No Tears Please, We're British: The Empire Needed Upper Lips to Be Stiff but Now We Can All Loosen Up a Bit-And Should Do, Argues. (Features)

By Hodson, Phillip | New Statesman (1996), July 21, 2003 | Go to article overview

No Tears Please, We're British: The Empire Needed Upper Lips to Be Stiff but Now We Can All Loosen Up a Bit-And Should Do, Argues. (Features)


Hodson, Phillip, New Statesman (1996)


There are roughly 30,000 fully qualified psychotherapists, compared with just 11,000 vicars. We are in the middle of a therapy boom. In just 12 years, the membership of my professional organisation, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (or BACP), has grown by 160 percent. Yet though even Hillary Rodham Clinton may concede that "counselling saved my marriage", the media have never been so hostile to talking treatments.

According to the Daily Mail: "Counsellors are always trying to give people reasons to feel depressed, inadequate or a failure." When not doing that, "counsellors tend to undermine the strength of the human character". Worse, "counselling prevents the emotional recovery of people in distress". The Mail once asked readers: "How on earth did we get through World War II without a whole army of bereavement counsellors on hand?"

The answer is at great cost and lasting damage to most British families. If you deconstruct the Mail's almost weekly propaganda against the new "emotionalism", you will find a conjuror's prestidigitation but no persuasive evidence.

Last month, under the headline "Counselling can worsen pain of disasters", its science correspondent reported: "Three studies found that counselling helped, six suggested it made no difference and two found it had hindered recovery." In other words, the Mail cannot count. The truthful headline would have read: "Counselling can lessen the pain of disasters".

When passions beyond sex and violence are displayed, the tabloids appear to fret, deriding the tears both of Greg Rusedski when he lost at Wimbledon and Roger Federer when he won it. They require the lachrymose to keep it to themselves, as the curmudgeonly Mail columnist Lynda Lee-Potter recently explained. "I feel uneasy at the sight of young girls sobbing noisily in each other's arms within full view of the television cameras. If they wish to cry, they should do so inside and in private rather than with an histrionic burst of emotion... Many of the pupils who will take advantage will be the show-offs, the drama queens and thework-shy." This was after a coach crash in the Alps that killed three Bolton pupils on a school holiday.

The Sunday Times's health correspondent wrote two articles last March seeking to show that "repression is good for you" (and counselling bad), based on the work of the celebrated London psychiatrist Professor Simon Wessely. After the first article, Wessely said: "I was misquoted; I made no comments about counselling as such; I am very strongly in favour of psychological treatments." Still, you may be relieved to learn that in the second article the writer concluded that trauma remains "always best avoided".

Some of us may have begun to suspect that there is a plot by the Ministry of Defence to toughen the nation s sinews as a prelude to bloodshed. …

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