Fit in, Break out or Break Down!

I’ve just finished ‘The Outcast’ by Sadie Jones, a novel set in a small rural 50’s village covering bereavement, self-harm, abuse and many other issues I see in my practice. What it reinforced for me was the long-standing devastating impact on individuals of keeping emotions hidden and how counselling for many of the characters at different times in their lives could have changed the outcomes. It reinforced the value of counselling as offering a caring, non-judgemental, accepting space to enable people to uncover their emotions, understand them, where they may have originated, accept them and move forward with their lives and relationships.

I found the social/emotional historical aspect of the book fascinating giving us clues as to why that generation and the next and current generations struggle to support people with bereavement, loss, bullying and so on. The main character in the book struggles to conform to strict social norms following seeing his mother drown when he is 10 years old. He is told ‘don’t make your mother’s death an excuse for this behaviour’ and ‘there’s something very wrong with you’ and ‘do you know how hard it is to look after you?’. He is never given any time to cry, share his feelings, or to go through the grieving process. Towards the end he asks his father why he couldn’t have faith in him, why he couldn’t like him, why he couldn’t have been there for him…

As a person-centred counsellor, I have faith in everyone and see everyone as good, valuable and able to grow and change. I see my role as being there for people who haven’t – either in the past or now – had anyone there for them to help them work through difficulties in their lives. Following a varying amount of sessions, I see people grow to like, accept and take care of themselves and others around them as they make sense of difficult experiences.

I would highly recommend the book to everyone.

Sarah Greaves