Wednesday, 24 July 2013

A Contemporary Tower of Babel

            The mental health system is a contemporary symbol of the Tower of Babel, where individuals speak in tongues – the disorganised speech of the schizophrenic – that no one else can understand; they ‘hear voices’ that no one else can. The mental health system is essential in the mad and chaotic world we all, in one way or another, participate in creating.

            After two~and~a~half years of deep immersion in the wreckage of human capital, especially that of young people, evident in the South African townships, my ability to ‘hold it together’ came under enormous strain. The despicable and inhuman State~sanctioned apartheid system, which legitimised cruelty, torture and other violent abuse, appealed to humanity’s basest instincts.

            By the time I returned to the UK in 1998, I was mostly standing beside myself. I was suffering from post~traumatic stress. Instead of going into therapy, I decided to train as a therapist; much the same thing really, except that at the end of it I had a professional qualification.

            During the training I constantly said, to everyone’s amazement, that I did not want to be a psychotherapist. Why on earth are you spending all this time and money doing the training then, I was asked. I was doing it for me; I needed to put myself through an in~depth healing process, to clean out apartheid’s dung, as well as some of my own.

"Oh shut the duck up; you're getting on my nerves"

            In addition, I had little appetite for sitting in a room for between 7~9 hours each day, 4~5 days a week, 11 months of the year listening to the child, victim, saboteur and all the other screwball aspects of people’s personalities. I would get seriously pissed off. I would prefer to be a therapist in the world. What does that mean? God knows.
  
            Using my skills and knowledge to support Dean to confront his own self~sabotaging tendencies as well as to challenge areas of potential abuse and injustice in a mental health system, which rarely listens, gave me enormous satisfaction. Perhaps ‘Therapist in the World’ means using one’s knowledge of the psychology of human behaviour to challenge authority to effect social change. That is so much less stressful than getting angry and engaging, metaphorically, in hand-to-hand combat.
             

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