I spent a good amount of time interviewing William about his life. I am not going to be his therapist for obvious reasons but looking at his case has been useful to think about how others who are suffering can be helped. Here I recommend what I believe to be a good treatment for William and I have added some background detail to his issues.
William’s story unfolds in Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4 and Day 5.
Will’s life appeared to change when he left home and moved in with his girlfriend. He isolated himself and got involved in drinking to numb his feelings. This was really the first time we lost touch with each other. Interestingly, he never mentioned to me about the drinking in his journals (even though I knew) and I believe he carries a lot of shame about this. There were a few times when people had to be called to get him out of trouble after fighting or collapsing somewhere, intoxicated. His life is indicative of toxic shame being felt on a deep level and he has spent most of his life avoiding this shame. He is not in touch with his emotional self at all and sees emotion as dangerous.
As I go about my job on a daily basis, I realise that Will’s story is not unusual and people do carry shame forward to a greater or lesser degree. It is a product of parenting styles employed a generation ago that were affected by the generation before that. I did some research on this and specifically parenting styles in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s in the UK. They were all based on patriarchal family systems where the father (emotionally distant) set the tone for discipline and the structure of the family. Especially after the Second World War, men coming back from the front, had a special status in society and everything was done to make them feel special, including encouraging them to be the “heads” of the household. Women played the role of housekeeper and daily caregiver to the children. While this might have changed somewhat after the 60’s, children were treated much the same into the 70’s…
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I think that William has come a very long way…and is exceptionally brave.
And I feel so proud of him for just what he has had to face… the uphill climb and struggle. The desperation and despair and helplessness he has faced.
Nobody knows unless they have truly been there…
And just because you get to a certain point or place in life… it doesn’t mean that you don’t or might not have issues/problems in the future and that you are all better. It just means you are in a position to deal with those issues/problems perhaps better than you used to, and with more understanding and empathy than before. I reckon he would be really great at helping others actually.
He probably doesn’t feel good enough for anyone nor anything at times…but he is.
Please tell him that.