Something Nasty in the Woodshed

Let us… (Lettuce! God’s gift to anorexics: lots of eating; no calories at all…) (Sorry. Digression.) … go back down the rickety stairs of analysis into the basement-darkness of my primitive thinking.

“Even when we are carrying a lighted candle, we see shadows standing on the dark walls…The cellar is buried madness.” (Gaston Blanchard, The Poetics of Space, 1994, Beacon Press, pp18-20, quoted in Adam Nicolson, The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters, 2015, London: William Collins, p.134)

Therapy is mostly about bringing the known into the light, into focus: defining and articulating it. Jamie and I kept returning to an idea that Philip and I had dealt with before I entered Ascot House: my desire to prove my worth by the service I render to others. If it existed, the tarot card that would represent my self-concept would be “The Servant”.

Like tarot cards, The Servant has several interpretations, but they all orbit around one assumption: value needs to be enacted – Ye shall know them by their fruits (Matthew 7:15) – but I have no inherent worth or purpose. I am an emptiness embodied; a puff of smoke.

Most of us are probably afflicted by this thought, at least occasionally, but some are much more effective than others at compensating for it by making themselves useful. When my friend dropped out of university in a welter of booze, weed, late mornings, missed deadlines and bewildered directionless days, his dad asked him if he was “just a tube for turning good food into shite”. I remain hugely impressed by the thrilling, devastating power of this dismissal, its poetic savagery. I have taken it for my own.

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