Changing my Mind

Before I was 6 or 7 years old, I had already decided that I wished I was a boy. It seemed that men had all the fun. Father went off to his office in the Civil Service in London and spent most of his day with his colleagues whilst Mother had to stay at home with boring and tiring things to do and babies to look after. I did not like babies at all. They were either screaming for attention or emitting unpleasant smells.

Mother never had enough milk so we were fed with bottles. One day, in someone else’s house I saw a baby breast-feeding. I knew something about cannibals and felt quite sick. Was that why I didn’t like dolls? They seemed like dead things to me. However, I liked making things. I created effigies of dolls with a stick, crayons and bits of cloth. I made a small theatre out of a cardboard box with cardboard figures as actors. And I wrote simple plays with an old typewriter. That was fun. I made up my mind that I would never marry nor have children. I knew I loved learning and wanted a career. Above all, I wanted to go away from the house every day. Though school was not ideal I could learn things there in a less depressing environment.

When I was at grammar school and getting ready to try for a scholarship to university, a teacher suggested I take some lessons in typing and shorthand. “Why?” I said, “I don’t want to be a secretary.”

“It could be a stand by” she said. “No” I said “I do not want to do what other people tell me. I want to be in control with responsibility for myself.” I started the course but I didn’t finish it. I did not know how useful typing could be. How could I know that things would change greatly and computers would come into being with so many possibilities.

Since I was very small I wanted to learn Spanish and go to South America. I don’t know why but I had strong feelings that my ancestors must have come from there. With a four-year course in Hispanic Studies at Liverpool University I was well equipped. I met my husband there. We read the same course. We married when I finished. He took a job in Maracaibo with Shell.

I loved Maracaibo and a maid to do the housework. I couldn’t find a job because the only things I could do were secretarial work or teaching. The people around me in England puzzled me. I never knew why they said what they said to me and I had no idea what to say back. On the whole I came to the conclusion that they didn’t like children very much. It was unnerving.

There was none of that in South America. The Venezuelans were very much my kind of people. They said what they meant and held nothing back. They loved their children and let them stay up late. I was even more convinced that I had some of their blood in my veins. The change from the squalor of post-war England to the country overflowing with milk and honey was ecstatic. I soon had two babies, both boys and to my amazement I found them fascinating and became engrossed in watching them learning to walk and talk. Mother Nature got the better of me and I was delighted.

It just goes to show that when we are children we rarely have any idea about what we really want to do.

We need to learn more about ourselves to be able to think more clearly. That was the beginning of my real life. I had no idea of what lay before me. One thing I learned but it took me a long time. I realised that I was glad to be a woman and not a man. What helped me very greatly was my enthusiastic readings of most of the work of Carl Gustav Jung: the best psychologist and the best philosopher by my standards.

Self Esteem

Children and Self-Esteem

One of the most common things that people complain of is low self-esteem. Like so many other additions to the list of psychological problems it is treated as a sympton that can be ‘cured’.

When children come into the world they do not lack confidence. When they learn to walk they don’t mind how many times they fall over as they learn to move their bodies. They are not lazy about walking. They keep on trying until they succeed. The same is true of talking. They have endless curiosity and constantly look for new things to do. Their imagination and concentration is aroused with delight when they find out something new that excites their enthusiasm.

Today, when I watch children and parents in supermarkets or in the street, I am glad to see most children are given a free reign except for the few restrictions to safeguard rhem from danger. I wonder why the parents treatment of their children has vastly improved? There is no doubt advantages in technology and transport have made hopusekeeping and shopping far easier now than ever before.

Once children go to school restrictions on their lives are much greater. Things begin to change. The ugly word ‘compulsory’ creeps in. Children can no longer do what they want to do. Everyone in the class has to learn the same thing at the same time. That is alright if what is being taught is the three ‘Rs’, Reading ,Writing and Arithmetic, in a way that the children can learn and enjoy and plenty of time during lessons for the children to get up from their seats and run around, preferably outside. Good teachers are born, not made. By the same token painters and writers are the same. Techniques can be taught but the foundation of all three activities comes from the heart and genes of the fortunate people who have these potentials.

Before the Second World War, the government took little interest in state infant and primary schools. Teacher Training Colleges ran two-year courses that were more than adequate for these state schools. They included a short period of experience in real schools but teachers were trusted to teach in their own way following the basic needs. People who went to grammar schools taught academic subjects in preparation for universities, Others who wanted to train for business and secretarial work went to technical schools and the rest left at 14 to take what work they could find.

Unlike today, it was rare then for children of 7 and 8 not to read and write and learn a little rudimentary arithmetic by the time they went from infant into primary school.

People who went to university were those who wanted to study academic subjects. Money was not a problem because anyone who wanted to go to university and was good enough was paid grants that made them independent of their parents. When I was up at Liverpool University im 1957 I went to a meeting for undergraduates. The speaker was one Bessy Braddok, a fierce left-winger.

She was behind the times , having made the mistake that we all came from families who could pay the university fees. Most of us had fought in the war and received very good grants from the the central government or had won scholarships from local governments. We heckled her without mercy. Taking us for middle-class toffs whose fees were paid by their parents she shouted out:

‘You will soon have the working class in your midst!’

With one accord we roared back “Who do you think we are!” She could find no response. She had made a big mistake.

In those dim and distant days we had never heard ssuch a phrase as low self-esteem. We were mostly overflowing with confidence because we had worked hard to get what we wanted to do and did it well.

Psychology was only just being recognised as a subject for universities. People of my generation find it hard to understand why so many people think they need psychotherapy and I can understand why.