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The hidden made visible

01 March 2013

WE ALL have a hidden history, but, as Oscar Pistorius discovered recently, it does not take long for the hidden to be revealed - in fact, just a matter of hours.

Mr Pistorius, sometimes referred to as "Blade Runner", is the world-famous Paralympian sprinter, and was, until recently, a sporting icon. He lived on a high-security estate, and was a keen keeper of guns and baseball bats. In view of the 15,000 murders a year in South Africa, this was not so strange.

But now Mr Pistorius has been arrested, accused of killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Her father says: "There is no hatred in our hearts." His father says that there is "zero doubt" that it was a tragic accident.

Reaction was instant. Former girlfriends, their mothers, and the police quickly queued up to describe a different man from the icon: a violent figure, who could be overwhelmed by rage. Big companies scuttled to leave his sinking brand. We all think that we are great, until our hidden histories go on the rampage.

Sigmund Freud defined his work as controlling the biological urges of sex and aggression. But, by mistake, he stumbled on something much more healing for the human - two people talking.

Above all else, a therapist is a witness to our story, to the effects on our behaviour of our hidden history. Here is safe space, where denied feelings are allowed to flow through our bodies; and insightful space that helps us to notice these emotions, and thereby to regulate them, and parent them better; for, yes, we are our only parent now.

Our hidden history is much better seen; but how hard this is for the famous. Consider their predicament: most are one-trick ponies who have used their trick to maximum effect. After they have reached a level of fame, and however damaged they are inside, they begin to believe their own publicity, and a sense of entitlement comes to the fore.

When they reach such a state, instead of acknowledging their hidden history, they will want only to hide it. To stay famous, they must become the strangest thing: people against their own truth. The Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne lied about a speeding offence. Why? He was famous enough to see the prize of party leadership before him. Once that dream took hold, the truth and effects of his hidden history became something to avoid.

Pistorius's mother, who died when he was 15, wrote: "The real loser is never the person who crosses the finishing line last. The real loser is the person who sits on the side. The person who doesn't even to try to compete." True, although another category of loser is those who run away from themselves and their hidden history. And some run very hard and very fast.

 

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