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  • Writer's picturePaul Matthew

On Becoming a Pluralist

Updated: Dec 13, 2020

When I was 11, my life was defined in two ways. The first was that I started writing songs on my piano. Now I’d been doing this for a little while but they started to sound good. I also sang in a school talent competition, actually to people I went to primary school with, it is usually one of the things they bring up first “you’re the guy that won the talent show”. I co-won actually. My best friend, and later co- conspirator in the musical world also won for a piano piece. When I was 11 my love for performing, and writing was born.

That same year I stepped over a fallen tree in a wooded area near my friend’s house. My foot got stuck and I subsequently disturbed a hive of bees. It’s hard to describe the trauma as a young, boy of hundreds of bees swarming around you and stinging you. It’s certainly not something I feel I’ll ever forget.

For years, I’d wake up with night sweats and terrors. I would feel them crawling all over me, I would hear a fly buzz past my ear and I would go into flight mode. Running, jumping away, finding any way to get away from the insect. Sometimes, I would burst into tears. The logical part of my brain would say “it’s just a fly” or “even if a bee stings you, you will be fine, you are not allergic”. Phobia doesn’t work like that. I experienced a trauma and I had no way of psychologically dealing with it.

Several bee and wasp related incidents later, in my twenties, I finally decided to do something about it. I knew this phobia was affecting my mental health and stopping me from leading a normal life. I would hide in the house in the summer, and live in fear at family barbeques and outdoor events. So, I looked up a therapist.

This was my first real experience of therapy. I had always turned to music in difficult times and never really knew how It would go. It was one of the best things I have ever decided to do. I had virtually no expendable money, I was working as an administrator and using the money I pulled in from gigs at the weekend to pay the £60 a week it was costing to see the therapist. It was very much worth it.

The therapist used EMDR ( In getting me to focus on the movement of his hands, and recall the trauma I had experienced at 11. He gradually got me to focus on more pleasant experiences. After several weeks the therapy stopped. It was winter so It wasn’t until the spring that I got a chance to see if I really was “cured”. In reality, I was still scared, but I was also capable of opening a window in a room with a wasp or bee in it. I have seen multiple therapists in the years since, each helping me unravel a particular issue.

I think many of us consider mental health a luxury. We will gladly pay to get a new number plate for our car or go on a holiday, or get a takeaway but when we really need to speak to someone, we put it off. The truth is, all of us at various points in our lives need support.

It took me a long time to realise that but it was not long after that, that I moved from my administrative role, to a similar role with a different organisation with more of a support focus. Not long after that I started my first counselling certificate. If you were to ask me before attending therapy if I would ever consider becoming a therapist, I would have laughed but attending therapy was the first step in the rest of my life. I still love music and it is still very much my second job, but, without that first experience of therapy, I don’t think I would have ever got this far in filling that other half of my working life.

Now we don’t all go to therapy and decide to become therapists but let me give you a client example; When I was a trainee, I met a client who was stuck in a rut with their job. Anxiety, workplace bullying, depression and other presenting issues were stopping the client in their tracks. The client I saw after twelve weeks of therapy had turned their whole life around, finding a new career direction, a fresh sense of love for the world around them, they were almost a completely different person. At the end of the day all I did was give them the space to figure that out, with perhaps working Pluralistically (, with a few therapeutic tools and coping mechanisms.

At the end of the day I would not be who I am if it was not for therapy. I would have struggled a lot more with some of the more challenging times in my life and perhaps I would never have been in a position to help others.


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