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Jones, J. (2020). Attachment to Australia as it Burns: A Personal Reflection. Att: New Dir. in Psychother. Relat. Psychoanal., 14(1):vii-xi.
(2020). Attachment: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis, 14(1):vii-xi
Attachment to Australia as it Burns: A Personal Reflection
It was the report on the evening news that was my undoing. The animal rescue nurse was cooing to a koala, whose burnt paws were already cleaned, treated, and swaddled in tiny mittens made by volunteers. She was applying cooling ointment to the koala's raw nose pad. I wailed. I groaned. I paced. Finally, I could find a way to release some of my horror and helplessness as my country's flora and fauna was devoured by fire.
My reaction was complicated. I grew up near Port Macquarie, a tourist coastal town well known for its Koala Hospital, and for the (formerly) high numbers of koalas. As a child, I was accustomed to their night noises—the grunts and groans—and I can remember the excitement when anyone sighted one in a tree. Cars stopped if they saw someone pointing up into a tree, and the koala tale would be retold for days.
Also, in Port Macquarie on a holiday, I was severely burned in a caravan fire, sustaining second and third degree burns at the age of seven months. I was hospitalised, away from my parents except for visiting hours, for several weeks. Family history and the trauma held in my body (some scars, but I mean the psychological trauma) affirm that I suffered life-threatening pain to the extent my mother was told I would not live, because of shock.
Watching that koala on TV recalled my own painful burns and helped me to identify with this sedated dependent creature. I was there, with that nurse, and that koala's burned nose and face, for my face was severely burned too. There was no way I could distance myself from the dozens of images of our koalas, vulnerable and in pain. Deep within me I held the knowing of total dependency on strangers, just to survive. I too had breathed in flames and smoke.
Other Australians will have their native animal stories, but I know from coffee shop conversations, chatting in supermarket lines (I'm an extravert!) and my clients' responses, that we are all in deep grief for the billion creatures that have been incinerated or wounded in these fires. We are shocked to hear that we may have lost entire species. They are us, somehow.
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