Background to my interest in teaching children with autism

PSYCHOTHERAPY BEYOND THE FRINGE, continued

A Beloved Hatred

A pretty young lady in her mid-twenties was referred to Felicity by a colleague. She complained of depression and a feeling that there must be something wrong with her because nobody liked her. In Felicity’s business, everybody reacts to the word ‘depression’ as though it were a diagnosis, verified by the fact that the patient has affirmed it. Perhaps doubting our competence, sheeplike, we often allow ourselves to be led blindly by those who, being unable to see into themselves, need the help of someone else to sort them out. This time Felicity was not impressed with the ‘diagnosis’. The lady looked much too anxious and uptight to fit that label well.

Ingrid complained that she had never had a real boy-friend. What was the matter with the men out there? Besides, she believed that she had never had a girl friend or experienced what friendship was like. Daylight dawns slowly in Felicity’s mind. However, eventually, he began to realize that Ingrid had to be talking about her own expectations about friendships which far exceeded what anybody would ever be willing or able to fulfil. What was she expecting of others? Perhaps Ingrid had a part in rejecting those men and women who might have shown an interest in her. How had she seen them — as being too … what? He waited.

She described a history of felt isolation, abandonment and rejection. Her father had died when she was very young, and she thought that the resulting lack of a father left her ill-prepared to interact with other men. Her mother had worked and, after school, she was relegated to lonely isolation in a room at the home of a relative (not adding ‘until the mother came home’ — that might have implied a positive time). She had tried to make friends with the other girls, but they had rejected her because they were too involved in their own cliques and, besides, her clothes had not been purchased in one of the stylish stores. The boys had never liked her because of … her nose, or her teeth, or the shape of her face, or the quality of her skin, or … Wall to wall, she laid out a carpet of life riddled with rejection. Nor could she see any contribution to her plight from her part. Everything Felicity suggested had already been tried by her without success.

Maybe she was depressed. Certainly, the world seen through her eyes was a melancholy, joyless and failure-filled place without any happiness or even relief. Ingrid wept. Felicity could not understand her tears. Considering the recent upsurge of support for the country’s government and the recent huge profits of the major banks, Felicity thought Ingrid deserved high praise for being able to cry about anything else. And he told her so. The psychological tests Felicity had administered to Ingrid confirmed a pattern of ‘chronic hostility’ rather than the depression of which she was complaining, So he preferred that she be confused rather than sorry for herself. She responded to his jovial comment as he had hoped, by ‘coming out of herself’ and staring at him as if trying to read his mind. She failed to penetrate his attentive stare. She smiled and relaxed.

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