sharing my guests stories with you. But podcasting isn't cheap. There are hosting fees, and software costs, tech to buy and time to invest in planning and editing. To make sure the guests sound great. And listeners hear the best content. If you'd like to financially support creativity found, please visit kayo hyphen, f ai.com, slash creativity found podcast. I know that you have since then started to write longer pieces. And you joined another course, didn't you? Yeah.

Unknown:

So after I did the three day, introductory course, I then enrolled with the lF doing what they call modules. So they were three months modules, we would have an assignment, it was over the internet. So we'd have an assignment, we have a week to write, and then we would get everybody else's work. And then we'd have a week to write comments on their work. And so when then at the end of the two weeks, then you you got back everybody else's comments on your work. And it was really incredibly exciting to when they started coming in. And then the tutor would write a long a longer piece, commenting on what you'd written. And so I did, I did three of their modules, I had this idea I was on holidays in New Zealand. And because of the the writing course with a left, what I realised is that often you just need to have a starting point. And you go from that starting point and just see where it leads you. And I, I was singing a song, I was learning a song, which is called this seduction, which is by the idea was an early VRD song. And it was a song about a young girl who was seduced by an older man. And she thought that they were going to get married, it turned out that he had different ideas. And so she then has her baby and then dies. And this all happens in the space of you know, four short pages of music. And I felt like she was really hardly done by not only by the man but also by various like, what she must have gone through this fictional woman. And so I suddenly realised that maybe I could use the songs that I was singing as the starting point for writing. And so from there, I wrote something from that song. So it was, it was in three parts. The first part was from the point of view of the man going into her room, late at night and seducing her. And then the second part was from her mother, talking about how her daughter had come to see to see her and told her what had happened and then they waited and it turned out she was pregnant. And then she'd had to take her daughter into into the monastery and how devastated she was about that. And then the third part was the girl in the monastery who knew she was dying, who just had the baby and knew she was dying. And then from there, I took other other songs that I was learning, and wrote texts from them. And that was my first one woman show. So there were five songs, and then five texts inspired by the songs. And when I did that, what people said was, yeah, well, that's great. But if you want to actually do something in a theatre, you're going to need to have something that's a bit more, got a bit more structure to it. And it's a bit more a bit more unity to it. And so from there, I started writing another show, which was just text. And it ended up being nine short stories about the history of the world. And starting with a father and his daughter looking at the earth, and from outer space somewhere. And she's saying, Daddy, what's that blue and green ball? And why is it blue and green? And then they start talking about? Well, because there's water in there there. And why do you need water? And why do you need air and, and then it goes through, I mean, basically just various points of history that I felt inspired to write about. So it's the first bacteria that splits off and the two bacteria start fighting with each other because they say I was here first, and I will see if there's no, I was here first. And then it ends up with the Mona Lisa, looking out through her thick plate of glass at the Louvre and seeing the devastation that climate change is, is wreaking on the loose. So all the pitches are falling off the walls and and so that was the one woman show, which I then acted in a in a theatre in Paris. And then I felt like I wanted to do a longer, longer things in write in English, because writing in French, it's, you know, it's okay, but it is so much easier to write in English. And so I started doing a novel course and novel writing course, from it's actually in Australia through the internet. So I've done a noun onto my third version, my third draft of that.

Claire Waite Brown:

Oh, wow. So not only one woman show, but there's also a novel here as well,

Unknown:

it's some. So at this stage with a novel, I've written about 20,000 words, it's a completely different ballgame from writing short stories. So I'm learning a lot, a lot about structure. How important structure is, I'm wondering what's going to happen next, I can know what the beginning is, I know what the end is. But the middle, I'm really good at it. So about that.

Claire Waite Brown:

That will come?

Unknown:

Well, I hope. So I'm hoping that some sort of logic between the middle and the end that will somehow reveal itself to me.

Claire Waite Brown:

How exciting for you, as well as for us. Going back to the one woman show. So we've talked about writing, but there's more to this than just the writing because you actually have produced, rehearsed, and put on a show in front of an audience. So can you tell me a bit more about that process?

Unknown:

Yeah, sure. Because I'm still working with my singing teacher. So I still have seen lessons once a week. And she said, Well, I can help you put the I think I asked her, I said, you know, can you help me put this on. And my initial vision was that I would just be reading my texts. And she, she's also done a lot of directing. First of all, she said to me, Well, you know, you really should learn them off by heart. And then you can still have the, you can still have your texts with you if you need them. And so that was the first step. So I started learning them off by heart. So I'd be catching the metro or walking in the street. And I'd have my piece of paper in front of me and I'd be talking to myself like some crazy woman. So I gradually learned them off by heart. And then she said, Well, maybe we can actually, you know, make these a bit more interesting. So maybe you can be be playing, actually acting a bit more. She also got me to find a musician. So I had a pianist who composed music for each of the each of the pieces. So he was on stage with me. And it she was very clever in the way she just got me to do the next thing and the next thing and the next thing until it was a really a very professional performance with no lights. And it was in a professional theatre and I had the theatre and they were, you know, over 100 people were in the in the audience. So yeah, it was all very exciting.

Claire Waite Brown:

Gosh, well done. That's brilliant. Going back to the start of how you discovered the wonderful things, have these pursuits helped with the career dissatisfaction that you had felt?

Unknown:

Yes, there was one point at work where I'd said to them, I'd like to have a day off a fortnight to write. And so they said, yeah, that's fine, take off your, you can have your day off. And I'd also become a mediator at work. You know, I work in a in a very, with very, very nice people. It's a very good place to work. It's interesting work. And for a while there it was, that was okay. So I had my, my work, my friends at work, I had my day writing once a fortnight, I was still singing, I was doing a bit of mediation at work. And it that was sort of Okay. And then as time went on, I thought, well, it's still not what I want to be doing. And so then I started working with another coach. And she has been working with me to actually become a coach. And so she said, How can you take all this extracurricular stuff that you've been doing? So the singing the writing, the the mediation, the Gestalt therapy? How can you make that your work? So I set up a company in 2019, to be doing coaching, and initially I thought it was going to be more public speaking coaching, because it was about the seeing the using, how you use your voice, how you use your voice in public, all that all the things that I'd learned when I was doing my one woman show. And recently, the more I work with clients, the more it's becoming really about life coaching, and about working with women, to give them confidence, working with women who are in the same situation that I was in and being frustrated with work. A lot of women aren't good at speaking up for themselves. So I've been doing a webinar, for example, on women being interrupted in meetings and about what you can do about that. The the focus is shifting. So the focus now is much more about giving women confidence, and how can I use my creativity and their creativity, to give them confidence and work out what they really really want in their lives. The small morning, I did my very first masterclass. And I was planning to talk about fear, we ended up talking about something completely different. Being able to bring my creativity, the Gestalt therapy, all of that into helping other people is just so rewarding. And part of all that, too, was is the podcast. So I launched my podcast, brave new women. And it's the reason for the podcast is so that women can speak up and have a platform to speak on, and talk about the things that are important to them, and also reflect back to them that what they're doing is really important and worthwhile. And so many women say Oh, yeah, you know, anyone would have done that. And I'm saying to them, Well, no, you did that. It wasn't just anyone that could have done that. And also for the podcast, it's to say, Well, look, world. A lot of women have been written out of history, but look what they're doing. These women are doing incredible things. So let's, let's change the way that women are perceived as well.

Claire Waite Brown:

Brilliant. That all sounds so full, I'm assuming that both of those things are coaching and the podcast have a place in your future generally. Do you have plans going forward?

Unknown:

Well, the plans are to as soon as it's financially viable to resign from my job at the bank, which I'm I'm still doing my aims for this year that I can resign that I that I can make the coaching financially viable, that I I get the novel finished. And if I can, I've got another one woman show that some I've written And started rehearsing but haven't been able to do because of COVID. There's a Schumann song cycle called the loves and lives of a woman. And it's a a songs about a woman who sees a man and she falls in love. And then they get married, and they have a baby. And then the last song, he dies. And the I wrote several versions of this, and they didn't work and they didn't work and they didn't work. And then it ended up being. So it would be a song and then me. So her, I called her Clara. And so 19th century, Clara would sing about what was happening in her life. And then me as 21st century, Cecilia would respond to that. And it saw almost like a dialogue between her and me. And we talk about what love is, and we talk about death. And we talk about the fact that she's created and creativity, the fact that she's created by this guy called Adelbert von Cammy. So who's the poet who wrote the the poems, and that she's created by Schumann. And also that she's created by me, because I've then created something around her and given given her more substance and more personality. So I'm hoping that at some stage, someone suggested the other day that I could do it in streaming. And I'm hoping that at some stage, I will be able to get that off the ground as well.

Claire Waite Brown:

Yes, brilliant. That sounds really fascinating. streaming. That sounds like an interesting idea as well. Yeah, that's been really insightful. Thank you so much, Cecilia, how can people contact or connect with you?

Unknown:

I'm on LinkedIn, to look up Cecilia Poon on LinkedIn. There's a brave new women Facebook page. So you can find me there. Or you can look at my website. So it's just www dot Cecilia puna.com.

Claire Waite Brown:

Fabulous. Thank you so much, Cecilia. Well, thank

Unknown:

you, Claire. It's been a pleasure.

Claire Waite Brown:

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