From the ar­chive

A look back at the Ob­server Mag­a­zine’s past

The Observer Magazine - - UP FRONT - Chris Hall

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?

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