Billy Mitchell Lies Down on the Analyst’s Couch

Psychiatrist sitting writing with patient on couch

By Yaz Headley

Editor’s note: The author is an accredited Integrative Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) psychotherapist in private practice in London, UK. Yasmin is also studying for a PhD in Mind-Body Medicine and Integrated Mental Health. She has followed EastEnders on and off over the years. You can reach her at yheadley@gmail.com and read more about her background at www.yourhappiness.com and www.thecompletelife.com.

We are all a subject of our own history. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something or is invested in you continuing to live as you are.

For some this is a good thing, for many this is not the way to go. Many would love the magic elixir that would get rid of every negative break with the past but it is not possible to find it in a bottle, a happy thought or magic.

In looking at a psyche of a person we would look at their history, their present life and their thoughts and behaviour. We would look at the support system and resources they have in their lives and we would look at what they do when they are stressed.

In some therapies, such as the psychodynamic and the psychoanalytic, a great deal of time is spent on the patient’s past and in the unfurling of their history. In the version of Integrative Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which is the approach I take, I spend some time there, but I also look at their feelings, thoughts and behaviours. These are key to helping an individual change. Modern-day research shows how we are not just a subject of history and genetics but are also affected by epigenetics. Epigenetics is our environment, those whom we have around us, the food we eat and the activities we do.

Patient’s File
I have heard of Billy Mitchell being referred to as “Billy no mates”. Often those who feel they have no mates have more mates then they realize. They do not realize they have more resources than they think they have. They often believe in lack and scarcity rather than abundance. Billy is one who seems to know a lot of people, yet believes he has no one. It is so paradoxical. The problem is that Billy does not seem to like himself, and being friends with ourselves is the key to being able to make more friends. People who have a lot of friends, and keep them, tend to also feel good about themselves. They look after themselves, their self-care is better and they also look for friends who also look after themselves and are into self-care. Billy does not seem to do any of that with consistency.

Billy grew up in a children’s home and was abused while he was there. He later makes poor decisions in his choice of partners. He is so grateful to get someone, anyone, that he will do anything to hang onto them. He is so grateful that he does not think about their real suitability or how they may act as part of his life. His choice of partners seems to also repeat his own abandonment of himself.

Poor Billy Mitchell. He seems to be the black sheep of the family. Those who have been abused can often be grateful for anyone knocking on their door rather than looking into a person’s history first. If we buy something at a store or on ebay we look into their history. We look into the sellers’ past behaviour, their feedback, their patterns. But why is it that when we meet someone we can throw such reference checking into the winds. What about their past history? Partners? Parents? Siblings? Employment? Why is it we feel that when they meet us everything bad will magically disappear. Only good will happen from now on?

That is what Billy does to perfection. He believes in the magic. There is a positive illusion. It can be used for good or bad. But reality does need to be there – such a shame that it appears after the illusion. It would be helpful in the long run to take a step back and then take some time to think. Not to just suddenly run in.

Billy is very co-dependent and a suitable candidate for ‘co-dependents anonymous’. Often those who are co-dependent use relationships in the same way an addict uses alcohol. Alcohol hides the deep feelings of emptiness and co-dependency that lie behind it. He is even rejected and disrespected by his own family. Yet he would do anything for them, even if it were not reciprocated.

He does seem to be unlucky. Poor Billy. But the luck is of his own making. Honey comes into his life, but then he seems to change and manipulate things so the sweet turns sour and the sour turns bitter. He could have good in his life but that would mean changing how he feels about himself and others.

In EastEnders every good is tinged with a bad. There is no positive in isolation. There is black, white and grey. When Billy was rich Janine drained him dry – he did anything he could to keep her. Once he became poor again, she left him.

Poor Billy. Is there happiness with Honey?

Psychiatrist sitting writing with patient on couch

I think happiness really starts with Billy. Once he is happier in himself then this will also affect the choices and decisions he also will make in his life.

Until then, it is poor, poor Billy.

EastEnders’ 20 Most Ridiculous Things

Aerial view of Albert Square - the set for BBC's Eastenders at Elstree Studios ***NTERNET IMAGE FROM BING MAPS***

By Holly Erickson

It would be easy to suspend one’s disbelief for the occasional 30-minute television show. But seeing EastEnders several times a week, year after year, some of the oddities of Albert Square make it seem more “out there” than Doctor Who. With all the gritty reality EastEnders has to offer – from beer-bellied stars in a far from model-perfect cast to their cramped houses – there are things about our favourite corner of Walford that make it seem a world apart from 21st-century London.

1) One pub?
Sometimes there’s another drinking establishment such as the ever-evolving E20, Angie’s Den, R and R, or the Albert… but no other pubs. Is this London or a tiny 19th-century village? Can’t they have a dingy dive where people only go after they’ve been barred from the Vic? Or why not a rock pub for the youngsters?

2) No politics?
Does anyone even vote in Albert Square? There’s nary an argy-bargy over the latest election! It’s positively unBritish.

3) No cats?
The occasional dog such as Wellard buries its wet nose in the loving lap of the viewers. Sometimes you see a budgie or a guinea pig. In pet-loving England how come there are no kitties to kanoodle, canaries to confuse, or parrots, dead or living? Even fake cats placed sleeping on a chair or on one of Alfie’s shirts would seem more realistic than the dander-free zone of Albert Square.

4) No curry joint?
Come on! Occasionally there’s one place near the Square. There should be several.

5) The blonde epidemic?
England has lots of natural blondes. But the Square often looks like downtown Stockholm on a midsummer day. The Slaters have dark tresses, but still there are a disproportionate number of blondes on the Square. Who owns the peroxide franchise?

6) Walford’s Mediterranean climate?
I know there is global warming, and London has been plagued with some droughts and heat waves in recent years, but this is ridiculous. Hardly any rain patters down, there is neither wind nor thunder and lightning. Obliging snow often floats down on Christmas Eve (even though this has occurred in reality but four times since 1964) and then it ceases to snow for the remainder of the winter. There’s never a “heat wave,” but throughout the autumn and until Christmas Albert Square residents can go sleeveless. Then in the winter and late spring you will see steaming breath and an occasional resident will be chilly enough to don a muffler. Umbrella sales must be way down in Walford. But as it seems blessed with a practically Mediterranean climate you’d think they wouldn’t even need to go to Spain!

7) She’s leaving home!
The shock and horror EE parents exhibit when their fully grown adult children “leave home,” not to emigrate to Australia, but to move a few doors down out of the cramped family digs is incomprehensible.

8) No rock and roll or pop or rap?
Oh please! Not only does no one seem to have rock star ambitions or a garage or pub band, (at least not since Nick, Ian and Sharon decades ago) or even a friend in a band, no one seems to even listen to music or go to gigs! Weird.

9) No thespians?
A huge number of EastEnders actors went to acting school as children. In the land of Shakespeare is there no star-struck youngster in Albert Square or a wannabe stage mama?

10) No entertainment?
I don’t expect them to flock to Covent Garden for opera season or to the West End for a pricey play, but no one ever takes in a rock concert? Nor a sporting event? Albert Square dwellers go reluctantly to pantos and the local nativity play after coaxing from Dot. Sometimes they go to the dogs, but what else? London is a fascinating city full of all manner of interesting things to do, but no one from Walford does any of them.

11) No hobbies!
Is there no one who likes to gaze up at the night sky, or suss out bird breeds through a pair of binoculars, attempt crewel embroidery, or make jewellery to sell at a stall? God forbid they should read a book or play an instrument. Even the allotments seem like a place to drink in private or hide away rather than evidence of the love of gardening. Or can we consider placing bets on the horses a hobby? The inhabitants of Walford have no personal interests whatever save gossiping, drinking and interfering in everyone else’s lives. EE proves that idle hands really are the devil’s workshop.

12) No speed bumps!
The roads around the Square are death traps. The number of fatal pedestrian accidents in all of Albert Square must be enormous, yet the Council have never seen fit to put up speed bumps. And the denizens of Albert Square accept slaughter by auto as inevitable.

13) No police presence? (Unless it’s too late)
There is a statistically significant murder rate on the Square, but no police patrols saunter through, no friendly bobbies pop into the pub to have a chinwag. And when someone directly witnesses a crime, instead of fleeing the scene to call the filth in private, they stay put and inform the culprits that they’re going to call the police so then they can be hit over the head, have their cell phone crushed, or watch the guilty parties run away. And then it takes unconscionably long for the police to arrive when they are called!

14) Is Albert Square a halfway house?
There are more ex-cons at the Vic at an off-hour than at a parole office. There are more women who have done time milling around the market than are in Holloway Prison. And EE is not even a show about crime or gangsters!

15) Is Albert Square exempt from labour laws?
The labour practices in the Square are positively Victorian. Anyone can be hired without qualifications, fired on the spot, rehired, fired again, and charged for damages to anything that gets destroyed when they’re at work. On the positive side, they can take time off whenever they have a minor personal problem and think nothing of leaving unqualified, inadequate, drunk, or dishonest people to take over the stall, pull pints at the pub, or mind their newborn, while they go “have a word” with someone.

16) What’s that career centre for?
An unusually large number of people in EE know how to fix cars, dress hair, or pull pints. Hairdressing they seem to learn behind bars and pint pulling they also learn behind bars of a different sort. Fixing fry-ups at the café seems to come naturally. But how is it that no one seems ever to have learned bookkeeping, or carpentry, or how to be a medical receptionist? With so many murders about does no one get the detective bug? With the number of fatal motor runovers is not a single soul compelled to become a traffic engineer?

17) Lawyer phobia?
They’re totally comfortable calling their brief to get out of gaol, but East Enders never consider consulting a lawyer when it comes to divorce, child custody, or inheritance. Often they make decisions about their futures and their fortunes based on a chat to someone who’s had a neckful at the Vic.

18) No cirrhosis?
We all know that they tend to drink a bit more in England than we do. But those in the Square drink such copious amounts of booze, suffer so many hangovers, live through so many embarrassing moments – the mildest matrons of Albert Square could put American frat boys to shame. Strokes occur on the Square, cancer has reared its frightful head, but where is the cirrhosis? What is their secret? We know it’s not their Mediterranean diet that’s keeping them immune… National Health should be informed.

19) The astounding collective amnesia!
No National Health neurology research team has yet been compelled to investigate how so many residents of a particular Square can collectively forget all of their relatives who live elsewhere and not recall that they have previously been married several times, often to the same person. Some residents of the Square have two double marriages under their belts and no one thinks to mention it.

20) How can such limited people be so endlessly fascinating?

David Bowie Was an EastEnders Fan

bowieportrait

By Larry Jaffee

David Bowie’s death two days after his 69th birthday on 10 January resulted in an outpouring of grief, especially on social media, as both fans and celebrities paid tribute to his artistic vision, which subsequently empowered others who thought differently from those around them.

He was also an EastEnders fan. How did I know this? The British DJ/actor Goldie had a brief stint on EastEnders, playing a gangster who was leaning on Paul Trueman.

Bowie is quoted throughout Goldie’s autobiography, and in one passage he talks about how pleased Bowie was that his pal was on EastEnders but it would take forever for him to view those episodes because the US episodes were so far beyond the UK broadcasts on BBC1. Bowie later co-starred with Goldie in a gangster film.

goldiebowie

Armed with this knowledge, when I was running around New York in January 2005 trying to save EastEnders on WLIW, one of the first celebrities I attempted to reach was Bowie. A friend had regularly given yoga lessons to Bowie’s wife Iman, and she said that David once participated in the session, but that was about four years earlier.

I then spoke with Mick Rock, the great rock photographer, who told me that David was still recovering from his heart attack the year before, so it was doubtful I’d be able to get his support for our ultimately successful “Save EastEnders” effort.

I then managed to find David’s business office on the Upper East Side. A representative of his office met me in the building lobby and took my package. Who knows if he received it?

In any case, this is all very insignificant. He changed my life when I bought in 1974 a $1.99 cutout record of The Man Who Sold the World. I was a committed fan ever since. “Heroes” was the lead track on the mixtape I made for my wedding reception. Bowie wasn’t only a great musician, songwriter, performer and singer. He was an amazing actor. Go back and watch The Man Who Fell to Earth or Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.

Despite his 18-month fight with cancer, he managed to see the opening of his off-Broadway musical Lazarus (which I was lucky to see in mid-December) and Blackstar, the album released two days before his death – fitting swansongs from an artist who’s left such an indelible mark with his genius through the past five decades.

Besides leaving behind an impressive catalogue of music that rarely was commercial (“Let’s Dance” a notable exception) and mostly experimental, perhaps Bowie’s greatest achievement was opening people’s minds to sexual identity expression.

He embodied the fictional character of ‘Ziggy Stardust’ for only about 18 months, circa 1972–1973. Yet when one thinks of the musician it’s usually an image of that garishly made-up, flamboyantly dressed androgynous creature adorning t-shirts.

While he might have not realized it at the time, Bowie anticipated today’s continuing gender binary dialogue.

A Walford Gazette subscriber, who happens to be gay, sees Bowie’s biggest accomplishment as getting others to think differently: “I can’t honestly say that Bowie’s perceived sexuality or image had a direct influence on me. He wasn’t someone I could identify with. However, I think there was a profound knock-on effect that did, indirectly, impact me. It was more from the people he influenced (other musicians and artists) that in turn affected me. Guys like Sting and Billy Idol, who bleached their hair, wore make-up and pierced their ears. The fact that they weren’t gay is irrelevant. They were cool and not homophobic, and much of that was due to Bowie busting down the doors a few years earlier.”

Mother’s Day with Peggy Mitchell

mitchells

By Agnes Graves

EastEnders is built on matriarchs. For many years now I’ve prattled on about how EastEnders should forget about all that gangster nonsense and focus on the women – both the evil and the hard-done-by – of Albert Square.

The men might shoot each other, crash their cars or chuck each other off bridges, but it’s the ladies at home dealing with the emotional fallout who make the memorable scenes.

Don’t get me wrong; the women of E20 are just as capable of killing someone with domestic items like a kitchen knife, a statue of Queen Victoria or a dog-shaped doorstop, but the reasons are generally to do with lust, betrayal and jealousy rather than over the kind of pride associated with ownership of a garage.

Legendary characters such as Arthur Fowler, Phil Mitchell, Den Watts and Ian Beale would not have achieved their status without their ballsy wives, mothers and daughters to disappoint, be betrayed by and rebel against (with varying levels of success). Without the ladies, the show would just be a load of bored men drinking bitter. An East End Grumpy Old Men.

Mother’s Day just passed here in the UK and I’ve been thinking a fair bit about the mums of Albert Square. There are a few varying styles of raising kids that we’ve seen over the years; perhaps none quite as legendary as today’s subject. (Yes, I have based it on those I’ve done illustrations of. I’m not ashamed!)

Let’s talk about Peggy Mitchell.

Mother of Phil, Grant and Samantha, Peggy is Albert Square’s answer to the Kray twins’ mother Violet with a voucher for Bravissimo.

Rupert Smith, author of EastEnders: 20 Years in Albert Square, quite rightly says that Peggy is a matriarch, assuming “papal infallibility. Whatever anybody does – particularly her own children – she knows better”.

Peggy assumes maternal duties to anyone with the Mitchell surname. It’s just that these duties mostly include telling them what to do. She was stepmother to Diane, Ricky and Janine, but I don’t remember any particular fondness or loyalty for the Butcher kids lingering after her marriage to Frank fell apart.

(Let’s ignore the fact that Ricky eloped with her teenage daughter, and Janine was a delicious bitch to everyone. They were just rebelling against her. Right?)

Will anyone love her boys as much as Peggy does?

Peggy loves Phil and Grant so much she basically ruins their lives.

The Mitchell brothers are incapable of having a sensible romantic relationship, and much of this can be traced back to what they learned from their parents. I’m quite happy to blame their bullying dad Eric for this, but Peggy has done her fair share of meddling and kiboshing. There haven’t been many women she’s approved of, and those that she has liked have been scared off by her sons’ learned behaviour.

We’ve all had silly fights with our parents, but Peggy has raised her boys to resent her as much as they depend on her. Her relationship with Phil is certainly one based on spite. One throwaway paragraph from Wikipedia says, “Phil sells Grant’s share in the pub to local businessman Dan Sullivan for £5. Peggy loathes Dan, and the two frequently row over the running of the pub. Eventually, she and Phil call a truce and force Dan out of Walford”. Just another day in the life of the Mitchell family.

IDEA: Do a flowchart to show the levels of love and hate that flow between Peggy, her children, the Vic and Other People, and how they affect each other. I’m not sure I’m up to the Herculean task.

All this came to a bit of a head when Peggy stuck her oar in over Phil’s terrible parenting technique and took her granddaughter Louise to Lisa against Phil’s wishes. Lisa, being a bit of a nightmare, does a runner. Phil blames Peggy, then morphs into Dribble Snot Crack Phil who promptly destroys the one thing she loves more than or equal to the Mitchell family – her pub.

Peggy saying goodbye to a broken Phil was a genuinely moving moment, enhanced by the brilliant performances of Steve McFadden and Barbara Windsor. As her world crumbled around her, poor Peggy realised that perhaps her method of mother-knows-best was actually destroying her family. So she walked away.

And yet, Peggy can’t help herself. She still pops up on a sun lounger to dictate what Phil can and can’t do, most memorably when it came to Phil’s marriage to Sharon.

Oh. Sharon. The one woman above all who can rival Peggy for the love of her two boys, emotional connection to the Vic, and ridiculous hair.

And then there’s Sam! How could we forget Samantha!

When writing this I had to keep reminding myself that Sam existed. I sometimes wonder if Peggy does too.

Interestingly enough, I read that Hilary Kingsley (author of Eastenders Handbook) described Sam as being “a lot sharper than her brothers”. Which is odd, as I mostly remember her as being pretty thick. Sam seems to have existed solely as a means for various people to cheat other people out of the Vic.

Peggy is a controlling mother and a nonplussed stepmother. She must be a wicked Nan, right? Nans get all the fun jobs without the hassle of having the kids live with you for 18 years. Werther’s Originals sweets tumbling out of every pocket and comforting words in front of Countryfile? Not so much.

I think perhaps I’ve portrayed poor Peggy as a bit of a battleaxe, but she had fun moments. There was that drunken incident with Pat in the ice-cream van, which I still don’t completely understand, but I gather people enjoyed it. The misery of EastEnders certainly sticks in my brain more than the comedy bits (this is frequently a blessing).

So. Peggy. Whether you measure it in catchphrases or fashion choices, she is one of the most iconic women in soap. You can insert your own platitude about her being tiny in stature but big in status here. You get the idea. Her style of motherhood equates love with control – with an extra dose of shouting. And while her family tree may not be the largest in EastEnders history, there’s no denying that she and her boys have been some of the most important characters in 30 years of Albert Square.

peggybag

OH! And while I’m at it, I’ve done a range of Peggy stuff to match my Dot and Pat stuff. You can grab yourself a card or a tote bag (handmade by myself) from my Etsy shop at http://tinyurl.com/zfp4mk5

Editor’s note: The preceding was published with permission from the London, Brixton-based author/artist and originally appeared on her blog. Follow her on Twitter @thatagnes or email her at thatagnes@gmail.com.