I recently had an interesting afternoon with a psychotherapist. It had taken some time to find the courage to make the appointment, but as the bus turned into Camberwell, a renewed sense of optimism came to the surface.
The whole thing was a bit of a getting to know you experience. It was a comfy double appointment. No hurry and plenty of iced water to make me feel at home and anaesthetise at the same time.
Dr G (let's call her that) seemed fairly amiable. After fifteen minutes of friendly chit-chat, it was kind of inevitable that she asked me what was on my mind. I guess the best idea here would be to try and reproduce the conversation.
Me: G [we we getting less formal by this point] Are you familiar with the TV show,
DR G: Yes, yes I am. Does this have some connection with how you're feeling right now?
Me: Well, yes. But, not in the way you think, I guess.
DR G: Suppose you explain it to me.
Me: Well, G, I'm not from this world. I mean my world is very similar, but it isn't this one.
DR G: Can you clarify?
Me: From what I can understand: I somehow dropped into a parallel world.
G: This world?
Me: Yes, this world. This world from my own.
G: You believe that you're from a parallel universe?
Me: I do.
G: And what evidence do you have for this?
Me: That show. You know, Mr Benn?
ME: You remember the basic premise of it?
G: Of course. Business man goes each week to a costume shop, tries on a themed costume, walks out of magic door into the world of the theme. Like the world of a medieval knight, a king's servant or a spaceman.
Me: Exactly, exactly! A spaceman.
G: Yes, like a spaceman or wizard or something like that.
Me: Look. In my world, right. The world where I'm from; Mr Benn is about a spacemen.
G: He's a spacemen?
G: And it's a space show? Sci Fi?
Me: [exasperated] No, no, listen... It's just the same. He's a spaceman. That's Mr Benn. That's who he is. He visits a costume shop and it's the same magic door thing.
G: He's not a businessman then?
Me: No, that's just one of the costumes in the shop.
G: Are you sure you're not just confusing the show with something else.
Me: Absolutely not. I grew up watching it. Everyone my age knows about Mr Benn, the spaceman who visits the funny guy in the costume shop.
[I will admit to becoming agitated at this point]
G: Would you mind if we just parked the whole Mr Benn issue for a moment? Let's consider. Now let me ask you a question [long pause]. You said that this world, your 'parallel world' is much the same as this one we're in now.
G: Now apart from the Mr Benn question, could you point out to me anything that you've found to be truly different here now in this world to the one you feel you left.
Me: Doctor. I've given this a lot of thought, as you can imagine. And I have to admit that, no, there isn't much of a difference.
G: Now I'm conscious that we're running out of time for this session, but if I can then I'd like to draw together what you've said into some kind of focus. That way, I hope, you'll feel like we've made progress here today.
G: Now, you claim to be from a different world, some parallel world. Ultimately this world is very similar to our own. 'you agree.
G: Okay then. Further, my impression is that this world is virtually identical to the one you claim to have left.
Me: Yes, but..
G: But. But for the fact that you claim that in your world, Mr Benn is a spacemen, not a businessman. In fact, the businessman is one of the characters that Mr Benn dresses up as one day. Am I right?
G: So then, we, largely, are faced with two possibilities.
Me: Which are?
G: Firstly, you are, as you state, a refugee from a parallel world.
Me: And the second possibility?
G: The second? Isn't it far more likely that you just misremembered the programme? [I shake my head]. Life is stressful sometimes. It can play tricks on the mind.
Me: So that's it. Two possibilities?
G: That's it. But there's one thing I'd like to say as we finish. Well, it's more of a question really.
G: If you forgot the exact details of a 1970s children' programme, fine. But, say, I did believe you and you really were from a parallel world.
G: If everything else is the same here...
Me: [interrupting] Except for Mr Benn?
G: Yes, if everything is the same here in this world except Mr Benn then...
Me: Then what?
G: Does it really matter?
I'm still working through this whole thing on my own. It's an ongoing process.