One of the things I’ve learnt in counselling is to pay attention to my judgements, to examine very closely what’s behind my assessment of another person. In particular, what does a ‘judgement’ say about me (as opposed to my client)? To be clear, 95% of my time counselling is free of judgement – I listen, I try to understand and that’s it. But 5% of the time, someone will say something that triggers an immediate personal reaction, and it’s in that 5% where counsellors do their own work. Vicki Laveau-Harvie’s memoir, The Erratics, was a whole book of 5% for me.
Laveau-Harvie is Canadian-born and raised but has lived much of her life in Australia (hence this book being longlisted for the Stella Prize). The Erratics captures a short time in her life when, along with her Canadian-based sister, they moved their elderly mother into permanent care, and made arrangements for their father to stay in the relatively remote prairie home he loved. This sounds straight-forward, however, the blurb hints at something more dramatic – the mother is mentally unstable, hostile and delusional, and has systematically starved her father and kept him a hostage in his own home.
One of the few coherent messages my mother repeated to me and to my sister as we grew up, a message she sometimes delivered with deceptive gentleness and a touch of sadness that we weren’t more worthy prey, was this one, and I quote: I’ll get you and you won’t even know I’m doing it. Continue reading