The wizard of odd: A psychotherapeutic reading of what experiences of childhood surgery reveal about ‘the man behind the curtain’

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O’Connell, Colm
Issue Date
MA in Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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Early childhood experiences of surgery (ECES) are a type of natural experiment into the long-term effects of a highly dysregulating shock or trauma. This study inquires into how ECES is experienced and understood over time into mature adulthood. The research examines the academic literature related to childhood surgery and hospitalisation from the perspectives of medical models, developmental psychology and psychotherapeutic responses, as well as using narrative approaches (including allegorical story-telling) to discuss the topic of meaning-making. An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis is used to examine the subjective experiences of three adult participants who have experienced ECES, the ways in which they make meaning from their experience, and the role psychotherapy can play in facilitating a new awareness of past experience. The findings point towards ECES as an often-overlooked source of psychic difficulty or necessary adaptation that may instantiate early coping mechanisms, which in turn become habitual pathways for experiencing life.