The Power of Being One
Experience of Growing Up as an Only Child
Saturday 9 July
2005 | London
2005 Conference Transcript
The Power of Being One Conference
was the first of its kind, bringing together 73
adult onlies, counsellors and parents of onlies - age range, mid 20
to mid 70. It was a great day!
Our venue was Beauchamp Lodge in London's Little
Venice, two days after the attacks of 7/07.
Despite this, delegates came from Dublin, Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester,
Derbyshire, the Midlands, Dorset, the South Coast and of course London.
On arriving at the Centre, they were welcomed by a team of onlies
and friends, who worked all day to provide information, refreshments
and guidance up and down the many stairs!
Conference & BeingAnOnly Director,
welcomed everyone to this day of adventure. She introduced,
David Emerson, Co-Author, Only Child;
How to Survive Being One, who began by setting
two contexts for the day's work:
1) The benefits to society of increased emotional literacy - for only
children who have spent time alone, this mirroring opportunity of
collective sharing was important in developing emotional literacy.
2) Discussion about only children should be contributing to social
Jill Pitkeathley, Co-Author
continued by outlining the themes from the research contained in their
book. Common only child experiences included:
- strain of 'being everything'
- lack of rough and tumble
- struggles with self image
- feeling socially mature but emotionally immature
- sense of being 'always alone'
Jill concluded with a '10 point survival plan'.
From the beginning, there was a warm atmosphere of openess and sharing
and many appreciative nods and grunts of acknowledgement in response
to Jill and David's enthusiastic presentations.
They were followed by Paul
Smith-Pickard, Chair of the Society of Existential Analysis
of workshops with Bernice Sorensen.
Paul presented findings from Bernice's doctoral research Not
Special but Different.
He referred to other researchers of only child experience - from Adler
and Stanley Hall who gave a none too complimentary interpretation
- and described the multi-voiced methodology of Bernice's approach.
Her interest has been to listen to the experiences of only children
and has begun to interpret those stories in terms of an 'only child
is a word by word account of all speakers - so you can relive it,
if you were there. Or, if you missed it, you can imagine you're
The morning got off to a lively start and the room was buzzing by
the time the coffee break arrived.
After refreshments and home made biscuits, workshop sessions offered
delegates the chance to work and share in small groups.
Siblings - the missing experience
The male experience of
growing up an only child |Paul Smith-Pickard
Healing through the family soul
Coping with elderly parents as the only child | Denyse Whillier
The only child and the
world of work | Andrew Corrie
Parenting an only child
Delegates had chosen three out of six different
workshops and there was some frustration that there wasn’t
time to do all six – many thought all the titles were relevant
for them. Sessions were one hour and necessarily just a ‘taster’,
but there was deep and honest sharing nonetheless.
Lunch was provided at the centre for those who wanted it –
roast beef, salmon and a spinach roulade, followed by fruit salad.
I mention the food, because it was home made and delicious and seemed
to contribute to the enjoyment of the day.
The afternoon offered two workshop sessions. The plenary session
was a feedback session for delegates and facilitators, all of which
is noted down in the transcript.
UKCP registered transpersonal psychotherapist working in private
practice & Director of BeingAnOnly.
Paul Smith-Pickard, UKCP
registered psychotherapist, Chair of the Society of Existential
Analysis. He has brought his experience as an only child growing
up without a father, to his work with adult onlies.
studied with Bert Hellinger and has led constellations workshops
in the UK and Europe. UKCP registered Gestalt therapist, practising
as a Body Alignment Technique practitioner and teacher.
CEO, Age Concern, London Borough of Ealing and has run local authority
services for older people.
Andrew Corrie, Executive
Manager of Eyeline Stockport Institute for the Blind and has worked
as facilitator and trainer at management and community level in
both commercial and voluntary sectors.
is an only child, the parent of one son and has worked for ten years
as a UKCP registered psychotherapist, supervisor and trainer.
Throughout the day we had a bookstall run by Worth
Reading! who had
put together a rich selection of psychology related books with many
specific only child titles - factual and fictional.
The end of the afternoon meant farewell to a few delegates and hello
to some new ones who wanted to join the boat trip, purely for social
reasons. We were 60 on board. The sun came out and we cruised for
a relaxed 3 hours from the Little Venice Basin, through Regent’s
Park to Camden Lock and back, eating, drinking and talking.
Thinking that eleven hours of togetherness would have sufficed for
most at this stage, to my surprise, as we docked, a sizeable group
adjourned to the nearby bar!
Feedback from the day was very positive, with delegates asking
There was appreciation of the fact that the event itself had been
well organized, that there was information and a chance for individual
sharing and experience. There was enthusiasm for another conference,
for supervision and training for counsellors and a real desire for
social events – from garden tours, to visits to historic houses.
Many were keen to make use of the online facilities on the website,
to talk to each other, to advertise their own services and to be
part of a network.
A collective sharing certainly took place. There was interest in
the variety of‘only child experiences and the similarities
too - both for professionals and non-professionals. For many this
was for the first time. And for those who had taken part in workshops
before, it was exciting to meet up and continue the journey.
The demand for Jill and David's book (at the time out of print)
was such, that a re-print was made in January 2006.
Two journalists, who were also
only children, took part in the day. Deepa Shah was writing for
the Sunday Times, and Sue Ellis produced a half hour documentary
for BBC Radio 4, which was aired in May 2006. Their presence and
the enthusiasm with which delegates took part in this day is testament,
I think, to the fact that the experience of the ony child is now
firmly on the agenda of society's interest. David's second context
for this issue contributing to social policy is perhaps coming nearer.
As the beanpole family syndrome increases, so the need
to understand the only child experience increases with it.
2005 Conference Transcript
A Unique Inheritance
The Only Child & The Natural World
I very much enjoyed and appreciated that wonderful
conference on Saturday. It was an original idea, and it certainly
took off! I gained much from both speakers and workshops which I
found most illuminating. And add to that the exquisite setting.
Thank you for all your hard work in organizing the
conference. I’m no more just ‘looking in’ on other
Advantages of Siblings
They teach you to play & fight
Support v. parents
Split focus of paren'ts expectations
Share family history
Blame things on ...
Peace & quiet
Sense of uniqueness
Material advantage .. Siblings Workshop
My best friend doesn't know what it's like to be
Sometimes I feel trapped not able to be free
If only things were different and I could fully express myself,
Can I turn things around and change things for the best?
Sometimes I feel capable of passing any test
One day if only one day
Because I aways try my best.
Stanza by Paul Foot
Growing up as the Male Only Child Workshop
Of all the different sorts of groups I have facilitated,
these three groups were by far the most supportive, sensitive and
immediately 'open' with each other. That I think is a common 'only'
Andrew Corrie, Facilitator
Only Child & Work