The Brutal Misery That Haunts Sad Ruth

This is the story of a young woman tormented by the terrible events of her childhood. She called the Echo Action Line when we launched our campaign against child abuse – Can You Hear Our Children Weeping? It was a desperate plea for help. That help came from Mike Whitenburgh, a psychoanalyst.


Marianna Brand-Whitenburgh and Michael Whitenburgh say “The methods and techniques contained in this story are still valid today and form the basis of our unique global workshops with modern day slants.”



Original story 26th & 27th June 1985 by (Jenny Palmer) – Moira Martingale and reproduced by permission of the Liverpool Post and Echo, Old Hall Street, Liverpool, United Kingdom and author Moira Martingale.
Original drawings by Linda Saavedra.


 Ruth’s Story

This is the story of a young woman tormented by the terrible events of her childhood. She called the Echo Action Line when we launched our campaign against child abuse – Can You Hear Our Children Weeping? It was a desperate plea for help. That help came from Mike Whitenburgh, a psychoanalyst

– Jenny Palmer, Liverpool Echo

The Brutal Misery That Haunts Sad Ruth

Releasing the painful memories

It all started with Sigmund Freud’s theory and method of psychoanalysis. He compared the mind to an iceberg, with the smaller part – the part “above the water” being the conscious part, and the larger, unseen part, being the unconscious (or subconscious)

In the unconscious, Freud believed, were all the urges, passions and repressed ideas and feelings which without us being aware of it control our thoughts and deeds.

If someone experiences a trauma in childhood, it will be repressed – locked away in the subconscious – because it is too painful to recollect.

This is where a psychoanalyst like Mike Whitenburgh comes in.

Under psychoanalysis, often using hypnosis, Mike ‘digs around’ – to use his own phrase – to try and uncover the deep-seated cause of a patient’s anxieties or neuroses, and then to try and release the trauma which is trapped in his or her subconscious.

Only by such release will the person be able to make a new start.

“I know I’m a last resort,” says Mike Whitenburgh. “Sometimes people even come to me after trying faith healers.”

“They try their own doctors first, and then the specialists, then they try the ‘alternatives’ such as faith healing. Then they h up at my doorstep expecting me to say, ‘I can’t help you.’

“The medical profession is seen as being there to provide an intellectual answer, but they can’t say anything except “Go home and pull yourself together. Grow up.”

“Grow up” is important. You are physically talking to a little child.”

The first mayor objective in psychoanalysis is to get rid of the ‘rational’ mind.

People tend to intellectualise their problems, which is why traumas lie buried beneath a heap of adult logic.

Taking a shovel to a heap and tossing aside the logic is the only way to the core of the trouble- and this means regression to childhood.

Ruth Continued…….

She pauses. . .

“I remember when I was 16 I had to put on a sari, I hated it, but I had to parade in front of my father in this sari.”

 “He looked at me . . . he could never look me in the eyes, and turned away and said to my stepmother, “Just look at her. She’s just like her mother. Look at her hair. Look at her forehead.” He couldn’t look at me because I reminded him of my mother.

There is silence; Mike breaks in by talking about the procedure of psychotherapy and hypnosis. He will see her for an hour a week, for about 8 weeks. By the end of that time, Ruth will tell him what the problem is, and not the other way round, he stresses.

Ruth looks anxious. “Can I just ask . . .  I’m not mad, am I?” she appeals.

“No,” Mike reassures, “No, no. Far from it.

“And I haven’t committed a murder or anything in my past have I? “She is barely five feet tall, and the suggestion seems faintly ridiculous. But Mike answers the plea in her eyes with more reassurance.

“You see,” she adds, “I know I’m not qualified to say, but I’ve always like to think of myself as sane.”

I can see a woman’s face. She’s lying with her head tilted to one side. Her face is very white. It cannot be my mother, because she’s dark.

 “She’s lying on the floor. Her eyes are open, her face is white. A man is sitting on top of her.

“I keep seeing the woman’s face. She’s staring at me. Her face is very white and her head is tilted to one side. There are tears coming out of her eyes. I’m very frightened.. . . “She isn’t moving. The man is moving, but she isn’t. She is lying very still. I know I am there because she is looking at me. . . I am standing in the doorway, in the dark. . . . “There’s a pain in my neck. . . I’m screaming very loud! Oh God, I’m screaming very loud but nobody hears me! He has his hands stretched out towards her head. He’s hurting her! I want him to stop. . . And I’m just standing there screaming, but nobody hears me.”

Ruth has spent 11 weeks in psychotherapy with psychoanalyst Mike Whitenburgh. She has a history of anxiety and nervous disorder.

Her mother died when she was 7, her father re-married and she has loathed him for as long as she can remember.

She had a miserable, loveless childhood and a marriage to a violent man which ended seven years ago. She is Indian, but the family moved to England 12 years ago.

Maybe her father had sexually assaulted her when she was young, she rationalised after reading about sexual abuse of children in the Echo. Maybe that was why she hated him and that could be the cause of her neuroses, her fears and strange dreams.

Mike began work on her troubled psyche back in March.

His aim was to leaf through the photograph album of her mind and release the ‘timeless, formless, nameless something,” inside her, bringing her peace.

Ruth re-lived the therapy sessions for me. She holds little back as we sit in the bright lounge of her terraced house, where she has brought up her two sons, aged 10 and 8, since her divorce.

Mike took her through imaginary scenes: descending a staircase, floating into space, walking in a lovely valley, sleeping in a golden bed in a golden room where a soft breeze from the window tinkled through a crystal chandelier.

“The one I hated was going into a dark tunnel with a pin- hole at the other end. I had to walk into darkness and the pin-hole of light went above my head”.

Mike would say, “Tell me the first thing that comes into your mind;” but my mind was blank. I was frightened of being in the tunnel. I had pains- contraction-type pains in my stomach.”

“Mike kept saying, “What are you frightened of? What can you see? But all I could see was blackness.”

During the sessions, many things came back to her.

Inconsequential things such as the colour of her clothes in certain situations, or intricate descriptions of rooms where she had lived as a child.

Other things vanished during the course of therapy. The weird experiences stopped and the dreams I had were happy ones.

Ruth is sitting, curled up in the corner of the settee, the sadness showing in her black eyes. By this stage in the therapy, she says, she believed that she and Mike had uncovered the root of the problem.

“I thought that my idea about the sexual thing with my father was out of the question, because the only time he ever touched me was to push me away, never to cuddle or love me.”

“I thought it was the violent things-the beatings that had resulted in my mother’s death. But Mike said I would know when we had reached the end.”

And know she did. When what turned out to be the final session came, she felt relaxed and happy.

“Mike went through the paces-the valley, the golden room. I knew it by now. I got here before him. Then it was the tunnel, the bloody tunnel again! All of a sudden I started feeling frightened again and the pains began.”

“At first it was blank, Mike kept saying, “Come on, what can you see?” I was waiting in the tunnel then suddenly I could see flashes. It was a woman’s head. Her head was tilted to the one side. Her face was white. Her eyes were open.”

I didn’t know who she was. In my mind my mother was darker than me, but the woman had a white face.

 Continued next week………..

Thank You Ruth… Because of your bravery and inspiration we are able to continue our work in making
New Mind Women – New World Within

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