Guess Who's Coming to Therapy?
I am a Pop Culture geek. I studied Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer in grad school. I grew up loving stories, and eventually added Doctor Who to my list. As with all the stories I love dearly, Doctor Who reached me on an intangible level. I identified with tiny little things in it to an incredibly powerful degree. Donna Noble’s feelings of insignificance, Rose Tyler’s desire to do something more than retail work, even Jackie’s conflict of wanting to keep her daughter safe while still honoring Rose’s choices and autonomy.
After a while, I started to notice other little things that seemed like weird coincidences. In 1981, my stepdad did a painting of my mother’s features in the clouds. I hadn’t seen it in years, but found a snapshot of it after my mother’s death. I realized then that looks eerily like Cassandra, “the last human” a piece of skin stretched over a frame, desperately clinging to her imagined ideas of perfection – much like my mother inadvertently taught me to do. The giant blue eye peering into Amy Pond’s bedroom through a crack (“a split in the skin of the world, two parts of space and time that should never have touched,” the Doctor says) immediately reminded me of the dream I had a few times in late childhood that I, too, was being watched by a giant blue eye. I physically reacted to that episode, feeling anxious with no understanding why. I mean, it was just a dream, and I never had a mysterious crack in my wall when I was a little girl, but looking back I realized there were other things in my bedroom during that time “that should never have touched.”
Still I moved on, watching more, filing away little things that spoke to me throughout the show, thoroughly enjoying the brilliant characters and exciting adventures. At the end of Season Five, in The Pandorica Opens, Amy comments about the similarities to Pandora’s Box, her favorite book as a child. The Doctor responds: “Your favorite school topic, your favorite story. Never ignore a coincidence. Unless you’re busy, in which case, always ignore a coincidence.” Turns out he shouldn’t have ignored it. These coincidences had meaning (as you might expect in a television show, right?) But it got me thinking about my own favorite stories and the influence they’ve had on my life. I couldn’t deny that my graduate work on Buffy (which turned into my first book) had a powerful impact on me; I couldn’t delve that deeply into the Shadow selves of those beloved characters and not learn a lot about myself in the process. So that’s why, around the time Amy Pond looked at her younger self and said “all right kid, this is where it gets complicated,” I realized that, yet again, a much loved story was talking to me.
Over the seasons, I’ve begun to gather a list of things I recognized from my own life (all these examples occurred before the show’s 2005 reboot). As far back as I can remember, my grandmother tapped the same rhythm as the Master’s drumming (aka the heartbeat of a Timelord). My college girlfriend did a makeup project that looked eerily like an early version of Madame Vastra or any others of the Silurian race. Like Rose Tyler’s “Bad Wolf” messages, I had wolves and wolf references showing up in my life for a period of about 5 years, including one wolf walking across my driveway early one morning. I wrote a short story in college, a story about time travel that described an angel statue in a cemetery just like the one that sent Amy & Rory Pond into the past. At the age of 10, I fell and suffered Traumatic Brain Injury. After being unconscious for a few hours, tested and examined once I did wake up, and finally released to be sent home, my first actual memory was in the car, my mother responding to me with “Cindy, honey, please stop that. You’ve said that four times already.” It’s nearly a direct quote of what the Doctor said to Amy Pond in the Dalek asylum, which stunned me the first time I heard it.
So looking over these things, these bizarre, seemingly random and unconnected things that almost felt like direct messages somehow, I realized I could look back and connect stressful times and traumatic memories to each of those scenes/quotes/characters/situations from the show. Oh sure, many of these things have since become the topic of their very own therapy session, but there’s much more to it than that. It’s the reason this site (HerStory) exists, in fact. It’s the power of stories. We can find strength in the stories of our peers, and in sharing our own stories, and sometimes, in the fictional stories of fantastical time-traveling aliens, or demon slayers and their lesbian witch best friends, or little orphaned boys who discover they’re wizards. The power of stories is in their ability to reach us, and I have found, through exploring these Doctor Who aspects of my own life, through delving into Buffy’s psyche along with my own, through using Charmed references in therapy, that a number of stories have reached me in very profound and healing ways. So much so, that I’m trying to write a book about it.
And here we come back to the complicated things. Taking these ideas, these bizarre coincidences and random imagined metaphors, and piecing them all together is a powerful new way to understand myself on a deeper level. Just like Idris said to the Doctor, it may not always take me where I want to go, but I can trust it will take me where I need to go. So there you have it, a little sampling of what I’ve learned from other stories, and how they’ve become a part of my story. I’m still exploring it though, because like the TARDIS, this stuff is all bigger on the inside.
Cindy is a writer, an artist, an eclectic pagan Priestess, and more. She earned a Master’s in English from MTSU with a thesis that later became a book, “Wearing Cheese and Casting Shadows: The hidden psychology of cheese in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Based in Tennessee with her wife, Cindy currently spends most of her time creating things and playing with her cat and grandbaby.