An account of how I learned to be a helping professional – not an instruction manual, but a prompt for you to explore your own story .

I became aware then from teenage years, that ‘ideas’ were not quite ’the point’. For all his academic theological study, my father’s religion pointed me to the stories, the parables, not the morals or the rules. Marx was exciting because he wanted to change the world, not just to describe it more elegantly. I knew that my career choice could not be academic but had to engage in some way with the messiness of life, of human exchange with which I have so much discomfort.

It is the question that we carry with us, not the solution however. The conflict that I am describing remains with me, no easier to handle in my 60’s than at 18, encountered again and again in newly painful forms. A discovery rediscovered again and again is that, it is what we know that we don’t know. (This is not some obscure Ronnie Laing type ‘knot’, but I think a commonplace experience. I will write later about bereavement and loss. I was strongly convinced in my 30s that the way we handled loss in life is vital to our successful ageing. Now I can see that I was right, but was right because this was such a difficult emotional problem for me that I did not then understand.)

I am however not able I think, to communicate what I want to say through story telling. I would love to be able to do that but I suspect I lack the talent. What I want to do is to locate some ideas within a personal experience, hinting at stories. If this can help you to unearth your own stories, the ideas providing a ‘frame’ to give stories more colour or a different impact, my efforts will have served a purpose. Better still would be to bring some ‘music’! – when I went through a phase of reading Samuel Becket, it came to me that the music of his writing was what was transcendent, meaningful, not so much the meaning of his words. I hope for that, even if only in an occasional snatch of melody in the journey that follows.


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