I would like to recommend a book today, by my friend, Phil Barber. I have only known Phil a few months, but we have been sharing quite a journey together on our weekly sessions of something called ‘Solo Autobiographical Theatre.’ You can‘t call it a drama class alone, as it is much more than that as you may guess from the autobiographical bit in the title. I wanted to do something that would get me out of my comfort zone and this was it and it has proven to be more than I could realise and in it, I am pretty fearless with the hope and desire this will spread into other areas of my life.
Together with 2 or 3 others we get together and pull strands from our own lives and find a way to express the story, face the sadness and some of the sweeter memories, but also tune into the wider story and break down some of those false beliefs and emotions that keep us stuck in the story. It really is an incredible gift and I am embracing it all and finding out things about myself I didn’t know I could do and becoming aware of emotions and experiences I didn’t know about. I find I can improvise a piece so quickly because with my spiritual journey in mind, I decide to focus on the emotion of a memory rather than the detail of that memory and from the feeling something grows. I also get to experience and watch others courageously opening themselves, unveiling their raw and vulnerable spots, as well as innate creativity.
But the other gift is that the four people I do it with sit without judgement and allow and encourage me to find the rawness of the emotion I feel and I so I feel uninhibited ( mostly), even with anger – an emotion I have found difficult to show publically or in the past admit I even had. There feels a supportive love present. In our different ways, we are seeking something and facing fears and challenging each other to be truthful and adventurous. Sometimes it is incredibly intense and yet very beautiful to see each other’s vulnerabilities and unlike therapy it feels less staged.
I know that sounds weird and there have been times when I have had therapy and it has helped me, but there have been many times when I felt a therapist was trying to control what I was feeling – so as “not to re-traumatise” me. If you have read some of my other blogs you will know that I understand and experience that it is the suppression of our emotions that has damaged us/me and to me that kind of therapy, just falls into society’s fear of emotional overwhelm and logically, if we look around at the problems in the world it is our denial of our true emotions that allows us to live so much of life in facade and untruths.
This autobiographical theatre is allowing me to experience myself in a new way and it has stirred up memories that are painful, but need to be felt, as well as moments of childhood that are sensory, that are good. So, in a short time, we all may have got to know more about each other, than we may have with other friends we have known for years. I guess when you are not sitting there over coffee having a chat over mundane or everyday things, you skip some facade and that is refreshing.
During the process, there have been some emotions in Phil that I related to a lot and so when he said he had written a memoir of his childhood, which was a journey of his life in and out of various children’s home and foster care I wanted to read more. From my experience, I have read more bad autobiographies/memoirs than good ones. Phil’s memoir is a very, very good one. He said it took him five hard years to write and I can see why as much of it is heart-breaking and sad and a poor reflection on how children are treated by their own family, but also by the systems in place which are meant to keep them safe from harm. It must have been a very emotional journey to write -and there is the gift.
In his introduction, Phil says he wrote it because “in fathoming more deeply my own journey it would help my children fathom theirs… and to speak to the orphan in us all.” The book is a gift of love to himself, which when you read the story, will see why that is so important; a gift of love to his children and to any of us that connect in with the feelings his childhood created and which so many of us relate to.
It is very well-written, but mostly frank, honest, deeply touching, but very self-effacing, making it all the more easy to read and connect with. I want to say a very personal thank you. I could not put this book down and by the end of it was in tears as I connected with many of the emotions of not feeling good enough, loneliness, shame and grief of my own childhood. So yes, it touched the “orphan” in me.
But I digress! Please read this wonderful memoir. It will help you emotionally, if that is what you want, or it will just be a beautiful read. As the title of my blog, Phil’s book is called Fatherless. I can’t recommend it enough and I feel blessed to have such a friend.
And Phil – you truly have come a long, remarkable way. Well done and thank you so much.