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45 Minutes with Christine – Aged 7

45 Minutes with Christine – Aged 7

Naked Leader Week 1011 – 20 February 2023

This is an experience I have thought about often, very rarely shared, and Christine is not her real name. (Photo above is a stock image).

In 2005 I got a call from a charity we had been working with – they were counselling a very troubled young girl who, despite now being with new, loving foster parents, was still deeply unhappy.

I was, and am not, a professional child Counsellor, however I said I would be happy to meet her, with a professional Counsellor and her foster parents present.

After meeting with Christine’s Counsellor, Jean, and her new foster parents – I joined them all in a room decked out with toys and games and happy things. And sitting in the middle of the room – just staring at me as I came in, was a seven year old girl who looked anything but happy.

I walked over to her and sat down a little way away – the following interaction took place over a long period of time, with silences in between as I worked to gain Christine’s trust:

“Hello Christine, my name is David, and I just wanted to meet you and say hello”

She looked at me suspiciously, then at her new parents who said it was ok, then she spoke again:

“Don’t try to make me happy – I don’t do happy” she said

I froze, and felt some tears welling up. I suppressed them – crying was not going to help. Then she added  “I don’t know how to do it”.

That’s when I had an idea – I said “Christine, I am not here to make you happy, however I can help you to pretend to be happy”

She looked intrigued – “How does that work”? she asked

“Well” I said, “and remember, we are just pretending to be happy – see the way Jean is sitting in her chair – slightly strangely?” Jean immediately moved in her chair to make my statement true. “I think that’s a bit weird, don’t you?”

Christine said “yes.”

I looked at Christine and started to giggle, and amazingly she joined in!

Have you ever been sitting with your family or friends and someone says something and you all start to laugh and within a few minutes you are all really laughing – so much that it hurts, and yet none of you can even remember what was so funny?

That’s what happened with me and Christine – and her parents joined in.

After a few minutes, with tears of laughter falling down our cheeks and very sore stomachs, we slowly came to a stop”.

I said “OK Christine, you can stop playing at being happy now.”

She said “Do I have to?”

To which I replied “No Christine, you don’t have to at all – ever”

Three final thoughts:

  • This was a very powerful example of how our brains can’t tell the difference between something that happens in reality, and something we imagine with emotional intensity.
  • Of course while this may have helped a little, it took years of love and care and kindness from many wonderful people to help Christine find true happiness, which she has now done and is married to a loving husband.
  • How do I know this? – Because a few weeks ago Christine contacted me and we had a coffee together in London. And a bit of a giggle.

With my love and best wishes to Christine, and to you all



PS If you have been negatively affected by this story this is a list of mental health charities.

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