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Friday, 28 May 2010


I was sitting in front of the computer with the spreadsheet open; preparing myself to file my wife's business's tax return for the past financial year. On the 5th of April each year I get a deep, deep sinking feeling knowing that sooner or later I'll have to present the earning in a form that will satisfy the tax man.

Even before I begin I have this dread that I'll be found out. Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs will turn their unflinching eye on my scratching outs and reel me in for an interrogation. It's the same every year: this year they'll find me out!

It was the same at work. I'd write a recommendation on this or that policy and I push it up the line. "They're  going to find a fatal flaw in my reasoning and I'll be shown up for a charlatan", I'd think as my finger hovered over the send button. Even worse, it'll get to the Minister and then at a meeting to discuss my analysis and recommendations, some one will point out the sheer stupidity of my case and I'll be accused of wasting the Minister's time and embarrassing my superiors!!

I was often praised on the quality of my work, and as that was happening I'd hear myself saying. "They're just saying that, they don't believe it. They'll find out next week how poor I am and then what will they say?"

Where did this deep insecurity come from?

A few months ago I was at a party. One of the guests was someone I hadn't seen for more than 20 years. He was in his eighties; having only just retired from a highly successful career as a surgeon. He greeted me as a long lost friend. "Tell me Barry", he said, "Are you still as clever as you were?" and turning to a group of  fellow party goers he commented " I always thought he was a very bright man."

My immediate reaction was pleasure, but very soon I found myself under cutting his kind words. "He doesn't remember, he's old." Not only content with beating myself up I happily belittled this man who offered those kind words without any prompting. What is going on?

I hate any disruption in the home. Re-decorating, mechanical failures of household items throw me into a panic. We've just had a verandah erected in our patio. The last two weeks have seen me having panic attacks and quite scary dreams - all because of the disruption I feared the work would involve. Not only did I have I had panics about the verandah, I also reprised earlier panics about the large tree in our garden falling and crushing the house, and the pyracanthus  in the front garden undermining the foundations (no real worry there, our house is so old they didn't bother with foundations).

Other times I'd get up in the morning certain that when I get in the car I, as sure as hell, will have an accident!

The verandah took a day and a half to erect. A lot of noise, drilling etc. but nothing collapsed - even though I'd discovered some cracked brick work and had quickly convinced myself that the work would loosen the brick work and the back wall would collapse.  The verandah looks fabulous.

I love ITC stuff. I had my first computer in 1992, I was a beta tester for Windows '95; signed up for broadband 10 years ago and have banked on line for years. But, paying for the verandah triggered my insecurities.

I needed to transfer monies from one bank to my cheque account so I could meet the cost of the work. The company who did the work still like to be paid by cheque. I went on line and transferred the money over. I wrote out the cheque and handed it over yesterday. For the last 2 days I was convinced that the electronic transfer from one account to another would not take place. I had visions of the cheque bouncing, and in my mind's eye I was phoning up the bank asking where my money had gone, taking out a short term loan, and having to explain to the irate company owner that it wasn't my fault - the money's there - its just in the ether not in my account. This morning logging on to my bank account showed a healthy balance more than enough to meet the cost of the work - the transfer had gone through!!

How is it I don't learn from experience. Most times things work. Most times I work things out logically and purposefully. Some how I don't remember or if I do, there's some deep seated anxiety ( based, I suppose, on some traumatic childhood experience which is hidden away somewhere) which completely over rides the adult coping me.

I know that when I get down to doing the tax returns, I'll thoroughly enjoy it. Reading the Revenue's notices and guidance, filing on line using a piece of software I bought for £30 and saving a huge amount on professional accountants' fees.

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