The picture is of the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins, , setting out on his journey. (I will assume that anyone reading this blog is familiar with the story of The Hobbit so will not retell it yet again.) One aspect of this story that I do want to note is that Bilbo is very content in his home in Bag End. He is not looking for any adventures-or any change of any kind. The “change agent”- for want of a less pompous title- is the Wizard, Gandalf who persuades Bilbo to go on a journey with a group of dwarves and elves. What is worth noticing, amongst many other things, is that Bilbo knows about “Home”. He likes his hobbit hole and its comforts. The rest of the company seem to be nomadic-for many reasons. And despise Bilbo for being too settled. Bilbo is a reluctant adventurer but eventually chooses to follow the rest of the group wherever their quest takes them. The rest is history-or certainly the history of Middle Earth!
The quotation at the start of this piece is from a collection of ” essays by a psychoanalyst”- Donald Winnicott. In it he writes about Living Creatively, the value of Depression, Children Learning and a number of related themes. The title of his book is in its turn, a quotation from T.S.Eliot’s poem “East Coker”
Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more
Of dead and living. not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
For many of my patients the home from which they start their journey is not a comfortable Hobbit hole, well provisioned and secure. One of my patients was made to sit outside on the doorstep in cold weather for several hours at a time. She doesn’t know why this happened to her. She just has a memory of it. Another patient was beaten by her mother for not wanting to pluck a chicken- she was six at the time. Another had a father who was a violent and abusive alcoholic who tyrannised the entire family-and set his son’s educational achievement back by about five years. So “home” has many more associations than a cosy hobbit hole.
My patients journey is often to places that they have not visited for years, repressing the memory, sanitising it or simply pretending it never happened. A visit here is akin to any of the dangers that Bilbo and his friends meet. Trolls, Orcs, Dragons. All armed, dangerous and malevolent. And with the sole aim of destruction. A patient of mine usually begins a session by telling me how well she is. That she really doesn’t know why she is coming to see me. A little while into the session she will tell me that she has self harmed again in response to a disappointment in her personal life.
My hope for these hurt journeyers is that we walk together and face the monsters together. For an hour a week we can name the unknown monster and, in so doing, rob it of at least some of its power to hurt and maim. In that hour we can look at strategies to defeat flesh eating Orcs or destructive fire breathing dragons. who are intent of adding more gold to their hoard. (Gold stolen from others and serving no purpose except as not now being anyone else’s.)
The analogy could be continued. Often the work is to help my patients recognise that Gollum is in his own way damaged , hurt and in pain. And to own their own Gollum like capacities. Sometimes the most damaged patients are those who are most unpleasant to those around them. The work is then to help them understand the source of their own pain and anger. And to point out that they become the monster they most fear when they behave in cruel ways.
A successful therapy seems to me to be when a person can Go Home.