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  Home  > Personal Wellness  > The Capricorn Incident:

The Capricorn Incident:

From John's Journal, 1978 (Looking back)

It is midnight in April of 1972. Two-month-old Hannelore is sleeping in the nursery in the cherry cradle I built for her from plans out of the Ladies' Home Journal (if only I had known what I know now about the importance of children sleeping with parents). In the next room her mother and I are in bed having an argument. An observer would think it rather a strange argument because my wife is shouting angrily at me and I'm saying nothing, looking very martyred and wondering what the neighbors will think. The subject of her anger is my lack of emotional expression. I feel hurt inside, but am speechless when I try to express any of my feelings. I feel a growing pressure and sense of unreality and suddenly I sit up, yell loudly and ram my head into the plasterboard at the head of the bed (I happen to be a Capricorn - the Goat - but the symbolism eluded me at that point). Stunned, I look at the smashed hole conforming to the size of my head, mentally express gratitude that I missed the studs in the wall - or it would have really hurt - and collapse, sobbing. She puts on her overcoat and runs to the next-door neighbor, a former campus minister, who returns alone to our apartment. Through my tears I tell him I don't know what's come over me since Hanne's birth. My depressions are getting worse and my wife is spending so much time nurturing Hanne that she hardly has any time for me. David suggests I talk with our mutual friend Ann, who knows several pastoral counselors.

This event marked a major milestone in my personal and professional development as I began one-to-one counseling the next week and started reading the first psychological book that seemed like more than gobbledygook to me (Born to Win). I discovered a wholly different world of feelings and my own responsibility to deal with them effectively. The implications for my own health and for others were profound, yet nowhere in my previous medical training had I learned to be open to the concept of self-expression and self-responsibility.

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