I don't watch much television. I watch only that which comes highly recommended by those whose opinions I have come to trust. The first episode of 'The Outcast' had caused something of a stir amongst colleagues with whom I have been exploring the implications of Attachment Theory as a lens through which to look at our work in the therapy room.
The BBC's two part dramatisation of Sadie Thomas' novel didn't disappoint. Easy viewing it was not, but it held my attention in a way so many things that are apt to come onto our screens fail to.
It was a beautifully observed tale of a young man whose destiny is largely determined by the appalling tragedy he suffers as a 10 year old the effects of which are barely acknowledged and certainly not ameliorated by his father whom we know to be grief stricken (and likely suffering from undiagnosed PTSD) but in whose demeanour it is impossible to detect even a shred of emotion.
In the scenes that follow the horrifying accident we begin to understand the protagonist's plight: cursed by a trauma he is impotent to resolve without assistance and the absence of any attachment figure to support him to come to terms with his mother's tragic death. He is given every possible unhelpful message inspired by the stiff upper lip that plagued households up and down the land in 1950s Britain.
Tears are forbidden and so they build up. Mine came readily as I watched the immense and unnecessary suffering of a child who had no outlet for his. Having nowhere to go, the young man's anger is directed inward and we see him attack himself, in order to experience the release that only the resultant endorphin rush would satisfy. Brave portrayals such as this highlight the function of self harm and one can see how acts of self injury so commonly misunderstood and pathologised, at one level make absolute sense. Anger turned inwards must, at some point, resurface. The scars tell the story he was denied the opportunity to make sense of.