Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Therapy By Numbers...

I spent the weekend on a training course.

I am usually ultra-selective about the training I attend, and I’m still not sure how this one slipped through the net, but it wasn’t until my bum was firmly on the seat that I realised it was going to be a ‘Janet and John do therapy’ session. Oh, bugger. Too late to leave. I have a mantra that I chant quietly to myself on such courses: keep your head down and your gob shut I repeat quietly and persistently to my inner rebel. If the trainer is up for it I will engage robustly with them on issues of theory, but my instinct told me that she really wasn’t up for it and no good would come of it.

(A friend of mine during my social work training many moons ago taught me the value of this philosophy. As is usual on ‘helping others’ type training we had to write a self-reflective journal, describing our personal journey through our placements and our ‘learning edge’ for our future personal development as reflective practitioners. My friend handed her journal in with pride. It read ‘KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN AND YOUR GOB SHUT’ in size 36 font. How we laughed.)

The day proceeded without any mishap, until the lovely trainer asked us to think of five things that we would like to thank our parents for teaching us, in a bid to commit to positive thinking. I was in the room and had nothing to lose. So I thought. Lots and lots. Now, I don’t want to use this blog to be horrible about my parents and siblings or whinge about my unhappy childhood. It’s cheap, it’s immature and one day they might read it. So all I will say is that I grew up one of five children, low in the pecking order but without the privilege of being the youngest, with parents who ran a corner shop and worked themselves into the ground for 60 hours a week. My siblings and I were, well, probably feral is the best way to describe us. You can join up the dots for yourself. So I thought some more, and then came up with what I thought was rather a good list, given the adverse circumstances of my childhood:

  1. I am very good at mental arithmetic because they made me work in the shop.
  2. I can cook, bake, sew, knit, darn socks and iron shirts. All of which are handy skills for a good wifey, and may come in useful some day if I ever decide to be one.
  3. I can hold my own in an argument.
  4. I can disappear into my head in a room full of people until I hardly recognise that anyone is there. Therapy calls this dissociation. I call it a life skill.
  5. I can carry quite hot things without using an oven glove.

The lovely trainer then invited us to share one of our ‘positive inheritances’ with the group. Oh shit. My neighbour shared a very moving story about …..well, it doesn’t matter really, but she clearly found it moving. She wiped her tears and I realised it was my turn. I thought about it long and hard for about a nano-second and decided to share my best party trick: that of carrying quite hot things without an oven glove.

“I can carry quite hot things without an oven glove” I said. People stared at me. One man smiled a little bit, and I quite liked him for it. Perhaps he felt the same way as I did? There was a very long pause, during which I decided not to speak. I really felt I had said enough.

“Thank you for sharing that” said the lovely trainer, and looked a little embarrassed before moving on.

So I would like to take this opportunity to thank my parents for lovingly handing me the life skill of being able to pass the roast potatoes without getting out of my seat to find the oven glove.

And I would also like to take the opportunity to advise any aspiring therapists out there to actually learn how to be alongside someone quietly in a genuinely therapeutic relationship, without recourse to tricks, fancies or psychological gimmicks.

15 comments:

nmj said...

I laughed out loud at no.5, you have nice comic timing.

Alas, I didn't inherit this sans oven glove skill & have the burns to prove it.

I loved this post.

Cheryl said...

Asbestos fingers!
Giggled through this - thanks :-)

Atyllah said...

Ouch and that's not because of the hot potatoes.
It would have been a fine occasion to indulge in a sudden manifestation of laryngitis, methinks!
;-)

Reading the Signs said...

Ah, I wanted to read on, love it. I would have come up with "toffee apples on my 9th birthday." It might not at first glance appear to have much in common with "carrying hot things" but there is such a thing as damning with faint praise. Is there a place for irony on these courses?

I need to brush up on my "keep your head down and your gob shut" skill. Very useful in so many areas of life. Any training courses for this, please let me know.

Ms Melancholy said...

Thanks folks - bet you have spent a few moments thinking about your own 'positive inheritances' eh? I like the toffee apples - damning with faint praise indeed. Wish you'd been there! And perhaps there is room for a therapy course titled 'keep your head down etc'. I'll work on it (with heavy irony compulsory, of course.)

Ms Melancholy said...

PS - Ms Baggage, thanks for dropping by x

YellowDuck said...

I now dread to think what the psychotherapists I teach English every week really think of me...

Oh well, they keep paying their bills on time...

And as an English teacher it is nice for once to be asked by my students how I am really feeling and if I want to talk about it.

That's so pants said...

Perhaps you could thank them for helping to hone your comedy skills and providing a wealth of material. Should I feel bad about getting a good laugh at the expense of your family?

Ms Melancholy said...

Mr Duck, I'm sure they love you - you seem to have a sense of humour and I bet they appreciate it. You are teaching English, and not psychotherapy, so you can use as many techniques as you want.

Ms P - no need to feel bad. They often have a laugh at my expense...(tone of self-pity??)

MrZhisou said...

My Grandma is very proud of her asbestos hands, and she never fails to mention them in passing hot food situations.

I tried to copy her, and picked up a dish of beef stroganoff only to drop it noisily and shout out in words not normally used in front of grandparents.

From then on, I am in awe of her ability, and salute you for the same.

Caroline said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ms Melancholy said...

Mr Zhisou, thanks for calling in. I have no actual evidence, but I suspect that asbestos hands are something that only women possess. But well done for trying.

Caroline, I guess one day you will feel thankful that your family made you a writer. Just make sure they don't recognise themselves!

MrZhisou said...

I have tried to think of the five things I'd have put. By nature I would have tried to be funny, mainly to avoid actually revealing anything personal - but, hey, in a classroom of strangers, I think you have that right.

I struggled to think of much, I wasn't quite sure what I could really credit to them, and what to other factors.

It's not easy - how long did they give you to come up with the list, and what was the most sickly annoying answer that made you want to give that person a damn good shake?

Ms Melancholy said...

Ah, Mr Z - you know I can't disclose someone else's confessions from a training course...suffice to say the more contrived it became, the more irritated I became.

I notice you live in Spain. I have friends in Granada - anywhere near??

MrZhisou said...

MsM, no, I live nowhere near Granada, I'm afriad. Currently on the Med coast, but further north near Valencia. With luck and a load of cash, I will maybe move in a few years, though not back to our native Yorkshire, I'm afriad.