I want to move on from my experiences in Papworth. Too many more blogs on this topic will become self-indulgent. So, I want to move on. But I also want to make some links between the Papworth blogs and new material. So, my tenuous link is in the title of this blog. “The past is myself.” My heart problems and their treatments now form part of my narrative of self and must be incorporated into my experience to shape how I think of myself in the future. The link I want to make is with ISIS destroying the Assyrian sculptures in Nimrud. I have heard conflicting accounts of what is actually happening in Nimrud. One commentator suggested that what are being destroyed are plaster copies of the original art works. (ISIS having long ago sold off the real ones on the black market to fund their work.) In one sense it doesn’t matter. The original work has been removed-stolen or destroyed. ISIS appear to be telling the world that they are the dominant group in this area and only Islam may be honoured. This feels like the work of an extraordinarily insecure group of people. (Islam began as Assyria was finishing around 605 -610 A.D. Assyria was a major power from around 2,500 B.C.) Watching ISIS destroy these artefacts reminds me of a child who by shutting his eyes, wants to pretend the rest of the world does not exist .ISIS seem to be doing the same. By destroying some Assyrian works of art, they can pretend it never existed.
I see something similar in my counselling room. A patient will come in and tell me that their childhood was idyllic. And will launch into a series of illustrative anecdotes to confirm this view. Alongside the story of this wonderful childhood there are often stories of a number of failed relationships. A shrug of the shoulders asks “What more can a person like me expect?” The work is to unravel the stories of childhood. This process can feel as brutal as ISIS’ destruction. One treads gently and allows different memories to emerge -which can be painful . “Tread softly for you tread on my dreams” wrote Yeats. Healing comes when a true story of my patient’s life can be told. One which does not shrink from some of the darker aspects but which also acknowledges that the people involved tried their best, given all things.
Denying the past will not change it. ISIS can destroy as many statues as it chooses. Assyria will still have existed and made its contribution to the world-as has Islam. ISIS would do better to learn from history rather than destroy it. But to do that means changing one’s current story to make room for other facts. Unlike many of my patients, ISIS seems unwilling to do this. Fortunately my patents don’t come to me driving bulldozers and wearing rifles.