A personal journey
In some ways, it is surprising that I haven’t written about my own counselling experiences before. Perhaps it has never felt like the right moment.
But the guest post from Peter Bloch that I had the honour of publishing yesterday so strongly resonated with the ‘Fergus’ inside me that I was compelled to offer my own journey. So if you are not into bouts of personal introspection, look away and come back tomorrow!
The fickle finger of fate
I was born in Acton, North London, just 6 months before the end of World War II. Nothing remarkable about that. Just another one of the millions of soon-to-be post-war babies. My father was an architect; my mother a teacher. Indeed, at the age of 93 my mother is still teaching music!
In 1956 when my father was 55 years-old he developed lung cancer. I and my sister were blissfully unaware of our father’s terminal condition until the evening of December 19th, 1956. That evening Mum came into my bedroom and said that father was very ill and may not live for very much longer. To be honest, it didn’t really register and off I went to sleep. I was 12 and looking forward to Christmas in 5 days time.
My father died in the night hours of December 19th/20th. I had slept through not even wakening when his body was removed from the house. On the morning of the 20th he was just gone!
It was felt by the family doctor, who had been attending my father, that it would be too upsetting for me and my younger sister to attend the funeral. That funeral was a cremation and therefore no grave.
The good and the not so good.
The only obvious effect of the trauma of my father’s death was that I bombed out at school. I had passed my ’11+’ exams at my primary school and in September, 1956, become a pupil at Preston Manor County Grammar School near Preston Road, Wembley where we were living; Wembley Stadium could be seen from the back windows of the 2nd floor of our house.
I struggled with schooling, the victim of much bullying as I recall, sat 8 ‘O-level’ exams, passed 2, struggled to get another couple of ‘O-levels’ but it was clear that a University place was not going to be for me.
From then on, in stark contrast, I enjoyed a wonderfully varied life, working as a business salesman, freelance journalist and ending up starting my own company in Colchester in 1978 which became surprisingly successful.
But when it came to relationships, that wasn’t so successful. If I tell you that Jeannie is my 4th wife, you will get the message!
A little more background.
When running my own business back in the 1980s I had a network of overseas distributors. My US West Coast distributor was Cimarron, a company owned and run by Daniel Gomez out of Los Angeles. Dan and I became good friends and still are some 35 years later. I’ll come back to this highly relevant relationship with Dan.
I sold my business in 1986 and went overseas for 5 years, actually living on a boat based in Larnaca, Cyprus. (The boat was a Tradewind 33 named ‘Songbird of Kent‘.)
In the early 1990s upon returning to England I chose to live in the South Hams area of South Devon, ending up in the small village of Harberton, pop. 300, near Totnes. Once settled I took up business mentoring. In previous years, I had gained Chartered Membership of the Institute of Marketing. In addition, I became a youth mentor with the Prince’s Youth Business Trust, a really fabulous organisation that does so much good for young people.
One of my personal mentees was Jon Lavin, the founder of The People Workshop. (Yes, and Jon is aware that his website is a tad out-of-date!)
Out of sight, but not out of mind.
In time I became married to wife number three. Seemingly happy living in a tranquil part of rural Devon, keeping busy, not thinking too much about life.
Pharaoh became an important part of my life in 2003. At the time, I had no idea how important!
Pharaoh, relaxing in a Devon garden.
On the evening of December 20th, 2006, 50 years to the day that my father died, my wife announced that she had met another man. The implications of this casually delivered bombshell were obvious and catastrophically painful.
I will spare you the details but, trust me, the next few weeks were tough!
High on my priorities were letting close friends know what was happening. Dan, in characteristic Daniel fashion, said over the phone, “Hey, Handover, you get your arse over to Southern California pronto! Like now!” I replied that it was much too difficult to do that now but maybe later on in 2007.
Realising that I might need some psychological support, I spoke with Jon Lavin. However, Jon made it clear that as we already had a working relationship with me as his mentor, he couldn’t now, in turn, be my psychotherapist. I pleaded with Jon. He said he would only work with me on the strict understanding that he would terminate the counselling relationship if our past workings interfered. Of course, I agreed. [See footnote.]
Finding one’s true self after 50 years!
Jon, quite naturally, started into understanding my past experiences. Right back to that fateful day in 1956 when my father died. And, guess what!
Unbeknownst to me, the lack of time to adjust to my father’s cancer, his sudden death, being unable to ‘say goodbye‘; all had been emotionally interpreted as acute and profound emotional rejection. Buried deep within me with both strong positive and negative emotional consequences. Negatively, making me very vulnerable to emotional rejection; positively, causing me to strive for outward success in so many ways. Those sessions with Jon brought it all to the surface bringing with it deep and peaceful calm.
Yet, the true implications of finding myself were still to come.
In the Summer of 2007, I took up Dan’s offer to ‘get my arse to Southern California!‘ I had a fabulous time with Dan and his dear wife, Cynthia. It also included a visit to Dan’s sister, Suzann, and her husband, Don, in their home in Los Osos, California. Su fussed over me restoring my sense of self-worth as Dan and Cynthia had been doing.
One morning over breakfast Suzann said, “Hey Paul, what are you doing for Christmas?“
I replied, “Oh, give me a break, Suzann, it’s the middle of June. Long time before I have to think about dealing with Christmas!“
Su then made the offer that was to change my life irrevocably. ”Don and I have a house down in San Carlos, Mexico where we shall be at Christmas. Why don’t you come and have Christmas with us in Mexico?“
And I did. And it was in San Carlos, Mexico that I met Jean. Suzann and Jean were great buddies. Jean had been living there since she and her late husband, Ben, had moved there many years ago. Ben, an American, and Jean had been married for 26 years with Ben, sadly, having died in 2005.
Jean and I spent hundreds of hours chatting and getting to know each other, including the fact that she and I had both been born Londoners within 23 miles of each other. Jean had been rescuing Mexican feral dogs for years and there were 14 dogs in her house in San Carlos. So many of those dogs loved me from the start. It seemed like the most beautiful Christmas I could have wished for. In such stark contrast to just a year ago.
Mexican sunset! San Carlos, 2nd January, 2008.
In September, 2008 after selling the house in Devon, I moved out to San Carlos, Mexico. Just me and Pharaoh who had been such a devoted friend, companion and confidant over the previous months.
In 2010, we moved to Payson in Arizona, some 80 miles NE of Phoenix. On November 20th, 2010 Jean and I were married.
The marriage of Jean and Paul wonderfully supported by Diane, maid of honour, and best man, Dan Gomez.
Releasing the Fergus in me and all of us.
What Peter Bloch wrote yesterday was so true. A dog can only be a happy, fulfilled dog, if allowed to be the true dog that is in him or her. Despite the fact that humans are primates and dogs are canids like wolves, coyotes, and foxes, it still holds as true for us humans as it did for Fergus.
We can only be happy, to put it in the words of Fergus, “happy, energised, purposeful and fulfilled in every way.” if we are given the freedom to be our self.
So if you find that you, like Fergus, suffer from digestive problems, possibly have skin disorders and sometimes behave a little strangely take note – you need to find your healer!
Back in 2008 when Jon Lavin was working with me, I would take Pharaoh and he would lay on the floor behind my seat. On one occasion Jon was talking about the findings of Dr. David Hawkins and his Scale of Consciousness; from falsehood to truthfulness. (See here and here for more details.)
Anyway that fateful day, Jon mentioned that Dr. Hawkins had measured dogs as being integrous animals. That notion stayed with me and later I registered the domain name learningfromdogs (dot) com leading to – yes, you guessed it – this blog. Funny old world.