Hair loss: a case study of mourning and melancholia in the countertransference.
Committed as I am to the significance of the body and countertransference in my work as a transactional analyst, I simply cannot avoid the painful subject of hair loss! My column today constitutes a soul-searching examination and, hopefully, a working through of my issues around hair loss in the service of my more hirsute male clients, especially those sporting their newly fashionable beards.
Notice how, from the start, I use the anodyne term ‘hair loss’ rather than the darker, more shameful ‘balding’ or even the terminal ‘bald’. There I’ve said it, Worden’s first task of mourning, ie acknowledging the reality of the loss! The trouble with models involving stages however is that treading on the first step immediately raises fears of the following and worse, final steps – ultimately (qua Worden) presumably a wig!
Anyway, we talk about ‘losing’ our hair, but we don’t simply misplace it, like our keys, or as in ‘bloody hell it was there a moment ago’, or even ‘well it was on the top of my head when I went to bed last night’! We don’t actually lose our hair, it simply stops growing. Perversely it only stops growing on the tops of our heads – where we want it to be – and grows more in places we don’t want such as our ears and noses, like some sick weird proof that either god doesn’t exist, or is a woman!
And then there’s the I’m OK, you’re not OK discrimination against those of us ‘losing’ our hair, like the plethora of hair ‘care’ products for people with lots of hair – shampoos and conditioners giving it more body and shine so they can shake their lustrous locks, constantly sweeping it back from over their faces in faux annoyance – ‘cos they’re worth it! No such ‘care’ for balding people, presumably ‘cos we’re not worth it!
Hairy heads and smooth heads - hairy people and smooth people. If you think about it hairy people are more like our evolutionary ancestors, for example the apes and gorillas, who had hair all over their bodies. We’ve all seen those depictions of evolutionary development, you know the ones where the figures gradually change from hairy creatures on all fours to hairy things gradually standing up, and onto the upright and smoother homo sapiens. We’ve advanced in becoming smoother and less hairy. I rest my case….or maybe not quite yet …..
As a contribution to this ongoing evolutionary progress I propose a raft of new policies for the next government to consider:
· the more hair you have the more tax you pay
· hair-free zones and banning of hairy people in public places - as with smoking
· dedicated parking spaces for the sole use of bald people
· enhanced evolutionary-friendly child benefits for families with balding fathers
· creation of an Axis 2 DSM diagnosis – EHD (Excessive Hair Disorder)
· establishment of special centres where hairies can get free hair removal, therapy and re-education classes about who’s worth it and who isn’t.
However, persistent hairy ‘extremists’ would be banned from owning cars, bycicles and belts so they’d have to run for buses and fall over and everyone would laugh at them. (Let’s face it, I might as well give full reign to my envious Child ego state here). By that time the queen will have passed on, William will be king and called His Royal Hairless-ness, and a whole new generation of bald therapists will be trained up to work with Excessive Hair Disorder. I will have worked through my countertransference, and the world will be a better place.