Where did I come from?

Someone asked me about my background and what things I had done to become such a confident person.

I went to an all-girls school and, while my three siblings (two girls and a boy) went to boarding schools, I was asked by my parents whether I wanted to board, and I didn’t. My father was a Freudian psychoanalyst and I was surrounded by people who talked about analytical things like the conscious/unconscious and the interpretation of dreams. The power of this was shown to me when, aged nearly thirteen, I told my father that I dreamt about a graveyard of deers; he asked me “How do you spell deer?” and off the top of my head I said “DEAR”. My father said that as my birthday was coming up I was about to stop being “dear little Mary”; I realised I had meant DEER but it showed the power of the unconscious at work!

When I finished school I chose to go to Exeter University because it was the nearest to Singleton, our holiday home. I said that I’d meet someone with a car who went to a minor public school and who could take me to Singleton. After my interview I was offered an unconditional place, and at the Freshers’ Ball I met Tony who I still know who, every so often, drove a group of us in his Mini to Singleton. I chose to read politics so that I could get away from psychology and perhaps understand THE REAL WORLD… I’m not sure that it really helped.

After university I married Adrian, who trained in London to be an educational psychologist.

I applied to interesting-sounding professions, journalism being one, and I went on to be a journalist for a couple of years before our first child was born. When Barnaby was a baby we lived in London and I started training to become an antenatal teacher for the National Childbirth Trust; the training involved sitting-in on two people’s sets of classes. One or two children later, when we moved to Leicester, I started antenatal teaching; I enjoyed this and perhaps the most memorable moment was when, in a class, we were talking about parenthood and a couple, two social workers, said that parenthood wouldn’t change their lives. I asked whether they really believed this and they said “Yes”. A few weeks later I rang the mother to see how she was doing and she sounded so depressed I visited her and I didn’t feel able to be of any help to her.

When my youngest was about three I went Christmas shopping in Plymout with my friend, Nicki, and her child, Rosanna. She and I both remember that I announced, on the railway platform, that I knew what I wanted to do: that is, to become a Humanist officiant. In The Independent I read that the Humanist Society was looking for more officiants. I didn’t have any training apart from a diploma in human relations and counselling skills.

My diploma was based on Jungian philosophy and people have often asked me what is the difference between Jungian and Freudian philosophies; I don’t feel entirely qualified to answer except to say that we had to read books which could elucidate our understanding of Greek gods like Zeus, Narcissus, Hermes and so on. Both Freud and Jung had theories about the conscious and unconscious and the interpretation of dreams. As part of the diploma course we had to, ourselves, be counselled and I found one counsellor that I had was particularly interesting on the subject of dreams. His interpretation made me dream more, which I found quite an interesting offshoot of this course. I was asked by a group of people whether my father was a real psychoanalyst; I said that he was and so they invited him to come and talk to the whole group. Obviously I was pleased that they appreciated his input; sadly he died a little while after this. During the course we would be counselled by each other in front of a video camera. I suppose that getting used to this helped boost my confidence in other fields.

As a Humanist officiant I had the confidence to conduct a remarkable wedding on the cliffside near the Minack Theatre where a London woman married an attractive pirate from Penzance; alas, the marriage didn’t last long! I did a number of funerals which were all moving, but the first one, the funeral of a baby, was especially so. Before one funeral I was talking to two sisters whose mother had died; they said their father didn’t want me to mention that the woman was an alcoholic. After this meeting one of them rang to thank me for, as she put it, the counselling session.

I suspect my confidence in doing these ceremonies was conveyed to the recipients and they felt confidence in me.

 

Mary Smith  

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