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Number 9: Winter 2013

About suffering they were never wrong the old masters

Jane Haynes

I was also responsible for the psychological care of the individuals in London who were my patients, and who woke up the next morning to find that I had left London for an uncertain period of time, and without warning. I knew that despite the unfamiliarity and trauma of the world that I had been catapulted into, I wanted to stay in touch with them, rather than request that one of my colleagues make the necessary communications on my behalf. It felt important, from the beginning, that I told as many of these people as possible the changing truth of my circumstances.

 

There were some patients whose own situations were still too traumatic, or whose personalities were too pathologically narcissistic to burden with the explicit, or in some extreme cases, any details at all of my trauma.  It was not easy for me to ring everyone personally; I was emotionally and physically exhausted and even the thought of the impact of a limited communication tired me but for my own individuation and future as therapist it was vital to me that I did. I instinctively knew that I would not be able to return from living through the trauma of murder without my patients knowing what had happened to me. Nor did I want them first to read about it in the newspapers. Although Jay was murdered in Brighton he had recently joined a ‘magic circle’ city London firm and the journalists were already on our doorstep.

Once I was in Eastbourne where my daughter lived and I realised that Jay was dying as a result of his injuries, I couldn’t bear, in contrast to speaking to my patients, to speak personally to almost any of my friends or colleagues in London. I resented having to tell, in detail, or dilution, our story to anyone, besides those people who had already formed a closed community at Jay’s bedside vigil. I did not then understand why it felt otherwise with my patients, although I do now. When you are seeing people on a long term basis between two and four times a week it can seem as though they are more intimate, more attuned to your sensibilities – by which I do not mean your biography, or life – than anyone except your most intimate associates. This may sound as though I had expectations of sympathy from my patients, which I did not;  one or two even without narcissistic personality disorder were openly angry with me, which I perceived as a healthy if unsympathetic response. I remembered that at the beginning of my own analysis my analyst had been absent for several weeks due to acute illness and that mixed in with my sympathy was my resentment and some anger. There was guilt too that, by becoming his patient, I had harmed him.