A step in my own self-awareness.

But the most important step I have ever taken.

In yesterday’s post I wrote:

It was the fickle finger of fate that led me to the arms, metaphorically speaking, of a core process psychotherapist back in Devon in the first half of 2007. That counselling relationship that revealed a deeply hidden aspect of my consciousness: a fear of rejection that I had had since December, 1956. That finger of fate that took me to Mexico for Christmas 2007 and me meeting Jean and all her dogs. That finger of fate that pointed me to the happiest years of my life and a love between Jeannie and me that I could previously never ever have imagined.

Here’s the full account. (But this is quite a long post and has the potential to cause some pain. Of course, I don’t intend that. But it’s best to mention that now.)

First we need to go back to that evening of December 19th, 1956. I had turned 12 on November, 8th and had just completed my first term at a nearby Grammar School. Then the family, as in Mum, Dad, me and my younger sister Elizabeth, were living comfortably in a detached house in Toley Avenue, a road off the main street that comprises Preston Road.

Preston Road is one of the outer suburbs of London to the North-West, sandwiched between Wembley, closer in to London, and Harrow, a little further out.

Anyway, on that evening of the 19th my mother came into my bedroom, located at the front of the house and next to Mum and Dad’s bedroom, at the usual time to say ‘Good night’ to me.

But while it was the usual time for Mum to be saying goodnight to me, clearly something was different this particular evening.

Mum sat down on the edge of my bed, just where my knees were, looked at me, and said, with pain in her voice: “Paul, you do know your father isn’t very well. He may not live for much longer.”

To be honest, all these many years later, I have no recollection as to whether or not I was aware that my father wasn’t very well.

Mum then leaned over to me, gave me my goodnight kiss, got up, and went out of my bedroom switching off the room light as she closed the door. As she always did and no different to any other evening.

Likewise, as with any other evening, I went off to sleep within a few minutes.

However, when I awoke the following morning, the morning of December 20th,  it was clear that something terrible had happened during the night. Let me explain that my father had had two daughters with his first wife, prior to meeting Mum, and I loved them both and saw them as elder sisters. The eldest was Rhona and she was a registered nurse (SRN). (My other ‘sister’ was Corinne.) Of course, Rhona was helping Mum care for Dad.

I got up and went downstairs. There was Rhona in the kitchen. Rhona came up to me and held me very tightly and then quietly told me that our father had died during the night. Rhona went on to add that Mum had thought it best not to wake me and Elizabeth and somehow arranged not only for the doctor to come in to certify Dad’s death but also for our father’s body to be removed from the home. Elizabeth and I had slept through it all!

I don’t recall having any emotional reaction to Rhona’s news; not even crying. It was if it was all just too unreal to take in.

A few days later, Mum, very clearly in her own mind doing her best to protect me and Elizabeth from pain, subsequently thought it wise that we didn’t go to our father’s funeral and cremation.

Now I have not the slightest doubt that many, if not all, of you will have cringed on reading the above.

Once back at school for the first term of 1957, I soon became aware of being the target of a degree of bullying, presumably because I was showing my grief through my behaviour and attitude, that my academic performance rapidly fell apart leading on to me leaving school before I went on to the Sixth Form.

The other thing that I was aware of in 1957, and for every December 20th thereafter, that this day was always a tough one. A day when I remembered with a degree of sadness and emotional pain that fateful night and morning in 1956.

Nevertheless, my adult life really was (is!) a wonderful journey for me. It included a period working as a freelance journalist out in Australia in the late 1960s, becoming an Office Products salesman for IBM UK after returning from Australia to England and then in 1978 starting my own company, Dataview Ltd., in the early days of the personal computer revolution. Then after eight whirlwind years with Dataview growing in leaps and bounds each year, being approached in 1986 by a group of investors who wished to buy me out: I said “Yes”. That resulted in me going to live on a yacht, Songbird of Kent, a Tradewind 33, out in Cyprus (Larnaca Marina).

Tradewind 33 – Songbird of Kent. My home for five years.

While in Cyprus I got to know really well the wonderful, inspiring Les Powells, a three-times solo circumnavigator on his yacht Solitaire, and that thanks directly to Les offering me some very good advice, me experiencing the beauty, and the fear, of solo sailing out in The Atlantic and returning to Plymouth, in Devon, England, via Horta in The Azores, on the 16th June, 1994.

But! But! But!

But there was another part of my adult life that wasn’t such a wonderful journey. My relationships with the opposite sex! Culminating in my third wife, Julie, announcing on the day of the 50th anniversary of my father’s death, as in December 20th, 2006, that she was leaving me. (The reality of what she did to me was not pretty but I will spare you the details.)

Let me explain a little more.

After I had returned to England, sailing into Plymouth, in 1994, I subsequently sold Songbird of Kent and purchased a small house in the little village of Harberton, just a few miles out of Totnes, in South Devon. An easy decision to stay in South Devon because both Rhona and Corinne had their family homes close to Totnes.

Upper Barn, My home in Harberton.

I quickly became involved in the local business community undertaking a variety of coaching roles under the umbrella of Sales and Marketing; I was then a Chartered Member of the Institute of Marketing. In turn, Julie and I met each other and we became married.

In the Autumn of 2006, a Core Process Psychotherapist came to me seeking some business advice.  ‘J’ had had many years of coaching individuals one-to-one but had the idea, the good idea to my mind, of coaching the directors of companies in the whole process of listening to their employees and offering advice and guidance whenever there was the potential of conflict. If the employees worked more effectively together then ‘J’ believed the company as a whole would be more effective in reaching their goals.

‘J’ had no idea how companies worked, for want of a better term, and my role was teach ‘J’ the  fundamentals of operating the sort of company that was common to South Devon.

That’s what I was doing up to that fateful day of December 20th, 2006.

Because upon hearing the news that my then wife was leaving me, I simply blew apart emotionally. In the most terrible manner that I had never experienced before.

Very early on in January, 2007 I felt that I was descending into some bottomless pit of despair. In desperation I rang ‘J’ and explained what had happened on the 20th. ‘J’ listened and then said, quite properly, that he couldn’t see me as his client because we already had a working relationship. I pleaded and pleaded with ‘J’ to allow me to be his psychotherapy client. Finally, ‘J’ agreed but on the very strict condition that if he thought the counselling relationship wasn’t working then we would terminate it. He asked, and received, my understanding and agreement to that condition.

It wasn’t long thereafter before ‘J’ was asking me a little of my early experiences and I recounted that night of December 19th-20th and how I had not been able to say ‘Goodbye’ to my father.

‘J’ was quiet for a few minutes and then said:

“Paul, you have a son don’t you?”

I silently nodded.

“How do you think Alex would react if your death was handled for him in the same manner as your mother handled it for you?”

I gasped, conscious of how much I loved Alex, and Maija my daughter, and could hardly get the words out of my mouth: “He, he, … he would think he had been emotionally rejected ….”, continuing, “Oh my goodness! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh, my sainted aunt! That’s it! I interpreted what happened back then when father died as rejection. That I wasn’t important to my father. So that’s what I have been experiencing all my adult life – a fear of rejection! But until now that fear has been completely submerged in my subconscious! Wow!”

That is the reason why, not to sound too immodest, I have been successful in all matters to do with my working life: I did everything to be accepted by my customers, my managers, my associates, and so on.

But it was also the reason why I had been so unsuccessful in my many, many relationships with women. Why I was unfaithful to my first wife. Why I could never say “No” to an emotional relationship with a woman, whether or not that woman had the potential to be a good long-term companion. Because I behaved in ways that minimised the chances of that woman rejecting me. That was why my last wife, Julie, before I met Jean, so gravely affected me when she chose, quite deliberately, to tell me she was leaving me on the 50th anniversary of my father’s death.

So that’s how ‘J’ held my hand, metaphorically speaking, and walked me into the light of how the past had affected me.

Dear, dear reader of Learning from Dogs, I do hope this makes sense and possibly in some small way this post holds out a hand to you.

I will close with this. Heard on a film that Jean and I recently watched.

Unless you understand yourself, can you be truthful to yourself?

The journey inwards is the most important and rewarding journey we can take!

27 thoughts on “A step in my own self-awareness.

  1. We had talked a little about this when you rang me up for your book. Psychotherapy was important to my emotional healing as well after being unable to process grief. I fully understand the importance of knowing oneself. Excellent post, Paul.

  2. Considering there really is only oneself, it sure would help if you knew and understood this person. Your reality does not exist without you. The chair in my home, the air I exhale, the picked flower from my garden, would not exist if I were not here.

  3. That is a very personal share Paul and a helpful one too. We all have our hidden pains. For me it is my relationship with my mother that was never close and venomous at times. Her death in 1989 (I never attended her funeral) affected me profoundly. I remember for weeks being lost inside myself. If people caught me lost in my thoughts, tears would sprout without warning. I had a very unresolved relationship with both parents. I never saw my father after her death…he died in 1996. I can certainly relate to your experience.
    I am sorry that it was a heartbreaking time for you personally, but so glad that you found peace and love after that moment of realisation.
    I have to say that my life has been a series of success followed by disaster. A recurring theme it seems. I put myself in situations that eventually seem to make myself shoot my own foot. Perhaps I just continue to punish myself over relationships that I never had any control of to begin with.
    Anyhow, sharing this means that all of us are fallible and we must just learn to do the dance of life as best we can.😊

    1. “Unless you understand yourself, can you be truthful to yourself?”

      I think I am starting to know more and more what this means. My biggest issue is ‘trust.’ The moment I need to have it, it flies away at rapid speed. A tumultuous childhood can do that to anyone!

    2. Just reading your comment here Colette, So interesting both of us had a similar relationship with our mothers, The trigger that eventually toppled me in my break down. And as you rightly state, Children back then were meant to be seen and not heard.. And we bottled so much into our tiny selves. Thank you for sharing, It has taken me years to dig deeper and release all of that hurt and let go of the emotions and unworthiness.
      When we fail to let go, we find we only keep on getting similar lessons until we learn to forgive… Its easy said I know… Much harder in the Doing.. And last year I had thought I had cleansed my Mother out of my system, until one small thing triggered her back into the wound once again.. So I picked the scab, allowed myself to bleed a little, until I truly saw the only person I was wounding was myself..
      Finally I saw I needed to LOVE myself… I no longer yearned for the lack of love given.. I had all the love I needed..
      Hope you and Paul do not mind me butting into your conversation like this..
      Have a beautiful Day.
      Sue ❤

      1. Thanks Sue. Yes, we need to heal ourselves. I spent some time in group therapy back in the 1990’s and it helped me to see my hurts. And yes, I hear what you are saying about old wounds… I would make an analogy here yo rescue dogs. Our furry pals come with a set of hurts and traumas that we do not always see. Our love gives them a new life and they learn to cope happily again. Occasionally though, an event will trigger a bad reaction based on memory… It takes patience and love to work through those moments. Eventually, we all find a way through and discard that which hurts us.😊❤❤❤

    1. Yes, when one thinks that anyone born in the 50’s and 60’s was likely born of parents who had experienced World War II, maybe that misdirection was an inevitable result of many societies recovering from very extreme circumstances. Thank you, John.

    2. As Paul says, it was a different era. No one had much help with adversity. The attitudes were always to just pick yourself up by your bootstraps and get on with it. Children were usually expected to perform in a quiet, and ‘do as your told manner.’ While that has created an elder generation that feels a lot of responsibility, it hasn’t effectively equipped them to deal with emotional issues so well. Children were always expected not to cry, and to be brave. Paul put it so well when he says that he did not cry at the death of his father. We were not really allowed to or expected to in those days.

      1. You know, I hadn’t really thought of it in that way. But you are so right. The word that comes to mind to describe that post-war period is straigtlaced!

    1. Thank you! What very kind thoughts.

      I’m bound to say that it was much less painful than one might imagine. Because in terms of my father, both Rhona and Corinne, over the years, told me so much about ‘Freddie’, his full name was Frederick William Handover, that in a way I had a good view of who he was. Plus, I met and became friends with a number of the pub owners that were connected with my father. For he was Chief Architect and Surveyor at the brewery Barclay Perkins & Co; later on taken over by Courages.

      The only intense pain was on that day in 2006 and yet without that pain I would not have been counselled by ‘J’ and gone on to meet Jeannie!

  4. I remember you recounting about your fathers death before Paul, such trauma is often held within as children, as we are unable to process our emotional responses..
    I know speaking from my own experience, Counselling is so very important from a professional and I was very grateful for my own therapy sessions after my break down in teh 90’s..
    Self awareness is an on going process, we can unearth many things which are so deeply held.. And only at the beginning of the year I peeled back more layers as I embarked upon letting more skins go.
    But all enable us to move forward,
    I have found each time we plunge to the depths, means we have the capabilities to climb ever higher, we often need the shadows that only show up when we apply light into them. All a means to an end.. All of it even the dark patches play there parts..

    Great reading this again.. Sue 🙂

    1. Very valuable recollections, Sue. For they underline the importance, critically so, of relying upon professionals to peel back those layers. It’s not the place for well-meaning friends, or family, however sincere their motivations. Well done, Sue!

  5. It IS the most important journey! And good for you. Because if we don’t identify the patterns, they just keep on repeating. Glad you made it to the other side of those painful memories, Paul. Aloha ❤️

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