From the archive
A look back at the Observer Magazine’s past
The cover story for 13 March 1988 was ‘Brits and their shrinks’ by Philippa Braidwood, who refers to therapy as ‘that allAmerican habit’ but which is still ‘the third favourite conversation topic at London dinner parties (after house prices and schools)’.
She quotes one psychotherapist arguing that the boom in demand for private therapy was from the middle classes: ‘The total successes haven’t the time; the total failures haven’t the money.’ Just the kind of empathy you’d want from a therapist.
Jenny, 38, who had analytical psychotherapy, said: ‘Had I known how awful therapy was, I’d never have had the courage to do it.’ But the interviewees all concluded that it was hard work, it was expensive, but it had changed their lives.
A former rugby player talked about how he grew up in a family where the unwritten rule was: ‘Thou shalt not express feelings.’ When he started learning about the Alexander Technique and realising ‘the link between muscular tension and emotional repression’ he went through an identity crisis that led to his relationship with his wife changing. ‘If I’m not this tough, macho, physical athlete, then who am I?’ he wondered, before seeing a psychosynthesist.
Sally took a rebirthing course. ‘I felt very vulnerable, like a little baby… I felt high as a kite.’ Then, forgetting it’s never a good idea, she went for a kebab. ‘That kebab tasted just fantastic. It was wonderful,’ she said. ‘I went to the bookcase. I wanted to read the Bible. I wanted to read things with meaning.’ After this, she realised she’d suppressed herself for fear of not being accepted by her tyrannical, authoritarian father. So she left her boyfriend and became a commodity broker.
In the A-Z of types of therapy, there is the rather casual warning that ‘Bioenergetics and Biosynthesis might involve undressing.’ But then, doesn’t all therapy?