Cuckoo Lane

Elia, I., 2007. Cuckoo Lane. Reformulation, Winter, pp.4-5.


Well, no one took up the invitation proffered in the last issue to analyse the metaphor of ‘cuckoo’ for mental/behavioural problems. Too obvious to be interesting? Maybe. But one brave soul entered the Cuckoo Lane space, which is offered to all in the CAT community for ideas and experiences related to CAT; more about him later.

First, the cuckoo, who “crowds every egg out of the nest except its own”, as Emerson said back in 1841: To be more accurate, the mother cuckoo (in parasitic species; there are non-parasitic ones also) knocks one egg out and deposits her own larger but similarly patterned egg in the nest of a smaller species, such as reed warbler, yellow hammer, or hedge sparrow. She does this in about 20 different nests in her territory. To human eyes she seems naughty—’controlling/exploiting/abandoning’. But in terms of bio-fitness, she’s a great success. Is it just a coincidence that her late spring song is described as “laughing and bubbling”? (It is the mating male who ‘cuckoos’ in April.)

The cuckoo hatchling throws any eggs or other chicks out of the nest and is fed by and grows much larger than the tiny foster mother, who, in our view, is ‘perfectly caring’.

So, someone who is described as ‘cuckoo’ just does not fit in naturally, is perhaps wrapped up in self, pushing out others, and abandoning even those who have cared. Maybe s/he is often in ‘rejecting—rejected’, and, ever unsure of self worth, may fly off (as British cuckoos do to winter in Africa). But when s/he returns, the old roles and uncertainties are played out again.

OK, I’ll leave it. Maybe everyone in the CAT world knows that most people who feel ‘cuckoo’ seek a tireless, doting mother. And perhaps all you silent CAT therapists know how to separate this ‘exploited’ role from one that gives just enough of the nurturing ‘accepting, encouraging’ roles. Hmm, I wonder.

Now, having nothing to do with dodgy animal metaphors, Martin Sellix entered into the relaxed, good humoured space of Cuckoo Lane, offering his ‘Narcissistic Opinionated Gauge’ (see below), a variant of the famous ‘split egg’ diagram (no relation to cuckoo’s eggs, or possibly....?). The Gauge is also known as the ‘Crapp-ometer’, which he says “works by placing the feelings in the split and watching what the needles do. If they fail to move, then the feelings are too strong, [and] the conclusion is that the therapist is totally CRAPP.” This diagram should be seen in full colour to be adequately appreciated. Maybe one day, when Reformulation appears in colour, we will re-print Martin’s
‘frustrated-with-narcissists’ diagram alongside my ‘nurture-thenarcissist’ embroidered diagram, complete with, as Martin put it, a “good en-oeuf ” appliqué fried egg in the centre.

Thoughts to: me14@cam.ac.uk (Irene Elia)

2014 ACAT AGM

Full Reference

Elia, I., 2007. Cuckoo Lane. Reformulation, Winter, pp.4-5.

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