Stephen Fry Appreciation Monday – how Mr. Fry got his head examined

Dear readers happy Stephen Fry Appreciation Monday!

It is 17 days until our trip! (Yes I have started counting, now I only need to get this ruddy cold out of the way.) And still no pub suggestions, honestly people where am I going to have my beer?! And I know someone from Norwich has popped by – the all seeing Google analytics eye told me.

Yesterday I was perusing what I could write about (I still refuse to see Spice World movie on principle) and I stumbled upon Shrink rap. With Stephen Fry. I know I was shocked too.
And let me tell you, there is a reason why I cannot watch reality shows (well apart from Project Runway) I’m a complete and utter wimp. And here I was thinking I’m a snarky cow and nothing can surprise me anymore. Tssss

Shrink rap is hosted by dr. Pamela Connolly (yes the wife of and her maiden name was Stephenson). She got a degree in psychotherapy. The premise is and I quote from the website

“Shrink Rap is an attempt to allow people not to be under pressure of performing, not to feel that they have to present the ideal self, the one that is always adorable and perfect and funny and together. This allows people to bring forward the true self, to not always tell the official story.”

The premise is good enough – talk show with a twist, but if it was a reality show it would be something along the lines “Today’s episode of Gyno’s office – how one woman embraced her thrush”. My point is – there is a reason why therapy is conducted in private.

Now lets get it straight I don’t have much experience with therapy. In primary school we were tested and then had to have a talk with a psychologist whose duty was to advise us what type of school would be the best choice for secondary education. I was told I was not good at maths (well duh, I could have told you that without the tests honestly!). So my experience is very limited and I am not the best judge whether dr. Connolly is any good as therapist.

And the reason I say I am a wimp because it was excruciating to watch. At least for me it was. For the life of me I don’t understand why Mr. Fry even agreed to it, to a bystander ( ie me) it looked like an exercise in masochism.

She started innocently enough, waffling on about lifts and earliest memories. To give her credit our lovely Mr. Fry is smart, he was always 2 steps ahead of her but she did manage to hold her own and point him back to the question. But when she asked him for the third time “Yes Stephen but would you say you were sexually abused and/or sodomized?” (referring to losing his virginity to an older boy) I wanted to slap her silly.

I know I am extremely fond of the man and he did agree to it after all and I have a ruddy cold and I’m irritated as hell, but you cannot bully him into saying something like that unless he has digested it and is ready to say it. I am not a psychologist, but I know that much. Isn’t the point of therapy to listen and interpret not interpret without listening?

No wonder the poor man spent most of the interview with his eyes shut. Lord.

Be as it may, our lovely Mr. Fry is much braver man then I will ever be.
Actually when I think about it there is no hope for me, I was mortified on his behalf when she asked him (with a straight face) “So Stephen how does it feel to have your penis in a vagina?” No wonder I cannot watch The Apprentice. Or even worse Big Brother.

7 thoughts on “Stephen Fry Appreciation Monday – how Mr. Fry got his head examined

  1. Have you ever read the Dennis Potter biography? He was pursued with similar questions and he basically are making me uncomfortable now [with your repetitions on this issue], move on.

    But aspects of this sound to me, prima facie, as poor interviewing technique. Unless I am watching an investigative journalism piece I rarely enjoy or appreciate single minded pursuit on lame agenda topics.

    When Parkinson interviewed Dolly Parton on one occasion he seemed completely unable to interview her on the premise that she would have something intelligent to say. Indeed, she offered a couple of glimpses to quite a mind and I thought..great..lets have of it..instead, he kept returning to base and silly school boy type questions on ‘those’ assets and her cosmetic treatments. It was embarrassing and her eyes were increasing informing him what she really thought.

    In my mind, when you’ve got an intelligent (potentially greater than your own) person with you, who has shown he or she is more than willing to be disclosive and honest, let them lead. Give the prompts but then let them create the substance. Shadow their agenda (caveats exist) rather than always returning to your own.

    Sounds like our Pammie’s stylus got stuck.

    Actually, I just reversed the question: “So Susan, how does it feel you have a penis in your vagina?” Ok, aside from the fact that it’s been a while! how could you answer this? It implies for one thing that all penises feel the same. They don’t. And not just because of them either.

  2. Thank you Susan for a great comment :) And thanks for the suggestion, the pile of books I plan to order from Amazon just keeps getting bigger :)

    Now this thing about old Parky, well even though it seems like a terribly rude thing he did, he is a talk show host, not a therapist. So while I dont understand his lack of manners, he can be excused for not knowing better.

    And I completely agree with you that Pammie’s interviewing techniques were poor… I did a class at Uni History of civilizations and our professor wrote a book about it… to make sense out of chaos humans have an inherited tendency to put things/people/ideas into frames… well some call it boxes, but I like frames better…

    We all do it to a greater or lesser extent, but for someone who claims to be a therapist, well if one person should resist that urge in my opinion then its the therapist… seemed to like she scribbled clever, gay, guilt, abuse on Mr. Fry’s tummy and that was that, the only thing missing was a neat little bow on his head to make a whole package. And if there is one person in this world that cannot be put into any frame then its Mr. Fry…
    I know its telly but still dont spin it as a therapist session… :)

  3. I agree with what has been said in the comments before me. Although I would add that I was more than just irritated, repulsed or whatever.

    I found the interview in question to be foul play of a grand scale, there only to titillate the viewers and draw in good ratings for the television company who aired the programme.

    Pamela Stephenson reminded me of a comedic representation of what a psychotherapist ‘should’ be like (to the general publics uneductated prejudiced eye) and the questions that she asked were outrageous for their blatant disregard of patient confidentiality.

    Even if SF had signed a waiver, abrogating his rights to privacy on this occasions, he might not have been well, and my live to regrt this in the future.
    In any case, Pamela Stephenson’s questioning left a great deal to be desired. Her tack was….. well,,, , where exactly was her tact> And her lack of sensitivity and ability to introject or empathise was upsetting.

    I hope that if SF does have a therapist, s/he is much better than PS.

  4. I do agree Rademisto… as I said I dont have much experience with therapy… I presume and its only my opinion therapist should be analytical and objective and while empathy would be too much at least some tact is required, because lets face it people are vulnerable in these situation… but I think you either have it or you dont, I dont think that can really be trained.

  5. I talk to some’one’ and they allow me a lot of space to tell my truths. They just led me to feel so comfortable and able to trust that if there was some deep dark issue that was pertinent to my having increased well being, I would tell it.

    I dislike any counselor transposing THEIR thoughts onto your own and in fact, I have walked out of a session some years ago when this happened because I saw it as a power issue. The person seemed to perceive me as ‘smart’ and so needed to be ‘smarter’. Looking back, I remember having the sense of them standing up and flashing about me a fandango (they weren’t doing that but that was the atmosphere created). That was about them and their ego state and not about why I was there at all.

    I presume very few people of Stephen’s ilk would have been prepared to be interviewed by her after this.

    I also have to raise the issue of credentials. I know an awful lot of people who hang ‘psychologist’ on their shingle and they have fairly problematic training. I am not saying this is the case with PS but she was an actor (and did fairly badly) before she moved into this field. I have to also wonder how Billy’s admittances about abuse have influenced her thinking.

    I just had a delicious thought – PS being interviewed on her interview with Stephen. Really putting it to her why she asked what she did; what her agenda was and so forth. I’d love to see it although I would not press for this because it would simply lead to more attention on the tacky side of the interview.

    But working through Pammie’s assumptions e.g. whether sex equates intimacy and so on, may be intriguing.

    I am not a woman who thinks women being ‘out there’ sexually is revolutionary and modern by the way. I think grace as well as honesty is my current platform for a contemporary model of woman hood.

    On another topic, I have noticed here that its the young men who generally treat me and my walking stick with a degree of respect. They thank me, even the punk guys, if I move aside and let them through. Very very rarely the young women. Why are young women growing with a lack of courtesy towards others? Are they misunderstanding the movement towards equity and independence and think brusque, self centred attitudes are the way to go?

    (Sorry for any typos. I can for a quick look and now I have written a short essay!)

  6. Dont worry Susan I love reading essays… :) Not so much writing them, especially on the subjects of lets say EU’s immigration policies… sorry just had a nasty flashback :)

    Hm do you know I was thinking along the same lines when it comes to young women, for some reason Spice Girls come to mind with all their talk of Girl power and for some reason it was interpreted that it was legitimate to flash your vajayjay and drink yourself silly… but then I remember my female friends and I know there is still some common sense, kindness and grace out there…

    I get you what you mean about your therapist session being sort of a safe zone… a very good friend of mine had some very traumatic experiences… and I sensed something was off but I do firmly believe you cannot push people to share… it took her 5 years, but when she did tell me she said she felt better… I on the other hand was petrified because I knew I couldnt possibly help her and that the issues need a professional hand… thank heavens she decided to see a therapist and from what she told it it worked much the same way – safe zone. She is doing great nowadays so I do think it can work, it is just a matter of who is sitting opposite of you

  7. I disagree. A therapist is not a passive listener. So many comments both on YouTube and here seem to idolise that strange assumption. What’s the bloody use of therapy if someone only listens and says hmm-mmm? None, of course. What’s the use if you, as a patient, can just tell the semi-bogus story you have always told everybody also to your therapist? A therapist SHOULD confront, try to make the patient see new perspectives.

    And a therpist does/can NOT always have to be right in doing so. (Which is not harmful – anything that helps you think about your situation in a differnet way can help.)

    Fry is a pleaser. He would never say anything negative about anyone. What has this philosophy, this way of living brought him? Fame, intelligence, productivity, suicide attemps and depressions. Realise that these things have come together, as a package. Just look to the end of the interview, when she wishes that he would one day wake up and not think “I might as well be dead”, but “I want to live”. Look at his eyes when he says “I hope so too” (paraphrased).

    No, it is not a good program. a) because therapy should not be a television program and b) because one session is not therapy.

    But most accusations I read here are not about those things. They are about how Fry is so much more intelligent, how awful she is. That is just a load of bollocks. Balls. Intelligent people in therapy need one thing in particular: people strong enought to tell them plain and simple what is or could be the heart of the matter. It is so easy to rationalise everything away, just rationalise until you have no feelings left that you can trust. Fry is a pleaser and he needs someone to tell him: stop pleasing, face the truth. He seems to have found such a person now, years later than this interview – but as anybody who has done good therapy ever could tell you – a first session can only be a hint of what is going to come later. As such a session the program was pretty convincing – considering the strange fact that it was a tv program. Stephen opened up – a bit; Pamela was not accepting his rationalities, and looking for ways to make to break through all that and take down his complex web of self-views, self-analysis and self-loathing and make things simpler, directer, to the point.

    That cannot be perfect in a first session and it wasn’t, but she was, for a first session, absolutely not bad. If you are refusing to see that, I – not a specialist, but a consumer – think it says more about your view and understanding of therapy in general and your blind idolisation of Fry particularly (whom I idolise too, but not blindly).

    My 2cnts.

    PS. Excuse me for my English, it is most definitely not my first language.

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