Paul knows himself exceptionally well. He is acutely aware of the competing energies within his psyche. And the central balancing act of his life is between connection and independence. He relishes his friendships and seeks intimacy – and I can speak for what a warm and kind friend he is – but he also values time to simply be with himself.
There’s something of a battle of two archetypes here – between the convivial companion (in his portrait, hosting a dinner party) and the hermit (seen with his beloved labrador, Travis). Paul sees another contrasting pair of archetypes at work – the lover and the fool: ‘the person who’s engaging, listening and soft … but also I like have a bit of fun. I can get quite mischievous.’ Hence the appearance of the jester, representing Paul’s playfulness, an aspect of him I appreciate as much as his serious, reflective nature.
Paul is indeed a thoughtful man, drawn to deep reflection and spiritual seeking: ‘What I find very nourishing and gives me real appetite is the quest, the search, the exploration of the deeper meaning of life.’ This is shown in the scribe receiving angelic guidance – a figure that also represents Paul’s love of writing: he’s working on a travelogue, which allows him to combine two passions: philosophical contemplation and travel.
All of this speaks of Paul’s fascination with people – what motivates and inspires them, and what they are capable of. He’s particularly interested in the extraordinary achievements of ‘ordinary’ people: ‘The way that people deal with their suffering is where I see the heroic surfacing.’ This pull towards human psychology is also behind the career change Paul made to become a therapist and coach, something he’s proud of. He hopes that he has ‘made a difference to people’s lives’. I have no doubt that he has. He’s certainly had a very positive impact on me.
‘What matters most is love and companionship, but also space and freedom. Navigating the balance is life’s challenge.'
How I know Paul
It was initially through work that Paul and I met – we’re both coaches, and Paul has done some sterling pro bono work for the coaching and mindfulness social enterprise I co-run. Our shared interest in Buddhism and spirituality led to many excellent conversations, and a solid friendship was quickly formed. Spending time with Paul is always an enriching experience – he brings himself in fully, with all his intelligence, thoughtfulness and good humour. He’s one of the most attentive and responsive listeners I’ve ever known.