The Life Doctor

I HAVE just conducted the least objective interview of my life - for the 40th anniversary of Blue Peter. It was all so sudden. The phone rang. A voice said "Eleanor Bailey?" I said: "Yes?" He said, strong and bold: "Peter Purves." My knees turned to jelly. All I could say was: "I thought you were great!"

Instead of asking sensible questions, I found myself seeking reassurance, telling him how important Blue Peter had been in my life. "A lot of children believed that Val, John, Lesley and I and all the dogs and cats lived in one big house," he said soothingly.

I didn't like to tell him that I still do. "I'm proud to be associated with Blue Peter," he said. "It's just a shame that people don't remember that I have been working solidly since. Of course we all feel insecure."

I felt desolate. Peter Purves insecure? A life outside Blue Peter? Don't mess with my childhood, matey. In my reality Peter Purves can handle anything.

The very next day I was in a cafe when I heard a familiar voice. I recognised her snot-green freckles at once; it was the girl who used to bully me for having the wrong kind of rest-hour blanket. After more than 20 years I was six again in an instant. Six and with a blanket that wasn't fluffy enough! I wanted to confront her. But I didn't. I ran away feeling I should have got my revenge.

When your childhood resurfaces without warning it can soon disturb the equilibrium of the thinly constructed adult reality. We are left feeling feeble, immature or even disturbed. Two in 24 hours was truly traumatic. The therapeutic world disagrees as to how we should restore a feeling of adult control.

Happiness counsellor, Ben Renshaw says we should confront and be aware of our inner child's needs. "Almost anything unresolved in childhood can come back in some form as an adult. Until you resolve issues from your past they won't go away."

Renshaw thinks I should have talked to the bully and maybe learned to laugh about the situation. Running away was inner child behaviour. We should watch out for such behaviour and then look after our inner child. "Cravings," says Renshaw, "especially for sweet things. The urge to put your head under the covers. Being over-anxious to please and needy of approval. What we are usually seeking is reassurance. Visualise your childhood self and ask how it feels."

However Dr Jack Boyle, a psychologist based at the Glasgow Bonicours Hospital, thinks confronting is the last thing you should do. "Mature people don't replay their memory tapes over and over again. It is part of being human to think of the past and future. Going back to a childhood home would bring back floods of memories and feelings but then you accept this is the present time."

Dr Boyle reckons that ignoring the fluffy-blanket girl was not running away but entirely appropriate denial. "Going up and starting a scene is an immature approach. The bully has probably forgotten all about it and so should you. That isn't reality now. You have moved on. Working out childhood things endlessly is attention-seeking behaviour. Woody Allen- style 20-years-of-psychiatry helps no one but the psychiatrist."

Dealing with childhood experiences: two very different approaches

Confront:

1. Confront your demons. Ring up ex-boyfriends, tell your mother what she did

2. Join a fellow sufferers' support group

3. Ask your inner child what it needs - space, fun, parenting etc and provide it

Forget:

1. Leave the past behind. Avoid school reunions. What you were then is no reflection of what you are now

2. Don't share your traumas then with people now. They don't need to know

3. Stuff your inner child and concentrate on what your outer adult needs

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