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Number 9: Winter 2013

About suffering they were never wrong the old masters

Jane Haynes

Trauma invariably occurs like a bolt from the blue, and it is often accompanied by a sense of a fateful intervention as an act of the gods rather than of any mortal. It is unlike the majority of other undesirable life experiences, or even critical illness, where there is a warning point – usually but not always anxiety – which alerts the sufferer/s to seek help. Traumatic intervention changes life between one minute and the next and for its victim, or group of victims the specific expression of unprepared for and disastrous change will impact unsympathetically upon all the victims’ bodies, possibly forever. I remember that when my son in law was murdered a colleague rang me up to express her sympathy and said, ‘Nothing will ever be the same again for your family.’ Far from finding her words comforting, because I longed for everything to be same, they made me angry, but they were also true. As my mind returns to the emotion of anger, I recall that I have a client who watched several members of his family explode into ocean and ether as a result of a terrorist attack when he was a boy. For some unconscious and thus involuntary reason whenever, despite the client’s previous protests, I refer to this event I will still call it an ‘accident’. ‘Why don’t you use the correct word, ‘Murder’?’ he chastises me, but at the same time knowing that we have both endured literal experiences of murder, his crosspatch voice is softened by a smile.

How does this client know about my circumstances? He knows because his GP  who has kept many London psychoanalytic consulting rooms fuelled with his patients – happened to read my memoir and asked to meet me and selectively sends the book as a gift to some, but not all of the patients he now refers to me, in spite of my protestation. He felt that reading it changed his life and he since has confidence that I may be able to assist change not in all, or even many, but perhaps in some of his patients’ lives.