In Praise of Therapy

Those who know me or have read my autobiography, “The Other Side of the Doors”, will be aware that I was, what would now be described as, a disturbed child and that I took that condition into adulthood. By which time, I had had a history of transience and broken relationships, following the last of which, I decided that this couldn’t go on any longer and  went to see a therapist. Over the next 13 years or so, Dan Twomey helped me to get my life sorted out such that I’ve now been happily married and lived in the same house for over 20 years. I have also done things I never dreamt that I could. So, for me at least, therapy works. So much so that I can identify specific sessions after which, whatever had previously bothered me, ceased to do. Last week was one of those in abundance.

Dan died 10 years ago but, left me with someone, Stevie, who I could call if any of any demons resurfaced. Well, one did recently and that has led me to slaying the most frightening one of all. However, like much therapy, it wasn’t a straightforward journey. Stevie explained by saying that I am trying, through an adult’s eyes 60 years later, to make sense of the chaotic situation a five year old found himself in when he too was trying to make sense of what was happening  to  him. Last Wednesday was the anniversary of my mum’s death and I woke up worried about things that I know had been created during those early years. I, later, talked to Stevie about this in what was one of the defining sessions I’ve ever had, followed by some “self therapy”. It is my blog today and a very personal one.

The witch’s hat was a piece of playground equipment about 3 metres tall. Imagine the skeleton of such a hat with the point set on a central pole and you will see that its movement is like a wayward roundabout. As children, we played on it in Southwark Park, between the house where I lived with my mum and the one I was taken to after her funeral. My mum was never mentioned again and, after a few weeks, I stopped visiting her family. In later life the “hat” petrified me. Images of it would come into my head and, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t face it down. I was just very, very frightened.

Lying in bed on Saturday and the “hat” came to mind. Now it’s important to realise that the play area in the park was situated nearer my old house than the new one. In fact, the former was probably only a five minute walk from the playground. In my head that morning, I saw the park as if it was a marquee with the pole of the hat supporting it and, such was the weight of the of the marquee, that it pushed the end near my old house higher and, thus, further out of reach. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get there. I also heard someone saying “Michael, you can’t go home”. I then thought about how, when I tried to face the hat down, it seemed as though I was looking into a very dark hole and one that I daren’t go into. It sent shivers down my spine. Yet it was very near to where I last saw my mum alive. Suddenly, a thought came to mind of a funeral where I was watching a coffin being lowered into another dark hole. My mum was in that coffin. No wonder I was so scared.

Now, I can understand how convoluted this may seem to some. However, after all those years, finally the “hat” no longer scares me. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

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