Betty Hughes has written a unique, extraordinary and important book. It is a story showing the devastating effect which religious indoctrination, combined with early childhood trauma has on the development of the person. The gift of the book is the way in which Betty, burdened by the crippling weight of guilt and shame and impoverished by a sense of detachment from her central self, is able to describe the never-ending struggle to find meaning and purpose in life. The long journey through psychotherapy and a variety of personal growth models makes fascinating reading, not least because hope kept blossoming only to be blotted out by recurring despair. Liberating her creativity in exciting models of expressive art was a break through and the latest research into dissociative disorders finally enabled her to come to terms with the way in which she survived early trauma. At ninety she is able to say: 'I used to live every day as if it was my last but the crucial need to be constantly poised on red alert, permanently equipped for the unknown, eternally prepared for an unidentified, life and death, threat lurking round the corner has ceased.
It has been my experience that living frozen in fight/flight mode deadens life and casts an unending vista of meaninglessness into the future. Living with the long-lasting effects of trauma is still a mystery. Sometimes I find myself expecting the black cloud to loom again, occasionally it hovers. Maybe it will descend again, it could happen but today, as I write this sentence, my past has caught up with my present. I am living in the now and I relish every moment'.
In her late forties Betty Hughes was utterly frustrated by the sheer meaninglessness of life. She was a workaholic: this provided her with a goal and a channel for her energy but her emotional life was a chaotic disaster. She seemed to be controlled and manipulated by deeply laid patterns that had no cohesion. She seemed to have no say whatsoever in regard to my feelings and responses, and, however hard she tried, genuinely meaningful experiences and relationships eluded me. This book started out as a therapeutic exercise that kept pace with her personal journey. Each time she faced a blank wall in her therapeutic endeavour the manuscript was flung aside: all meaning, purpose and relevance disappeared. She was back in a state of doom and gloom: her past was irredeemable, her conflicts irreconcilable, there was no energy in the project and no prospect of any rekindling of desire to continue with the task. This blockade always had a 'for ever' element to it that completely wiped out any hope of a meaningful outcome. Yet, there was always a very stubborn, relentless, tenacious child self who refused to be put down or defeated. This is her story - the story of her triumphant journey.