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The ‘quiet’ soldier, the Apparently Normal Personality’, and how we might save a bit more money

The not so quiet quitting – in fact the rather sudden and dramatic resignation – of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, apparently over a budget that gives tax breaks for the wealthy at the expenses of the disabled, has predictably thrown the Conservative Party  into further disarray. Boris must be licking his chops.

Duncan Smith has various nicknames – IDS, or The Quiet Man, and is as complex a Wounded Leaders as any, even if Osborne is said to think him ‘a bit thick’. But this is what public school boys usually say about those who opt for the army after school. The army is an institution of course, like Parliament, but not as prestigious as it was a century ago. IDS served in the Scots Guards and had tours in Northern Ireland and Rhodesia before joining the Conservative Party in 1981.

And he isn’t public-school, in fact his boarding was aboard HMS Conway, a Merchant Navy training school on the Isle of Anglesey, renowned for brutality and traumatisation of boys that would make the normal public school routine seem like a fairy story – which was of course the idea for the right training for the Senior Service.

We are not told what names he went by then, but he may have had yet other personality incarnations. Certainly his recent patronising bullying, using  inappropriate touch, to try to ‘calm down’ Angela Eagle (used to it we might argue) on the Andrew Marr Show on 28th February must have made viewers wonder what kind of beast lurked beneath the quite surface. And now this apparent care for the disabled portrays a man who passionately cannot abide the Chancellor’s lack of care a moment longer.

What are we to make of this? It’s as if there are several different souls beating within the one breast …

Here’s one hypothesis. The oldest version of the dissociating Strategic Survival Personality, that I have plugging for the last quarter of a century, came from WW1 Psychiatrist C S Meyers. Meyers developed a therapy with shell-shocked soldiers, ultimately to repair them and get them back to the front. Great, eh?

His model proposed that trauma can form an ‘Apparently Normal Personality’ (ANP) that gets on with life by dissociating – often massively – from the original trauma or harm or neglect. This leaves an  ‘Emotional Personality’ (EP) and frequently a variety of EPs, which hold all the feelings, ‘act out’ the trauma, and clamour for attention.

Getting the idea?

A new and accessible book on Emotional Trauma , that compliments my own new offering, reveals that Dutch trauma specialists Ellert Nijenhuis and Onno van der Hart with Kathy Steele have been developing Myers’ work, recently. They point out that there can be several EPs which do not rate to each other or to the ANP, as in what used to be called Split or Multiple Personality Disorder and is now called Dissociative Identity Disorder. But while it is a way of managing conflicts brought up by inescapable trauma or neglect it regularly causes a secondary internal conflict, they say. The ANP avoids and ignores the EPs and the EPs hate the ANP.

So, is it possible that in IDS we have an ANP – The Quiet Man? – plus a variety of unpredictable emotional EPs, the bully and the outraged campaigner for fairness, all in the same Wounded Leader, that actually hate the The Quiet Man? Make any sense?

It certainly is a feast for those who love the acronym, and doubtlessly Boris would say it is all ‘a load of bollocks’, as he did about the pollution in Oxford Street, which perhaps lends it all the more credibility.

Nijenhuis says: “In most traumas neglect is part of the mix, so if ANP responds to an EP with phobic avoidance, that neglect is recreated internally.” So perhaps the neglect of the disabled strikes a chord inside the quiet ANP of IDS?

Perhaps I shouldn’t be speculating about someone I have never met, but it is sure we have a right old mess and we might need a bit of psychology to sort things out. Perhaps better still to try to campaign for abuse, trauma and neglect to be taken more seriously. I keep writing to the CSA Inquiry and keep getting standard replies, so it is a long haul. Could others have a go too?

But there is something here to interest the Tories: if we tackle it at source we might save money, as Mijenhuis continues:

“The financial cost of childhood trauma is equivalent to that of HIV and cancer combined. Yet in the USA only one dollar is spent on the prevention of child abuse and neglect for every $100 spent on cancer and HIV. I believe that is because we live in a predominantly ‘apparently normal society’ which is phobic of its traumatising strands.”

I wonder if it is the same on the good ship HMS Blighty?

All aboard!!


  1. It says much about George Osborne too if IDS can now claim to move to the left of him on social issues. Was this latest budget another spectacular example of differentiation, dissociation and left-brain thinking? A rag-bag of unconnected cuts, tax breaks and threshold changes without an overarching purpose? How much longer can the entitled brain of Osborne go on fooling the electorate? I saw a woman quoted in the papers last year saying that David Cameron was “a splendid example of the ruling class”. I thought this sort of language was dying out after world war two but it shows how in awe we still are to the posh accent and the confident manner.

    Comment by David Redshaw on 19/03/2016 at 3:17 pm
  2. Having professionally investigated child abuse, both organised and individual, for 15 years and organised and delivered support for survivors, I became aware of the issues around public school/ boarding brutality many years ago.
    I asked the Director of Social Services in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, why we had never visited Shrewsbury School ( the last private boarding school to give up beating children when ordered to, by law, in the 1980’s ). He refused to answer. However, the look on his face was murderous. (Shire Hall is in very close proximity to Shrewsbury School.
    Paul Foot was one of the few to speak out about Shrewsbury.
    I also believe that survivor’s guilt and confusion about ‘ complicity’ in their own abuse ( they did something to ‘ deserve ‘ it, or they inadvertently ‘ asked ‘ for it or even were’ bribed ‘ by promises and gifts of attention or goods) has guaranteed survivor silence. The fact that parents/ carers committed emotional abuse on their children by sending them there in the first place compounds the trauma.
    To this day this is the price children pay for ‘ priviledge’, ‘ entitlement’ and of course, association with all the other wounded. There must be some comfort in recognition of those who have shared the same fate but also the possibility of being further wrecked by the actions of those damaged individuals.
    I remember you being determined never to let your children suffer the same fate. ( we were neighbours in the ’70’s ! )
    The ‘reward’ of their silence on these matters is huge so I hope that one day, we will break this vile conspiracy of silence that pervades the Establishment.and the full extent of horror, trauma and dreadful consequence will be revealed – and healed.

    Comment by Jeannie Wells on 20/03/2016 at 8:12 am
  3. … and now we have Stephen Crabb, another subject of childhood trauma. Reportedly with a violent father (who his mother kicked out in the early years of the Crabb boy) he was brought up by his mother in a council house on single-parent benefits. Has been committed to the cause of “curing” gays. Oh what a mess o’ potage therein.

    Comment by Andrew Mullis on 22/03/2016 at 9:59 am
  4. Shrewsbury School gets mentioned by Andrew Marr in his excellent book “The History of Modern Britain” with reference to public schools and the satire movement of the sixties. He mentions Peter Cook at Radley and Richards Ingrams at Shrewsbury. “Ingrams cut his comic teeth at Shrewsbury School, sitting high above the River Severn, and at least as weird as Radley. Its new boys were called “douls” after the Greek for slave; its day started with cold baths; it too had a byzantine dress code involving different colours of scarf, tie and waistcoat, buttons done up or not, and the rest; when the whole school was sent on cross-country runs, the boys were chased by men with whips. Ingrams’s humour was less about mimickry; instead he, Paul Foot and Willie Rushton, who would join him at Private Eye, turned to writing mock school magazines.”

    Comment by David Redshaw on 22/03/2016 at 8:30 pm

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