Men in search of their secret selves: Three men tell Suzanne Glass what led them to the therapist's couch.

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
TEN YEARS ago few men would have dared to admit to delving into the machinations of their minds and souls. But the model man is no longer the macho man: he is, rather, prepared to look into and to share the secrets of his psyche.

According to Prudence Tunnadine, scientific director of the Institute of Psychosexual Therapy: 'In recent years so many more men have dared to come forward for emotional help. A few years back there would be 10 women for every one man. Now it's 50/50. And they often come of their own volition - not because their wives or girlfriends want them to.'

Professor Anthony Clare of Radio 4's In the Psychiatrist's Chair offers an explanation as to why these men are trying to 'get in touch' with their feelings: 'It was naive to think the feminist movement would have no interplay with the male world. Look at industry. It's traditionally been a hard-headed male preserve, but psychology has crept in. There are stress management courses, interpersonal skills courses, courses on the psychology of competition. These are less threatening ways for men to look at themselves than, for example, psychotherapy. But this exploration of the psyche was bound to spill over into other forms of therapy. With a greater feminine consciousness around, men are becoming aware of how emphasis on their public lives has been at the expense of their private lives.'

Three such men tell Suzanne Glass what led them to the therapist's couch.

HE SEEMED TO SUM UP MY LIFE SO SUCCINCTLY

Sean (not his real name) is 30 and a musician from Scotland.

IT NEVER entered my head to go into therapy until the day before I took the plunge. My girlfriend was the catalyst. We were on the way home from visiting my parents and she started with these heavy accusations: 'I was different when I was with them. I was emotionally distant from them. She didn't recognise me.' That night I began to confront my childhood and the floodgates opened. I collapsed into a sort of paranoid insecurity about who I was. I knew I had to see someone.

It wasn't that my parents hadn't loved me. It was just they talked about Brahms and Beethoven, about Shakespeare and Milton, but the word 'girlfriend' was never mentioned. I remember meeting a girl at 15 and lying to my parents about her. I suppose it was a slippery slope from there. Emotional discussions were taboo.

Dr Goldman was recommended by a male friend. I felt absolutely no stigma about going to see him, just a sudden sense of urgency. He charges pounds 90 for 50 minutes. That's 20 per cent of my monthly disposable income.

He fitted my vision of a Freudian analyst to a tee - small, dark, friendly from a distance. My first session was like a visit to a clairvoyant. He seemed to sum up my life so succinctly from such scanty information. I loved every minute of it. After all, where else do you get a chance to talk about yourself non-stop?

Dr Goldman had an incredible capacity for drawing analogies. I have very few early childhood memories of my mother and that really disturbs me. It means I look to women for the wrong type of attention. I'm a musician and Dr Goldman said I was straining to hear the soloist (my mother) playing louder in the orchestra, but it just never happened.

What Dr Goldman did was to lead me to far greater depths of self-knowledge. I understood that my parents' love had been conditional on me turning out the way they wanted.

But now what? I knew all this stuff about myself, but what was I supposed to do with it? How was I supposed to be with my parents now? I have no sense of my newly discovered personality when I'm with them.

Dr Goldman helped me to accept that it's too late to confront them, but this greater self-knowledge is invaluable for my relationship with women.

I was shocked that I had come such a long way after six sessions, but I think good therapy works at a subconscious level. It's like yeast fermenting into beer. You don't need to stand in the cellar and watch it all the time. It's as if I had gone to an osteopath with a bad back and he had taught me how to alter my posture, to stop the problem inhibiting my movement.

I'VE GRADUATED: COMEDY IS MY THERAPY NOW

Peter Moss is 43 and a stand-up comedian in London.

MY GP said: 'You are going into therapy and that's that.' I was running to her three times a week with every ailment under the sun. I had a sniffle, I thought it was pneumonia. I had indigestion, I thought it was a massive coronary. I was the healthiest hypochondriac around. The problem was my mind, not my body. I resisted the pressure from my doctor for weeks. It was the thought of the stigma that killed me. Oh my God, for a big strong guy like me to go into therapy] I would have died rather than tell any of my friends.

I come from a family of non-communicators, highly skilled in bottling things up. I remember coming home from school all excited because I'd scored a hat-trick and my mother just screamed: 'Go to your room and stop showing off.' My daughter was born very prematurely and spent her first 12 weeks on a life-support machine. I was incapable of expressing the sadness and terror I felt. Basically, for the first 37 years of my own life, I had not a clue about emotions.

I was 101 per cent negative when I first went to see Dr Pepper. He was small, unshaven and ugly. I just sat and looked at him in total silence. I was struck dumb for the whole of the first session. At the end of it, I asked how much I owed him. He said pounds 75.

I said: 'For pounds 75 I don't visit, I move in.' It was then that I realised I'd better start talking.

As I began to trust Dr Pepper, I actually looked forward to the sessions. I was a pressure cooker filled to overflowing with anger, hurt, frustration and self-loathing. After seven months of therapy came a nervous breakdown. The therapy was the catalyst, but it would have happened anyway. I ended up in hospital on a psychiatric ward. For weeks I shunned my family and I flirted with suicide. But I came through it and I carried on with Dr Pepper for another couple of years.

Sorry for the cliche, but it really did change my life. The process of being broken down and reassembled was torture, but it was worth it. I can communicate now. I can really talk to my wife and my friends for the first time. I have come to accept my parents for what they are today, and no longer loathe them for what they were when I was a child. Through therapy I have found my true vocation as a comedian. I could never have done it before. You can't make people laugh if you can't communicate with them.

I don't see Dr Pepper any more. I guess I've just graduated to a different form of therapy. Comedy is my therapy now.

AM I DEPENDENT ON ERICA? SURE I AM . . .

Simon Stocker is a 40-year-old self-employed furniture maker in London.

ERICA, my therapist, has a voice like the woman on directory inquiries. I notice everything about her, and her moods have an incredible effect on mine. I am acutely aware of whether she's angry, pleased, soft, warm, gentle or cold. I would be totally devastated if she disappeared from my life.

I was in my mid-twenties when I started looking into myself. I was depressed, working on the family farm, finding it hard to function.

I tried it all. First I went off to India to find a Holy Man in Bombay, some sort of guru. But I soon realised what I was looking for was in me, not in India. I dabbled in philosophy, meditation and bioenergetics. They made me pretend to be a dog and bark and bite. It was hellish for an inhibited Englishman.

By the time I was 30 I realised it was analysis that had the power to solve my problems. I remember my first session very vividly. I didn't want to lie down and I didn't want to talk. I didn't know what to do with myself. After six weeks, all this painful material started pouring out. The next day my analyst called and said he couldn't see me any more. He was going into hospital. It was the ultimate rejection.

I always feel the need to be in analysis when I'm going out with a woman long-term. I get this awful feeling of claustrophobia. It happened with my wife. Then, when my marriage broke up, it happened with my girfriend too. She loved me with a passion, but I just couldn't breathe, so I had to go back into analysis for guidance. I'm sure my relationship with my current girlfriend has held together partly because of my analyst.

I started looking for a new analyst 18 months ago. I remember thinking: 'Just find me someone, I don't care who. Anything is better than this angst.' That was when I found Erica. She doesn't ask me questions. I tell her everything. I can be vulnerable when I'm with her. She is an incredibly important part of my life and I am never, never late for sessions. I construct my day around her.

My relationship with Erica is a very exclusive one and that's a problem for my girlfriend. She feels left out and she wants me to stop going. But right now I couldn't do without Erica. Am I dependent on her? Sure I am. It wouldn't work any other way.

(Photographs omitted)

Comments