Mr Messy and the inner chaos
Updated: Nov 6, 2022
Mr Messy and the inner chaos
When I was a child I loved the Mr Men books, well, one in particular really, and I'd read it over and over again.
Mr Messy was the story of a messy 'Mr Man' and the two other men who came to sort his mess out, Mr Neat and Mr Tidy.
When I was young, this story had a special place in my heart, as I was quite obsessive about tidying my room and liked things to be in their right places. I could tell if someone had been in and changed things around!
Looking back I now realise why this book made so much 'sense' to me, the squiggly Mr Messy is combed back into a pink blob shape by Messers Neat and Tidy, but I always preferred him, ironically it seemed, all messy and squiggly.
Mr Messy, in his messed up, chaotic state, represented the inner chaos I felt as a child, and it was absolutely wonderful to read how he could be helped into cohesion by simple tasks and a rather large comb.
The neat and tidy men were my own attempts at organising the outer world to make me feel more in control, to keep the chaos inside from spilling out, to make sense of my environment, to have a bit of agency in my world. The 'life-myth' of Mr Messy/Messers Neat and Tidy, theme showed up in other areas too; my "neat and tidy' role drove me to pursue a career in acting. Having set lines to learn and read, to have the 'right words' to say at the 'right time' was something that I found very comforting, I really struggled with expressing myself at times, I wasn't sure what the 'right thing' was, I was separated from my inner 'knowing', my feelings, and my authentic responses as 'me'.
Aspects of our lives have directly evolved as coping, adaptive responses to situations in the past where we had little choice, little agency, limited capacity to impact the events that were happening around us. Some have been a result as having none of these available and unconscious and survival adaptations took place to ensure the best chance of being safe, surviving in an unsafe world.
The inner turmoil, the cycling of energy attached to previous traumatic events needed to be held in check for fear of overwhelming me completely. And I created many rituals to make the outer world a more controlled and 'known' place, an attempt to balance the scales somehow.
It is only recently, through the work I have been doing in trauma studies, that I have made this now rather obvious connection.
Working with drawings, art, scribbles, squiggles and symbols, we are able to bypass the cognitive functions of the brain that keep us twirling in cerebral circles, and tangent off to whole new worlds of deeper and insightful meanings.
Thank you to 'Mr Messy', that 'external object' that allowed me to unconsciously make some sense when I was young, and now as an adult, to appreciate the power that these stories can hold for a child.