Before the last post takes my story in a new direction, I should say a bit more about the importance of ‘getting in a mess’. The fact of the matter is that in entering the helping professions, we are choosing to work with painful aspects of life. This naturally enough will prompt a tendency to defend ourselves from being hurt by getting too close to the pain. When I have spoken of such a proposition, I find people often feel uncomfortable and inclined to deny it, but there is surely nothing to be ashamed of in finding defensiveness in ourselves. Defences are part of our humanity; they are the cracks in our smooth public presentation that open us up to love, compassion and companionship. They perform a necessary function and so the need is not to pretend that we could do without them by being ‘professional’ but to use them to help us understand and empathise, and to manage them so that they do not become a barrier to others.