Who Am I? A riddle of identity.
I think children love riddles because they so often catch adults out and even Oedipus could not answer his riddle. I have never answered a single cracker riddle, and my grandchildren love to hear me say, ‘Oh, dear! I don’t know’.
Lying down on the couch in my consulting room, facing several shelves of books, I think about how they’re an important combo of ingredients, all of which have contributed to my identity.
I regularly weed out the books that no longer resonate so I am left with a collection of art/poetry/philosophy/classical literature and only a few classics of psychological theory. As a psychotherapist I have been more influenced by literature than theory, not that I have thrown out the baby with the bathwater.
By the time I was five both my parents were mentally ill and unhappy. The cat Rainbow was my consolation. Realizing early on that I was unable to help my squabbling parents, I determined to become a vet and look after sick animals. To this day my home is full of animals including our impossibly willful Hungarian Vizsla and a small feral cat called Zen.
For various reasons I had to give up my ambition to become a vet and not surprisingly, like many children with a rocky attachment history and a desire to be noticed, I determined to become an actress. I succeeded and arrived at the Royal Court Theatre, London in the heady late sixties. And then I discovered R.D Laing’s book, The Divided Self.
I left the Court and went in search of Laing and his work at Kingsley Hall. He has remained one of the most important influences in my life. To this day I hear his Scottish brogue in my ear, ‘It cuts not ice with me.’
Later, I qualified as a Jungian psychoanalyst but after practising for several years with my patients lying supine on the proverbial couch, I defected. Now, I call myself a therapist who works through relationship and dialogue.
If I think about the debate between nature and nurture, I equally also think about memes and genes.
Other than living relationships books are my most important possessions. Like food I have digested the most important ones and without doubt those bookshelves contribute to the riddle of ‘Who am I?’
In a moment of existential panic King Lear cries out, ‘Who is it that can tell me who I am?’ Not only is that the reason that many people consult me to find out, but it is also the question I shall be asking myself until I die.