The Meandering Social Worker

wandering : wondering : learning


The book

Karen snapped the book shut and dropped it on the table before stuffing it into her student bag, as if she could forget what she had just read simply by hiding the book. 

Her heart was racing, her body was trembling.  It felt as if every nerve ending, every cell of her body, was on fire.  She didn’t have to look at her hands to know they were shaking.  This wasn’t what she had expected when she had bought that book.

Karen needed to find something to do.  Something that might take her mind off what she had just read.  She headed for the kitchen and took the chicken out of the fridge in an attempt to start preparing dinner.  But it was too late.  The book might be shut, its distinctive black and orange cover might be out of sight, but even the few words she had read were already burned into her memory.  She knew she would have to go back to it.[1]

Karen was now 40.   She considered she had lived a fairly normal life, with few exceptions.  She was well into her second marriage.  It wasn’t a happy marriage but she’d made her vows before God and she wasn’t giving in.  Her husband Tony was older than her.  She had known when she married him that he had a long term illness and would eventually need some kind of nursing care.  Although he was no longer able to hold down a full time job, his physical health wasn’t yet a significant problem.  No, the main problem, from Karen’s point of view, was his chronic depression.  Not that he would admit he was depressed.  As far as he was concerned the world, and especially the church, was against him.  He was expecting and demanding of everyone around him.  When help was offered or given it was never enough.  He never showed appreciation.  His general demeanour was aggressive.  He railed that no-one came to visit him, yet when they did he took this as an opportunity to expound at length his grievances.  He made no effort to visit anyone.

This wasn’t the caring, compassionate man she had married.  The one who loved God and was always giving of himself to help others.  The one who was always inviting the hungry and homeless back for a meal and somewhere to sleep.  The one whose house was always full of people in some kind of need.  He had become bitter and resentful.  He blamed the church for all his problems.

And her.  She could never give him enough.  She was never good enough.  She lacked something.  But he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, tell her what.  When he was in a bad mood and blaming her she would ask what was wrong and why.  He always replied “you know what’s wrong”.  She didn’t.  She never had.

She had walked a fine line.  She understood full well why no-one wanted to visit them anymore.  Why no-one from the church came calling.  Why the minister wouldn’t let Tony preach in the church, despite Tony’s claim that God had given him the gift of evangelism.  His bitterness and resentment were like an aura around him.  At every opportunity he would rant about the hypocrites in the church, how nobody accepted him, that he had given his all and it had been thrown back in his face.  Giving him free reign in the pulpit was not going to help him.  To him she defended the church, accepting his criticisms where they were valid and trying to explain the rationale where they weren’t.  She was quite incapable of lying and pretending that she fully agreed with him.  To the church she said little unless asked directly, when she defended Tony, using the excuse he had always used, his illness.  The irony was not lost on her.  While he ranted about the hypocrites wasn’t she doing just the same, pretending everything was fine when in reality it wasn’t?

Eventually the line had collapsed.  She had been forced to make a choice.  The church, her friends, the people she trusted, or her marriage.  Karen decided that before God she needed to honour her vows and do everything she could to keep her marriage alive.  Tony had promised that if she had left that particular church he would find a new one with her.  But he had reneged on that promise, and now she felt truly alone.  She had left the church but, in his eyes, for the wrong reasons.  She had left because he wanted her to, not because she fully agreed with his bitter opinions.

And now she was distanced from the only group of people she had ever really become friends with, nor was she close enough to her parents for them to know the extent of the problems in her marriage.

Karen contemplated these things as she fought to erase the words of the book from her mind.  She reflected too on her decision to become a student social worker.  She had been very careful to have long conversations with Tony, to make sure he understood, as best she could, the commitment she was undertaking, the time it would involve, the studying she would have to do at home.  The role she would be taking on once she was qualified.

She had always suspected that he only saw that she would be earning more money and hadn’t taken on board what she had said about the commitment to study and the role itself.  Now she knew she was right.

Tony resented the fact that they did not have as much money each week as he had been used to when he was a supermarket manager, before Karen had even met him.  He resented any time she spent on her studies.  Or maybe it wasn’t just the studies.  He resented any time she spent that was not devoted to him.  And that was getting harder to do by the day.  Right now he was out shopping.  She was glad he was out and not there so see her so rattled by what she had just read.  As much as she didn’t want to she knew she would have to go back and finish reading that damned book.  And her instincts told her she needed to understand this herself before she could tell anyone else, least of all her husband, as self centred as he had become through his depression.

Karen hadn’t gone into social work training blind.  She had already been working several years in a front line team, both in administration and in a low key unqualified social work role.  She had been there long enough to see first-hand the changes even just the social work training had wrought in people’s lives.  She thought she had been prepared for this.

But not this.  This book.  Those words.

It took a few days to finish reading that all important chapter of that book.  When her heart had stopped racing Karen retrieved it from her bag and found the page she had been reading.  She held the book cautiously, not flat on the table as before, but in both hands ready to snap it shut if the words caused her too much pain again.  She found the words she had already read.  She read them again, plus a few more.  It was too painful to keep reading and she put the book down.  In between reading the words of the book she would turn them over in her mind, familiarising herself with them, digesting them in her psyche.  Eventually she managed to read to the end of the paragraph, sufficiently desensitised by the repetition as she did so.  That one section of that one book would change her life.

Ten years earlier: the Sunday School Christmas Party

Karen was dreading it.  The dread and worry had been growing for weeks, now they were at their peak.  For as long as she could remember she had been strongly against telling children about Father Christmas.  Children should be told the truth.  And now the Sunday School Christmas party was just a few days away.  And worse still, as one of the Sunday School teachers she had to go.  She could cope with the preparation, the eating and the games, and the clearing up afterwards.  No, the hard part, impossible to endure she thought, would be towards the end of the party, when the children would be encouraged to sing Jingle Bells over and over again to make Father Christmas appear with the presents.

It didn’t occur to her to throw a sickie on the day.  Karen had always been utterly lousy at lying and she would never get away with dealing with the sympathetic enquiries that would follow.  No, she was just going to have to find a way of enduring it.

The final Wednesday night planning meeting for the party was over and everyone else had gone home.  Karen was sitting alone in the church.  She knew the layout well.  It was the same church she had got married in just over a year ago.   She moved through the pews and eventually sat in one in the middle, towards the back.  It wasn’t where she normally sat on a Sunday.

Why, she wondered, do I hate this whole Christmas charade so much?  She needed to know the answer if she was going to survive Saturday’s party.  As she sat there Karen thought back over all the Christmases she could remember, working back to the memories of early childhood.

As an adult it had always been the same.  She didn’t like Christmas.  She didn’t like being forced to endure receiving surprise presents.  She hated the images of Father Christmas that adorned the stores.  The Santa’s Grottos that excited children dragged their parents into.  The knowledge that those children were being fed a lie.  Seeing the children excited about something that didn’t exist.  Feeling sorry for them for being fooled into believing.

Every year she would do her duty and visit her parents on Christmas Day.  Every year she was glad when it was all over and life could return to normal.

The best present ever

Twelve year old Karen was sat in her usual place on the living room floor.  The old brown and cream striped settee was against the long wall to her left, under the window that looked out the front of the house, the lack of net curtains revealing the massive trees outside, now bare of their leaves for the winter months.  Karen did not see them.  Her senses were on full alert for the task she was involved in: opening presents.

Indoors the settee had been piled high with presents as usual that morning.  Now there were only a few left.  It was one of those informal traditions.  Her presents took up the whole settee while her parents’ presents were in small piles in each of the two matching armchairs.  Her parents had finished opening their presents long ago.  Now the gifts of socks, aftershave, fancy soaps, unwanted hankies, and maybe the odd jigsaw or ornament for her mum, and some small hand tools for her dad, were in two small piles in front of the hearth at the end of the living room.  Facing the hearth she could see them from where she sat.  Her own opened presents were piled neatly on the floor behind her.  Just in front of her, near her right knee, was a pile of neatly folded used wrapping paper, ready to be stored for use again next year.  Bows, ribbons and even decorative or potentially useful boxes were in another pile to her left, also ready to be stored again.  Sellotape and other bits that could not be reused were in the small tin waste paper bin with its red oriental design of women in kimonos holding umbrellas as they walked among the flowering boughs.

Karen looked at the presents remaining on the settee and selected one she could see would be a music album of some kind.  She checked the weight.  She could feel the cardboard corners of the album cover bend slightly, confirming the identity of the content of the package.  But which album?  She had already opened a Top of the Pops album with a red cover.  She hadn’t asked for any albums but these compilations by cover artists were popular at the time among her age group and she was pleased to have received it.  Her mum had bought it to go with the new record player her parents had given her this year.

The record player had been a surprise present.  She had been puzzled when she had opened it, not recognising it for what it was until she had finally had to lift the orange lid that sat on top of the white bottom, revealing the turntable and needle arm.  She had delayed doing that, delayed investigating this strange looking box, until her parents had encouraged her to lift the lid in order to find out what it was.  She didn’t like the colour much.  She wasn’t sure of her reaction to it yet.  It was a nice idea but she had been quite happy with the old radiogram her grandmother had handed down to her just before Christmas last year.  For Karen any pleasure at getting the new record player was tinged with sadness that she wouldn’t be able to keep the old radiogram.  That gift had been a bit of a surprise but it was better than being tainted by being new and her parents expecting her to be excited about it.

She guessed that maybe her parents had bought the new record player so they could get rid of the big old piece of furniture that took up a lot of space on the wall that was behind her where she now sat.

There had been her own small piece of furniture to open too. Heavy and packed in a plain box it had been impossible to guess.  It was a white melamine square unit on which the record player would stand with slots underneath in which to safely stack her new records.  It would eventually stand in the space where the old radiogram still stood.

And now there was this second album to unwrap.  The paper was just thick enough to conceal the colour and words so it was not possible to tell if this was another of the many Top of the Pops albums on sale at any one time, or something by some other artist.  Karen could see from the label that the gift was from her aunt.  Her cousins were slightly older than her and already ‘into’ music.  That increased the possibility that the album was from some obscure artist.  Fear she wouldn’t recognise the album or the artist vied with the faint hope in her heart that this would be an album she would like.

It was a family tradition that everyone would re-use their Christmas wrapping paper every year.  It was something her grandmother had always done and something she had taken to heart for as long as she could remember.  It served her purposes perfectly.

Karen carefully peeled away every scrap of sellotape she could find on the present, being careful not to tear the paper.  She put the album down in front of her with the paper still neatly folded around the gift, concealing the contents, and rolled up the spent tape before leaning forward to drop it neatly in the waste bin.

Karen pulled out the folded edges of the paper, smoothing them slowly and carefully, ostensibly beginning the process of neatly smoothing and folding ready for storing the paper for re-use next year.  In reality it was part of a well practiced ploy to keep handling and moving the present until Karen knew exactly what was inside.

Her dad watched in anticipation.  The whole present opening process had taken so long, as usual, that her mum was having to go back and forth to the kitchen to monitor the cooking of the turkey and finish preparing the vegetables.  It was already early afternoon.  The opening of presents had already taken seven hours.  They had had breakfast and numerous cups of tea while Karen dragged out the opening of every present.  Each one slowly and meticulously opened.  Her parents couldn’t understand it.  Why didn’t Karen open her presents like any other child, ripping the paper, laughing and jumping up and down with excitement at receiving so many gifts?  Yet this was Karen and by now they had got used to this strange ritual, enacted every Christmas and birthday.  Her mother considered Karen a peculiar child.

Once there was no more she could do to delay revealing the present Karen held the gift and paper in such a way as only she could see the contents.  It was important that no-one else should see what it was before she did.  She kept her head down in case any emotional reaction should be visible in her face.  That way she saw the album cover before anyone else.  The rounded letters of the words “Top of the Pops” were clearly visible against the red background.  She had been right to keep her head down.  She was delighted and hoped it wouldn’t show.  It was exactly the same album she had opened a few hours earlier.  Karen removed the paper shield and her dad let out a faint groan of disappointment on her behalf.

Karen heard his groan and assessed how she should respond.  She shrugged and put on a bit of a show, not of joy or disappointment, but of matter of factness.  She reassured her dad.  “It’s OK.  They sell these in Woolworths.   I’ll take one down town next week and see if they’ll change it for the one with the white cover.  I’ll tell them they were both bought from there.”

Karen hoped Woolworths would change the album, but she didn’t really care.  She had already had the best Christmas present ever.  The new record player, the clothes, toys, toiletries, books, all paled into insignificance against the delight in knowing that two different people, her aunt and her mother, had both bought the same present, the exact same present, without telling each other what they had bought.  That was the real present.  It meant that, for once, two adults had not communicated with each other about her.  Getting two different albums would now be just a bonus.  She hugged her secret delight to herself.  This was a good Christmas.

Boxing Day balloon fight

“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN”.  The small boy’s voice rang out loud and clear.  The loud commanding way in which it the words were spoken shocked everyone into a momentary freeze frame in time.

“Bam Bam Bam Bam Bam”, the voice rang out again, as Carl took the opportunity to gleefully bash his sisters and cousin with the balloon he was holding in his hands.

Karen’s parents, aunt and uncle had been sitting on the settee and armchairs drinking tea and chatting.  But now they were coughing and spluttering through their laughter.

With the tortuous ritual of opening presents on Christmas Day over, Karen’s aunt, uncle and cousins had come to visit on Boxing Day.  At five Carl was both the youngest and smallest of the family group that day.  And in the middle of a balloon fight it was working to his disadvantage.  Stuck in the middle, unable to reach up to bash anyone else with his balloon he was the one coming off worst.  His tactic to create a diversion during which he could at least get in a few hits worked and he was delighted.  He grinned a broad grin at the adults, revelling in their laughing approval.  His respite wasn’t to last long.  Having regained their senses the others targeted him in earnest and the fight briefly descended into chaos and then petered out.  The adults returned to their conversations, marvelling at the boy and his clever tactic, and laughing at the others’ reactions, now with their focus on returning his attack.

Along with the others Karen had resumed the fight, but she now stood back a little.  The fun had gone out of the game and out of the day.  She had forgotten herself for a while but now she was back on guard.  The adults’ laughter had reaffirmed a view she had already formed.  Children only existed for the amusement of adults.  She had been watching them.  All adults were ‘them’.  Adults laughed at children.  They set children up for their own pleasure.  She might be only nine years of age, but she had stored memories of plenty of examples of adults laughing at children.  Why else would they lie to children about Father Christmas, and then laugh at them when they got over-excited about receiving presents from someone who didn’t exist?  It was all part of the adult versus child game.  And Karen wasn’t in the game to give adults their fun at her expense.

Finding memories

As Karen sat in the church pew, remembering her childhood Christmases, the stories were all the same.  Many presents were piled high on the settee.  She had taken hours to open them all, not just because there were many to open but because she was so slow and careful in doing so.  Careful to work out what the present was before fully removing the paper.  A puzzle or colouring book could be identified from the feel, the way the present bent slightly in her hands, the addition of crayons or pencils within the wrapper.

Boxes were the worst.  Sometimes Karen could guess the contents from the sounds made when she shook the parcel slightly.  Jigsaws were easy to guess.  The sound the soft cardboard pieces as they knocked against each other would be enough.  Board games were often light, the pieces inside making a noise as she shook the parcel, the weight distribution often uneven as the small parts were fitted into the interior plastic moulded storage.  Books were fairly obvious.  The only caution was in learning the book title, the name of the game, the type of colouring or puzzle book before the wrapping was removed.  Sometimes Karen would be able to work this out by pressing against the paper so the words showed through.   But often she would have to resort to the routine of careful slow unwrapping of the paper, angling the parcel and the paper so she could get a glimpse of the writing and the colours of the book or box cover without anyone realising what she was doing.  Each movement of the paper would reveal just a little bit more until she was as confident as she could be that she knew what was hidden in the paper before she finally removed the cover.

She never tired of the process.  The whole charade was to remove the possibility of surprise, to eliminate the possibility of publicly showing excitement or disappointment.  Always watching and assessing the reactions of those around her, adjusting her own responses accordingly.  Making sure her parents never had the opportunity to ‘share’ her happiness or dismay.

But these memories were what she had always known and were not answering Karen’s question: Why did she hate Father Christmas so much?

Excitement and disappointment

Karen remembered clearly the day she had gone with her mum to visit her grandmother.   It was exciting times.  Christmas was only two weeks away.  Not that Karen understood that.  To her it was nearly Christmas.  Every day she would ask, “Is it Christmas yet?”  Every day her mum would say, “not yet, soon”.

And now her grandmother had given her a huge parcel, a really big Christmas present.  A box that was nearly as big as her.  Karen had struggled determinedly to carry it during the long walk home.  She had looked at it with excitement and wonder as it nestled under the Christmas tree, a present that was just waiting for her and that exciting morning.  She would sit and look at it, and even just touch it sometimes.  Anything that big had to be pretty fantastic and the more she thought about it the more she was excited and eager to open this really big present.  She was only three and she couldn’t remember if she’d had a Christmas present before.

When the day eventually came Karen ripped at the paper to reveal a plain brown cardboard box.  It was hard to open the box on her own but with her parents help they opened it together.   Inside was a life-sized baby doll, dressed in a hand knitted yellow cardigan and skirt with white knickers.  It was ugly and huge.  Karen’s face fell.  She felt the huge well of disappointment rise up in her.  Tears sprang in her eyes.  She didn’t know what she had expected but it wasn’t this.

Sensing Karen’s disappointment her mum quickly said “Never mind, nana didn’t know.”  Trying to distract Karen she went on, “Look, there are lots more presents.  Let’s see what’s in these.” Handing Karen another present, she went on, “I bet there’s something good in here.”

Karen had kept the doll.  It wasn’t the done thing to throw away a present.  Mostly it was just left lying in an old doll’s pram.  About once a year she would feel guilty for not playing with it.  Then she would get it out of the pram, change its clothes and put it back again.  She never quite knew what to do with it.  It wasn’t the sort of doll you could play inventive games and make up stories with.  It was only every going to be an imitation baby.

Something must have changed

Sitting in the pew Karen realised that something must have changed after that Christmas when she was three.  It was the only Christmas she could remember where she had not engaged in her ritual of opening presents slowly and secretly.  Having sat down and focussed on her Christmases past it was surprisingly easy how the memories came flooding back.

Nursery school

It was Karen’s second Christmas since starting school at four and a half, and she had gone back into school that January full of excitement about the presents she had received for Christmas.  When she told her best friend Robert what Father Christmas had given her he told her there was no Father Christmas.  “Of course there is”, she argued.  “No there isn’t.  The presents are from your parents.  They just pretend they’re from Father Christmas.”

Karen was quiet and thoughtful for the rest of the day.  When her mum met her from school that day Karen told her what Robert had said.  She trusted her parents implicitly.  They cared for her, they looked after her, and they had taught her everything she had needed to know.  They had always taught her that telling the truth was absolutely essential.  There must be a Father Christmas if they had told her there was.  Her mum reassured her as they completed the short walk home from school.  Of course there was a Father Christmas.  Karen was relieved.  She would make sure she told Robert first thing in the morning.

And that’s what she did.  Except that Robert was still completely confident that Father Christmas wasn’t real.  He knew for certain because his big brother had told him, and “my big brother knows everything”.  Karen didn’t have a big brother or sister to ask.

“Have you got a chimney?”


“Can Father Christmas get down it?”

“No.  There’s a big fire thing in the way.”

“Lots of people don’t have chimneys.  How do you think he gets in?”

“Who eats the mince pies then?”

“Your parents, silly!”

Karen went home again that night and told her mum what Robert had said.  Her mum explained that when people don’t have chimneys the parents will leave a window open for him, or he will knock on the door and they let him in.

But the seeds of doubt had been sown.  Karen was already a thinker.  And she thought and thought about the problem of Father Christmas.  Every time she came up with a new problem she would ask her parents a question.

“How do reindeer fly?”  “Special magic.”  Not convincing but why would she know any different.  She was still a bit sceptical about this one.

“How does Father Christmas know what to give children?”  “You write him a letter.”

“But he gives me things I didn’t ask for.”  “Ah well, we also write to him to suggest some things we think you might like.”

“What about people who live in flats?”  Same answer as those who haven’t got chimneys.

“How does he manage to eat so many mince pies without being sick?”  He gives some to the reindeer and takes some back to the elves.

The days rolled into weeks and the weeks into months.  Some questions were repeated to see if the same answers were given.  Karen asked questions of both her parents to see if they gave the same answer.  All the questions were answered but still the nagging doubts persisted.  There were too many questions and many of the answers weren’t convincing enough.

“How does Father Christmas manage to get all around the world and visit all the children’s homes in just one night?”

Karen’s mum got some paper and drew a picture of the solar system.  She explained to Karen that the earth travelled around the sun and it turned as it did so.  Because it did this it meant that when it was dark in England it was still light in other parts of the world and when it was light in England other parts of the world were dark.  “Just like where your great aunt Nancy lives in Australia.  When it’s night there it’s daytime here.  That means Father Christmas doesn’t just have a few hours when it is dark here in England to visit all the children.  He has a whole day, 24 hours, to get around the world.”

That kept Karen quiet for a couple of weeks.

“How many houses are there in the world?” “I don’t know.  Lots.”


“How many countries are there in the world?”  “I don’t know exactly – loads.”

“How many houses are there in England?” “I don’t know.”

“How many towns are there in England?” “I don’t know – hundreds.”

“How many roads are there in our town?” “I don’t know – hundreds.”

“How many houses are there in our road?” “Why do you want to know?”

“Well, if I know how many houses there are in our road, and how many roads there are in our town, and how many towns there are in England, and how many countries there are in the world, I can ask you to work out how many houses there are in the world and how many minutes Father Christmas has at each house to get into the house, deliver the presents, eat the mince pies, and get back out again.”  “And that’s not allowing him any time to travel between houses.”

At this point Karen’s mother finally gave in.  The questions had been going on for weeks and weeks.  She sat down and told Karen the truth.  There is no Father Christmas.

Karen was devastated.  She didn’t care that there was no Father Christmas.  She’d pretty much worked that out for herself by now.  She just needed the confirmation.

No, she was devastated because the two people she had trusted most had lied to her.  The very same people who had always told her it was vital to always tell the truth.  They had lied.  And she had had to ask over and over again.  She had had to work really hard to find out the truth.  And they had both told the same stories.  They must have agreed with each other to lie to her.

When her dad came home from work her mum must have told him.  He sat Karen down on his lap in the brown and cream striped armchair in the lounge.  She asked why they hadn’t told her the truth.  Her dad explained it was because they loved her so much they wanted to give her lots of presents at Christmas.  Because she was an only child they had to take extra care that she didn’t get spoilt and selfish.  And if she thought all those presents were from them she might get spoilt and selfish.  So they pretended that some of the presents were from Father Christmas.

It was a good excuse and it made sense but it wasn’t good enough.  Didn’t they know her?  Didn’t they know she would rather have had fewer presents and known the truth than be lied to like that?

Suddenly, Karen knew she was an outsider.  She was no longer one with her parents.  Her parents didn’t understand her.  They were a unit and she wasn’t a part of it anymore.  If her parents had lied to her, and worse, they had agreed together to lie to her, they couldn’t love her like they said they did.

Emotionally she began to distance herself from her parents.  She no longer trusted them.  She watched them carefully for more lies.  She kept her own thoughts and feelings to herself.

A new beginning

Eventually Karen rose from the pew, turned out the lights and locked the church doors behind her as she left.  It was dark outside, the bushes cast eerie shadows in the car park but she barely noticed.  Her mind was consumed by the memory of finding her parents out in that old Father Christmas lie and the impact it had had on her attitude towards Christmas over the years.  She still had a lot of thinking and contemplation to do but by the time she left the church that evening she had the beginnings of understanding what had happened and when.

That simple understanding made it easier to survive the Christmas party.  Karen still couldn’t bring herself to sing Jingle Bells with the children but she was able to stay in the room while it was sung and at least mime the words.

The memory of how she had worked so hard to extract the truth from her parents about the Father Christmas lie began to explain several things for Karen.  She began to understand that her reaction had been unusual.    It would be another ten years before Karen had any real understanding of the full impact of that simple event that all but a tiny minority of children survive unscathed.

In the meantime she was encouraged to know she was not alone.  Only a couple of months later the church denominational magazine carried an article by someone else who had experienced the sense that his parents had lied to him through telling him about Father Christmas.  Maybe she wasn’t so weird after all.


As a student social worker Karen knew that attachment was an important underpinning theory in social work.  Yet, despite the ease with which she had grasped most of the theories of social work this one had eluded her.  She had tried to read the books recommended by tutors and fellow students but somehow it remained in a fog for her.  A quick glance in the new black and orange book had shown her that the layout was straightforward with the text divided into clear sections, more like a reference work.  She had bought it hoping this would be the one that would bring the clarity she needed on the subject.

Karen selected a few unconnected sections to read and then, having the sense of how the book worked, had chosen to break up how she would read it.  Each attachment model had its own chapter divided into sections covering the possible behaviours of each type of attachment for different age groups from infants, through to teenagers and adults and parents.  The book suggested that the descriptions given for the non-secure attachment models would represent the more extreme behaviours that might be seen.

As Karen read the description of the avoidant attached adult she knew she could be reading her own biography, the description fitted her perfectly.  This was supposed to be the extreme, the most damaged, surely that couldn’t be her, yet at an instinctive level she knew it was true.   Shaking Karen had dropped the book and then hidden it in her bag.  But eventually she had forced herself to finish reading the section.  It was ten years since that bizarre night when she had sat in the empty church pew remembering all those Christmases past and, more importantly, the school day in January when she was five and began a personal journey to learn the truth about Father Christmas.

Following that exercise in remembering Karen had, from time to time, thought about the impact that childhood event had had on her life.  During a part time welfare studies course she had completed six years after that evening sitting in the church pew she had even written an essay using and critiquing a Freudian analysis on her Father Christmas experience.  It had earned exceptionally good marks.  Now she was beginning to realise that there was still much more she had to learn and understand about other events throughout her entire life.  And it was a very uncomfortable feeling.

[1] Attachment Theory, Child Maltreatment and Family Support by Howe, Brandon, Hinings, Schofield, 1999, published by Palgrave Macmillan


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