There's a wonderful essay around at the moment about Paul McCartney by the writer Ian Leslie called 64 Reasons To Celebrate Paul McCartney.
Ian gives a loving, thoughtful and really deep appreciation of Paul's contribution not just to music but to all our lives. He explores how Paul has been poorly served by a reductive idea, a myth really in Ian's telling, of Lennon the tortured genius, Paul the slipstreaming housecat.
It is a great read about music, friendship, creativity, maleness and much more.
One bit really stood out for me, and made me think about how a self – a person – develops; how things can get in the way of that process; and also how we might be able to work through that in therapy.
Talking about Paul meeting his wife Linda, Ian calls on a quote by Mike Nichols (who directed The Graduate) talking about his wife Diane Sawyer, the political journalist.
He [Paul] quickly went from being extremely promiscuous to extremely monogamous, spending only a few nights apart from Linda until the end of her life. He wanted her to make him a better person, and she did. Winning over John reassured him he was brilliant; winning over Linda reassured him he was good. I’m reminded of what Mike Nichols said of his marriage to Diane Sawyer: “True love made Pinocchio a real boy. We all sort of feel like we’re contraptions, like we pasted ourselves together - a little bit from here, a little bit from there – and then, if you’re very lucky, along comes someone who loves you the right way, and then you’re real.”
My reading of this is that Ian is exploring how Paul's different self-images, different parts of him were able to come together. Earlier in the piece, Ian notes how Paul's mum died when he was 14, and alludes to the feeling of total lostness, that sense of things coming apart, that this might well have caused in the boy.
I think what Mike Nichols says has a deep truth to it, not so much in terms of romantic love necessarily, but in how a self and a personality coheres.
Each of us has different aspects and selves, but to me the journey towards a meaningful and authentic life is to be able to bring these aspects together, to tolerate the parts of ourselves we do not like, to be able to see ourselves as a whole person.
It might be, like Mike says, that this happens in the gaze of the loved one, someone who really sees us.
If that happens to you in childhood, being held in the parental gaze, loved, then that can aid a person in gathering together all the different parts of themselves. I personally believe we are assembled, as it were, rather than born.
If that doesn't happen to you, perhaps because you are neglected in all the senses that might mean, then you can enter adult life feeling patched together, bodged, never really sure which bit of you is which. Not real. Not really you.
I think that therapy can provide a space to think about how you came to be who you are, and which parts of yourself you find ugly to look at, or try to avoid. By being able to integrate those parts, perhaps we can feel more whole.