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talking, finding sense, getting better

Written by Christine Hatcher

During my training I was introduced to the writings of Jeremy Holmes. At the time I enjoyed his easy style and humanistic approach to the work. We shared a fascination and curiosity about people and what made them "tick". He viewed the people he worked with as gifts, much as I do.

What struck me most about him, when I attended some of his workshops recently, was his humility. It seemed that this great man liked humans a lot - saw them as striving to do the best they could at the time, with whatever resources they had. Non judgemental in his approach, he accepted and respected the frailty of humankind. Jeremy treated people with the utmost respect. Also, he was not afraid of exposing his own humaness -despite being an expert in his field - he was ever open to suggestions and acknowledged his limitations.

He proposed that it was important for people to have a story that made sense. For some of us, our life story simply doesn't, trauma has a way of doing that. Disruptions such as abuse, loss of a loved one, or rejection in its many forms can leave us feeling empty, depressed or not good enough. There is confusion, a feeling of being wrong perhaps, or a difficulty expressing how we feel about what is happening to us. We might feel stuck in an abusive relationsip or have a life threatening disease. Our life just don't seem to be working out the way we thought it would and we can't understand why. Somehow, things keep happening and life seems out of our control. We want to cry out for help, but it feels like no-one hears, notices or cares. It seems like no one is there for us and we feel afraid.

The slippery thing about unbearable emotional pain is that blocking it out doesn't make it go away, no matter how much we may want that to happen. Uncannily, in an attempt to avoid that very pain, we actually inflict pain on ourselves by drinking, taking drugs, using sex and many other diversions. Making sense of all this is often easier when someone is there to hear you and hold your hand through the changes you may need to make. You do not need to be alone with these feelings any longer. Psychotherapists are good at hearing your story and helping you make sense of it. In being able to talk about your story, things begin to make sense. This is what Jeremy called "mentalisation".

I learned so much from the series of workshops he gave. I feel enriched and able to pass these learnings on to my clients. Therapy is a place where wounds are dressed. As this happens, when anxiety lessens, one can think.


Jeremy Holmes is a British psychiatrist who is a Director of the North Devon Personality Disorder Service and Professor of Psychotherapy at the University of Exeter. He has written many books on how to treat psychological problems that are a result of difficulties experienced in very early childhood. He gave a series of workshops to Auckland psychotherapists in the winter of 2006.

Christine Hatcher is a psychotherapist, supervisor, and trainer in private practice in Auckland » more details

Article posted 14 August 2006