In Praise of Therapy 2

No, it’s not a Hollywood sequel. At least, not yet. It’s just that, in response a hundreds of requests (well, just one actually), I have decided to write a little more on therapy and how it has helped me to change my life. To do that, I need to describe in a little more detail, the early days.

From what I have been able to glean, my mum had suffered from ill health for some time; certainly during those 5 years we had together. My father was in the army during the war and, this former barrel maker, became a commissioned officer. He met someone whose family background, I understand, was Robinson’s Barley Water and wrote to my mum saying  he wanted a divorce. According to her elder sister, she then “gave up living” and I was left to “run wild”. She, meanwhile, was dying at a time when there was no welfare state. The prospect of abandonment must have been too much and, I now realise, she was in despair. That atmosphere was the prevailing one in the house, certainly towards the end.

Following her death, I was taken to live with my father’s eldest sister and her husband, the latter of whom believed that sparing the rod spoilt the child. So much so that, four years later, I was taken to live with other relatives and became part of their family. With no communication of any kind, after a further five years, my father returned only to sign me into the army at the age of 15 for 12 years. So, by the time I was 19, I had moved six times with all my worldly possessions in a suitcase. By which time, transience, insecurity and restlessness were built in. Which brings me to another pattern of behaviour which, after some time in therapy, changed following a specific session.

Throughout my life, I had had images in my head occasionally, one of which, what I always described as the “whale’s teeth”, was very scary. For those of you who aren’t aware, one particular species of whale has teeth like curtains of fine thread which it uses to sieve out the krill which are its main source of food. During one particular session, I remember saying “F…….hell, it’s the coffin”.  Dan told me that he had no idea what I was talking about and asked me to explain. I did so saying that the image wasn’t a whale’s teeth at all, but the stitching around the inside of a coffin. In those days, the deceased was “laid out” in the front room of the house prior to burial and, it seems, that I was taken to say goodbye. Interestingly, I have never had that image in my head again. Coincidence? Again, I think not.

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