The Multi-Doctor Team-Up: Conversing with Me, Myself, and I

We love a good team-up, don’t we?  The AvengersJustice League.  Even Godzilla vs. Kong.  Part of me expects a movie where Annabelle, the Nun, and La Llorona team-up to haunt Ed and Lorraine Warren (which won’t happened as the Conjuring Universe has more narrative integrity than that and the stories are based on true events (or at least truth-adjacent)).  Doctor Who has been doing the multi-Doctor team-up for decades in TV, novels, audio dramas, and comics.  But there is a fascinating dimension to different Doctors teaming up that none of these other stories have.  When the Doctor encounters other incarnations of the Doctor it’s not just a group of our favorite heroes coming together.  Rather they are, in effect, meeting themself at different moments in their life!  Can you imagine that?!!?  I can’t stop imagining what it would be like if I found myself in the same situation!  Can you imagine meeting yourself at different points in your life, some younger than you and some having seen things you’ve yet to see?  The idea is captivating and this is exactly what happens whenever the Doctors team-up.   

The idea for this reflection came as I read Jody Houser’s “A Little Help from My Friends” arc in the Doctor Who comic which sees the Thirteenth Doctor, Yaz, Graham, and Ryan cross paths with the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones during the time they were stranded in 1969, without the TARDIS, care of the Weeping Angels.  It’s been roughly 1,100 years (give or take the 4.5 billion trapped inside the Confession Dial) since the Thirteenth Doctor has seen Martha Jones.  They converse in the shop Martha’s working in.  The Doctor doesn’t tell her who she is at first.  And as she leaves, the Doctor says to herself, “Don’t know how I missed it, back in the day.  All over her face, even when I wasn’t there.  I’m sorry, Martha Jones.  I’m so sorry.  I really was thick back then.”

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Photo Credit – Titan Comics

This is such an important scene and my love and respect for Jody Houser’s Doctor Who soared even higher for its inclusion.  I love Series Three of Doctor Who.  I love Martha Jones.  Often Martha is my favorite companion (I say “often” because, as with “favorite Doctor,” this changes based on my emotional landscape on any given day :D).  Martha Jones!  The woman who saved the world and the Doctor all on her own!  But it’s so hard – heartbreaking, at times – to see how much she has fallen in love with the Doctor and how little he notices or reciprocates it.  So to see the Thirteenth Doctor notice and acknowledge her neglect at that time was a powerful illustration of growth on the Doctor’s part and it felt validating to see as a fan, too.  It also got me thinking.  If I met my past self – let’s say I happened upon Sixteen-Year-Old Me or Twenty-Four-Year-Old Me – what would I see now that I didn’t see then?

I was clueless about so many things!  I remember a Christmas in my twenties when Mom literally explained to my face this girl I was hanging out with liked me XD.  She said, “She’s home on Christmas break.  She’s seen you eight out of the last nine nights.  I say this with love but you’re not that interesting.  She likes you.”  My cluelessness extended far beyond dating, I’m sure!  What would it be like to not just think back on these memories but to stand beside my younger self as they lived them?

But this reflection goes both ways, right?  Naturally, reading this leads me to wonder what I’d see that my younger self wouldn’t.  What does the wisdom of years and experience reveal to me, at thirty-eight, that Sixteen-Year-Old-Me or Twenty-Four-Year-Old Me couldn’t see?  But what would they think about me now?  Jody Houser nods to this, too, leading to a snarky exchange between the Thirteenth Doctor’s TARDIS and the Tenth Doctor after he admits he doesn’t like the new temporal paintjob.  The Doctor tells the TARDIS, “Just because I said I didn’t like the new look doesn’t mean that I’m –” and the TARDIS zaps him.  He quickly apologizes XD. 

This is a call back to one of Doctor Who’s most iconic episodes, “The Day of the Doctor.”  In this 50th anniversary special, Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor and David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor encounter John Hurt’s War Doctor as he prepares to end the Last Great Time War.  When the Tenth Doctor enters the Eleventh Doctor’s TARDIS he remarks, “Oooo, you’ve redecorated.  I don’t like it.”

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The Tenth Doctor and the War Doctor see the inside of the Eleventh Doctor’s TARDIS. The Tenth Doctor is not a fan. / Photo Credit – BBC’s Doctor Who

It’s funny (how can you not love David Tennant’s scathing frown?!!?) but, honestly, it’s also probably pretty accurate.  I can imagine Sixteen-Year-Old-Me or Twenty-Four-Year-Old Me may have some opinions about my hair or home or work clothes or car (it’s worth noting, I picked those ages randomly as I wrote (but sixteen is certainly a threshold year with driving and moving from an underclassmen to upperclassmen in high school and at twenty-four I was in that first flush of full adulthood, done with undergrad and working as a youth minister but not yet a teacher (so I guess they do serve as good imaginative comparison points with Present Me))).

To this end, when the Tenth Doctor and Eleventh Doctor first meet they sort of take each other in, evaluate the other’s style and physical appearance, and sass each other.  It’s a fun scene. 

What would Sixteen-Year-Old Me think of my style now?  While they may be able to appreciate my present undercut as half my hair still hangs past my shoulders, they’d never be able to imagine I willingly cut all my hair off, let alone several times.  Past Me would certainly think I’d sold out but Present Me has learned few things are more fun than going into a salon and leaving with a ponytail in hand or on the floor that once hung down your back :).

Their thoughts on my style or home décor are neat to consider in a fun/funny sort of way but that’s not really what this post is about nor what my mind considers when I think of meeting past or future versions of myself.  What would they think about my life and who I’ve become?  THAT is the deeper question, the real question.

“The Day of the Doctor” takes us into the depths of this question and I am more impressed by it each time I watch it.  The way it pivots back and forth from these two vantage points – how we view our past selves and how our past selves would view us – is masterfully handled.  Ultimately it is employed to an ending as beautiful as it is remarkable.

The Last Great Time War was fought between the Daleks, creatures literally bred to hate anything that isn’t them, and the Time Lords, the Doctor’s people.  To end the war and to protect all of time and space, the Doctor chose to use a weapon called the Moment which wiped out all of the Daleks and all the Time Lords.  It was genocide on a massive scale to protect all that is, was, or will be.  It is the Doctor’s greatest trauma, their most unforgivable sin.

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Clara and the Doctor look at the painting alternately titled “No More” or “Gallifrey Falls.” / Photo Credit – BBC’s Doctor Who

Looking at a painting depicting the fall of Arcadia, Gallifrey’s second city, during the Time War, the Eleventh Doctor tells Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman):

The Doctor – “He was there.”

Clara – “Who?”

The Doctor – “Me.  The other me.  The one I don’t talk about.”

Clara – “I don’t understand.”

The Doctor – “I’ve had many faces, many lives…I don’t admit to all of them.  There’s one life that I have tried very hard to forget.  He was the Doctor who fought in the Time War and that was the day he did it.  The day I did it.  The day he killed them all.  The last day of the Time War, the war to end all wars, between my people and the Daleks.  And in that battle there was a man with more blood on his hands than any other – a man who would commit a crime that would silence the universe – and that man was me.”

When I rewatched this episode in anticipation of writing this piece, I was thinking about conversing with my younger selves but I also saw it through the lens of the treatment modality we’ve been using in therapy.  Over the course of the last year, my therapist Katherine and I have been using IFS (Internal Family Systems Model) as a central part of our work.  In a wildly oversimplified breakdown, it teaches how in our mind we have protector parts (which shield us from things that may hurt us and/or the things we’d rather not discuss), wounded parts (which carry our brokenness, pain, trauma), parts for all our emotions (our anxious parts or thoughtful parts, etc.), as well as our Self (which is the core of peace, acceptance, understanding, and strength within each of us).  In many ways, it’s similar to the Buddhist idea of the store consciousness and the seeds we water within our mind.  In learning to understand myself through this modality, I’m learning to recognize when I’m self-led or parts-led.  I’m learning to recognize my parts, to validate them, to love and appreciate them for all they do, and to dialogue with myself in a deeper way to see what they need.

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Photo Credit – Titan Comics

To offer a story to help illustrate how this can work, one day during the last school year Ashley and I were enjoying our lunch/prep mod together.  I was sharing some heavy personal things with her and Ashley was being the gentle, loving steward she always is with what I share :).  At the end of our lunch I went to the bathroom and, as I was washing my hands, I was hit with a wave of anxiety about it all.  I began crying as this washed over me again and again.  I looked in the mirror and said, “Ok anxiety, I hear you.  I love you and I appreciate you for all you do for me.  You’re here because this is important.  It’s something I need to attend to.  And I love you for looking out for us in this.  But right now I have to teach.  I can teach crying.  It’s ok to cry.  But it’s easier if I’m not.  I don’t have time to process this with Ashley now.  I don’t have time to process this on my own.  The bell rings in a minute.  So I’d like to ask if you could unblend for now.  I promise you, we’ll cry this out and sort this later.  I will attend to you.  I will feel this all because I value it and it’s important.  But right now I need to teach.  Can you please unblend and we can feel this all together later?”  And…it did.  It was so beautiful!  So I taught my class.  I went home.  I visited my parents for dinner.  I completely forgot about that anxiety…until I was driving home from my parents’ and began sobbing.  As I cried I thought, “What is this??  I…oh, yeah.”  Then I smiled as I cried and I said, “Hello anxiety.  I promised you I’d attend to you later.  Thank you for waiting.  Let’s feel this all and work through this now.”  And I did.  I cried and I sat with it and processed and sorted what needed to be processed and sorted for my anxiety to relax.

The only reason this worked (and it often, if not always, does!) is because I’m learning how to recognize, listen to, and honor all these parts of myself.  In learning this self-knowledge I am learning how to engage – how to converse – with myself in a fuller, more authentic, more compassionate, more aware way.

So when I heard the Doctor explain to Clara, “The other me.  The one I don’t talk about.  I’ve had many faces, many lives…I don’t admit to all of them.  There’s one life that I have tried very hard to forget,” it made my heart hurt.  How sad it must be for that part to be so ignored.  It carries so much shame and so much pain and the Doctor has spent centuries trying to bury/forget/ignore it.  Yet it’s a part of who he is all the same.

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The Moment with the War Doctor, as he contemplates what lengths he’ll truly go to to end the Time War. / Photo Credit – BBC’s Doctor Who

This denial would not surprise the War Doctor.  Speaking of the Moment, the Time Lord High Command call it, “A weapon so powerful the operating system became sentient.  According to legend, it developed a conscience.  How do you use a weapon of ultimate mass destruction when it can stand in judgment of you?  There is only one man who would even try.”  The Doctor tells the Moment (Billie Piper), which, having confused which point in the Doctor’s timeline she’s arriving in, takes the form of Rose Tyler, “I’ve been fighting this war for a long time.  I’ve lost the right to be ‘the Doctor.’”  Even in the moment of choice the Doctor sees this act as a betrayal of all he is.

As the Doctor prepares to use it, the Moment asks him if he’s counted the children who will die when he detonates it.  Then, she opens a portal through time so he could see what this choice would make of him in a hundred years (in the Tenth Doctor) and in four hundred years (in the Eleventh Doctor).  While the three of them have some entertaining exchanges (I particularly like the way the War Doctor rolls his eyes at how they always brandish their sonic screwdrivers, “Why are you pointing your screwdrivers like that?  They’re scientific instruments not water pistols! [….] What are you going to do?  Assemble a cabinet at them?” XD), the BIG conversation comes as they find themselves imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1562.

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The War Doctor in their cell in the Tower of London. / Photo Credit – BBC’s Doctor Who

Speaking of running the calculations the sonic will need to disintegrate the door to their cell the War Doctor says, “We might as well get started.  Help to pass the timey-wimey.  Do you have to talk like children?  What is that makes you so ashamed of being a grown-up?”  This begins one of the most serious, somber conversations the Doctor has ever been a part of:

War Doctor – “Oooh, the way you both look at me…what is that?  I’m trying to think of a better word than dread.”

Tenth Doctor – “It must be really recent for you.”

War Doctor – “Recent?”

Eleventh Doctor – “The Time War.  The last day.  The day you killed them all.”

Tenth Doctor – “The day we killed them all.”

Eleventh Doctor – “Same thing.”

The Moment – “It’s history for them.  All decided.  But they think their future is real.  They don’t know that it’s still up to you.”

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Photo Credit – BBC’s Doctor Who

War Doctor – “I don’t talk about it.”

Tenth Doctor – “You’re not talking about it.  There’s no one else here.”

The Moment – “Go on.  Ask them.  Ask them what you need to know.”

War Doctor – “Did you ever count?”

Eleventh Doctor – “Count what?”

War Doctor – “How many children there were on Gallifrey that day.”

Eleventh Doctor – “[long pause]…I have absolutely no idea.”

War Doctor – “How old are you now?”

Eleventh Doctor – “Eh, I dunno.  I lose track.  Twelve hundred and something I think, unless I’m lying.  I can’t remember if I’m lying about my age, that’s how old I am.”

War Doctor – “Four hundred years older than me and in all that time you never ever wondered how many there were?  You never once counted?”

Eleventh Doctor – “[angrily] Tell me, what would be the point?”

Tenth Doctor – “2.47 billion.”

War Doctor – “You did count!”

Eleventh Doctor – [shakes his head and returns to his work]

Tenth Doctor – “[with scorn] You forgot?  Four hundred years, is that all it takes?!”

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Photo Credit – BBC’s Doctor Who

Eleventh Doctor – “I moved on.”

Tenth Doctor – “Where??  Where can you be now that you can forget something like that??

Eleventh Doctor – “Spoilers.”

Tenth Doctor – “No.  No, no, no for once I would like to know where I’m going.”

Eleventh Doctor – “No, you really wouldn’t.”

War Doctor – “I don’t know who you are.  Either of you.  I haven’t got the faintest idea.”

The Moment – “They’re you.  They’re what you become if you destroy Gallifrey. [towards the Tenth Doctor] The man who regrets. [towards the Eleventh Doctor] And the man who forgets.  The moment is coming.  The moment is me.  You have to decide.”

While I don’t have any trauma like planetwide-genocide in my life (and it’s not really helpful to compare traumas anyway), I certainly have my own.  We all do.  When I think about the heaviest traumas in my life, the moments that carry the most shame and pain and wounding, two come straight to mind.  (I discuss the first in detail and speak generally of the second in this post about Doctor Who and the Confession Dial, should you like to have more specific context.)  Both still lay ahead for Sixteen-Year-Old Me as well as Twenty-Four-Year-Old Me.  Would they see it in my eyes?  Would they see the pain and the regret waiting for them?  Would they ask me about it, about what’s aged our soul?  Would they want to know where they’re going?  Would they have the faintest idea who I was?

I’d like to believe the answer to the last question is “yes.”  To the others, I’m not so sure.

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Photo Credit – BBC’s Doctor Who

This is what makes a Doctor team-up so unique.  It’s also, I’d argue, what makes it so important.  Because yes, it is SO EXCITING to see Matt Smith and David Tennant sharing the screen!  And I love how Jody Houser weaves the Thirteenth and Tenth Doctor’s stories together (we get a second arc with them in “Alternating Currents”).  But a story where the Doctor meets other Doctors opens the door to such contemplation and reflection alongside the usual fun of a team-up.  If we are open to receive it, it can lead us into meaningful conversation with our self.  When we open ourselves, open our wounds, we can feel it all again.  In so doing, we can offer validation to those wounded parts.  We can be with them.  We can offer love.  We can heal.  We can wrap ourselves in our own love, we can forgive and we can accept ourselves and, in so doing, begin to heal.

Seeing who he becomes, the War Doctor still commits to using the Moment.  He silently leaves the Eleventh Doctor and Tenth Doctor back at UNIT headquarters in 2012 sorting a Zygon invasion and returns to the Time War.  Back in the barn with the Moment beside him, the Doctor solemnly prepares to fire the weapon:

The Moment – “You know the sound the TARDIS makes?  That wheezing, groaning?  That sound brings hope wherever it goes.”

War Doctor – “Yes, yes I like to think it does.”

The Moment – “To anyone who hears it, Doctor – anyone, however lost.  Even you [smiles].”

[With that iconic wheezing and groaning, the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors’ TARDIS materialize in the barn.]

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Photo Credit – BBC’s Doctor Who

Clara – “I told you, he hasn’t done it yet.”

War Doctor – “Go away now, all of you.  This is for me.”

Tenth Doctor – “These events should be time-locked.  We shouldn’t even be here.”

Eleventh Doctor – “So something let us through.”

The Moment – “[smiling] You clever boys.”

War Doctor – “Go back.  Go back to your lives.  Go and be the Doctor I could never be.  Make it worthwhile.”

Tenth Doctor – “All those years burying you in my memory.”

Eleventh Doctor – “Pretending you didn’t exist, keeping you a secret even from myself.”

Tenth Doctor – “Pretending you weren’t the Doctor when you were the Doctor more than anybody else.”

Eleventh Doctor – “You were the Doctor on the day it wasn’t possible to get it right.”

Tenth Doctor – “But this time…[placing his hand upon the War Doctor’s on firing mechanism]”

Eleventh Doctor – “[placing his hand on the others’]…you don’t have to do it alone.”

War Doctor – “Thank you.”

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The Doctors prepare to trigger the device as the Moment, invisible to all but the War Doctor, and Clara look on. / Photo Credit – BBC’s Doctor Who

I weep when I watch this scene.  Can you imagine that?  Can you imagine going back to your worst moment, the decision that haunts you the most, the thing you are most ashamed of…and being with yourself in that?  To support yourself?  To surround yourself with love?  To reaffirm you are who you’ve always been and to accept yourself within the actions you consider unforgivable?  To love and forgive yourself in what you see as your greatest mistake?  How beautiful is that?!!?  We are imperfect beings.  We make mistakes.  There are days for all of us where it’s impossible to get it right.  But to accept that?  To love ourselves in that?  I can no longer watch this scene without thinking of the parts I’ve met in therapy, of the trauma and the wounds I’ve touched.  I know what it’s like to listen to those wounded parts.  To let them fill me and to cry with them.  To begin the process of accepting them.  To offer them love – to hold them and say, “It’s ok.  We’re ok.”  It’s like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.  It’s a soul-nourishing type of beautiful.

But “The Day of the Doctor” doesn’t stop there.  There is more that can be done with the vantage point a Doctor team-up offers, just as there is more we can do when we turn inward in this way. 

As they prepare to fire the weapon together, with tears in her eyes Clara pleads with the Doctors to do something else.  Looking to the Eleventh Doctor she says, “Look at you.  There’s three of you.  The warrior.  The hero.  And you.”  The Eleventh Doctor approaches her and asks with a deep, soul-rooted sincerity, “And what am I?”  Clara asks, “Have you really forgotten?”  The Doctor tells her, “Yes.  Maybe, yes.”  Clara replies, “We’ve got enough warriors.  Any old idiot can be a hero.”  “Then what do I do?” the Doctor asks.  With a fresh tear falling down her cheek Clara tells him, “What you’ve always done.  Be a Doctor.”

When the Doctor can’t see who he is, Clara can.  I love this moment!  I love Clara Oswald!  (Clara is right alongside Martha as my favorite of the Doctor’s companions for moments like this.)  She is not there to “fix” anything but to hold the Doctor in his wounds, to help him see the path to the strength within himself.  If we let it, this sort of loving support can wash through our whole being.  Clara tells the Eleventh Doctor, “You told me the name you chose was a promise.  What was the promise?”  The Tenth Doctor replies, “Never be cruel or cowardly.”  The War Doctor continues, “Never give up.  Never give in.”  That’s who the Doctor is.  That’s their Self.  Clara sees it when the Doctor can’t.  No matter how much work we do within ourselves, we can never do it all alone.  We’re not wired that way.  Clara is a beautiful, stirring example of the natural supports we can find in our lives.

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Every day I say a prayer of thanks for the Claras I have in my life. / Photo Credit – BBC’s Doctor Who

Standing at the moment of his deepest trauma and greatest regret, accepting and honoring all his parts, offering those wounds all the love and forgiveness in his hearts, and held gently in Clara’s love and support, the Doctor can achieve one of the most beautiful, moving moments in Doctor Who’s sixty year history.  With a smile growing across his face, the Eleventh Doctor takes out his sonic screwdriver and lowers the Moment’s firing mechanism.

Tenth Doctor – “You’re not…actually suggesting we change our own personal history?”

Eleventh Doctor – “We change history all the time.  I’m suggesting something far worse.”

War Doctor – “What exactly?”

Eleventh Doctor – “Gentlemen, I have had 400 years to think about this. [with enthusiasm] I’ve changed my mind.”

In changing his mind, the Eleventh Doctor finds a way to save Gallifrey.  What a perfect example of moving through trauma!  In literally changing their past they are showing how we can heal and find ourselves again on the other side of that which we think we can never come back from. 

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The moment the choice is made, the healing begins. / Photo Credit – BBC’s Doctor Who

Given the way time travel works on Doctor Who, the War Doctor and the Tenth Doctor won’t remember their saving Gallifrey.  Crossing your own timeline is dangerous as it can result in a paradox.  Time does its best to heal and hide the memories from your younger self until you experience it in your future.  Una McCormack, one of my all-time favorite Doctor Who authors, offers the clearest explanation of how this works in a novel where the Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Doctor meet each other.  “[O]nce this adventure was over they’d simultaneously remember it and not remember it. ‘It’s like when you leave off a good book and forget all about it until you pick it up again and there it is again, exactly where you folded down the page.’”[1] 

Obviously this is an important narrative point to have clear.  If you’re telling a story where the main character can encounter themselves at different points in their own past and future, you need to have an explanation for how every Doctor doesn’t remember what they learn and act differently as a result of it, thus changing the future.  This works well within Doctor Who’s time travel rules but it also perfectly illustrates what exploring, understanding, and healing our own wounding and trauma is like.  We can never forget/erase our traumas.  They happened.  That can never change.  This is represented in the Tenth Doctor and the War Doctor losing their memories of saving Gallifrey.  They still carry that pain.  But if we do the work, in time, we can heal.  We can forgive and accept ourselves.  We can be who we were again.  We see this in the Eleventh Doctor going forward with the knowledge that Gallifrey is saved.

Incidentally, this is one of the reasons I love the Twelfth Doctor and Thirteenth Doctor so much.  You see a new light/lightness to their character.  There is an emotional freedom in the way they are written and in the way Peter Capaldi and Jodie Whittaker play them.  They often feel younger, despite being older.  As an empath, this makes me happy :).  It makes me sad to see characters I love hurting and I love when they are happy.  Their demeanor also makes sense.  The closed off intensity of the Ninth Doctor, the sad eyes of the Tenth Doctor, the heaviness upon the hearts of the Eleventh Doctor are fading because they are healing.

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“Oh yeah, I’m over screwdrivers.  They spoil the line of your jacket!  These days I’m all about wearable technology.” / Photo Credit – BBC’s Doctor Who

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“Oh! I love a good plume! [….] I’ll probably come back for this, though. Strictly for, er, safety purposes. Not because it really suits me or anything.” / Photo Credit BBC’s Doctor Who

As the Doctors say their goodbyes, the War Doctor is the first to leave.  The Tenth Doctor and the Eleventh Doctor then have a conversation. 

Tenth Doctor – “I won’t remember either so you might as well tell me.”

Eleventh Doctor – “Tell you what?”

Tenth Doctor – “Where it is we’re going that you don’t wanna talk about.”

Eleventh Doctor – “[pregnant hesitation] I saw Trenzalore.  Where we’re buried.  We die in battle among millions.”

Tenth Doctor – “That’s not how it’s supposed to be.”

Eleventh Doctor – “That’s how the story ends.  There’s nothing we can do about it.  Trenzalore is where you’re going.”

Tenth Doctor – “[smiling] Oh, never say nothing.”

Eleventh Doctor – [laughs]

Tenth Doctor – “Anyway, good to know my future is in safe hands.”

After the beautiful emotional experience of their healing, the episode left me pondering again.  What would I hide from my younger self?  What would be most relieving to share with them?  What would I want to ask my older self?  What could they be hiding from me?  And, with all those parts of me together, would I be able to bring a bit of solace to myself?  Also – Good to know my future is in safe hands.  How validating would that feel, to have my younger self look at me now and say that??

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Photo Credit – BBC’s Doctor Who

I find it very appropriate that after the heart-filling emotional catharsis in “The Day of the Doctor,” it leaves me with more to consider.  Because there is always more, if we’re willing to continue the exploration and are open to accepting, loving, and learning from all the parts of ourself we find.  Millennia ago, the ancient Indian mystics turned inward to explore the Atman, their word for the soul.  What they discovered was it’s impossible for anyone to ever fully know the depths of all they are with absolute certainty.  This led to one of Hinduism’s most important revelations and the central discovery of the Upanishads, a collection of sacred Hindu texts. To quote just a brief section from the Katha Upanishad, within our own infinite vastness we find:

There are two selves, the separate ego

And the indivisible Atman.  When

One rises above I and me and mine,

The Atman is revealed as one’s real Self

[…]

When all the knots that strangle the heart

Are loosened, the mortal becomes immortal.

This sums up the teaching of the scriptures.[2]

Or, in other words, Atman = Brahman.  Brahman is the Hindu word for the infinite/transcendent/unknowable Divine reality.  God is infinite.  We, too, are infinite and we see this when we have the courage to look honestly within ourselves.  Through prayer, through therapy, through conversations with ourselves, our parts, and our natural supports, we look into our infinite selves and we can find everything.  So, if we want to know the Divine, we must get to know ourselves.

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Photo Credit – Titan Comics

This is the beautiful, painful, and healing journey Doctor Who invites us on whenever different Doctors come together on screen, page, or audio drama.  As much as I love seeing the Avengers circle up for the first time to fight Loki’s Chitauri army in The Avengers or the big “Avengers Assemble!” scene in Avengers: Endgame, they can’t lead me here.  And here is such a radiant place to be!  This is where change and growth happen!  My heart is so full of gratitude for Katherine, for her constant compassionate guidance and all she’s teaching me, as well as for all the Claras I have in my life who hold me in my wounding, share my joys, and help me find my way back to myself when I lose sight of the path.  My heart is also full of gratitude for myself, as I’m doing this work, and for all the parts opening within me as I do. 

In the closing narration of “The Day of the Doctor,” the Eleventh Doctor says:

Clara sometimes asks me if I dream.  Of course I dream, I tell her.  Everybody dreams.  But what do you dream about, she’ll ask.  The same thing everybody dreams about, I tell her.  I dream about where I’m going.  She always laughs at that.  But you’re not going anywhere – you’re just wandering about.  That’s not true.  Not anymore.  I have a new destination.  My journey is the same as yours, as anyone’s.  It’s taken me so many years, so many lifetimes, but at least I know where I’m going.  Where I’ve always been going.  Home, the long way round.

I believe this is true for all of us, even if we define home differently over the course of our lives.  In this moment, the Doctor is talking about Gallifrey.  For me, I’ve come to realize how deeply home is the still pond I find within myself when I’m touching the accepting, nourishing, peaceful self-energy found at the heart of who I really am. This is such an incredible journey – and it’s only just begun!  There is so much to meet and to learn within myself.  Infinity is waiting.

Doctor Team-Up 31

The face of a Doctor who has finally held his wounded parts in all the love he has in his hearts. / Photo Credit – BBC’s Doctor Who

As this post makes clear, I adore therapy.  Katherine was there to help save me when I desperately needed it and I’ve only grown stronger, healthier, and happier since our work together began.  I’ve learned, therapy is not just for “triage” and some of the most amazing growth comes when you’re “feeling alright.”  If you’ve ever considered therapy or if therapy feels like something you need or even something you’d just like to try, I offer this link to Psychology Today so you can browse detailed listings of mental health professionals in the U.S. and all over the world :).


[1] Una McCormack, Doctor Who Time Lord Victorious: All Flesh Is Grass, (London: BBC Books, 2020), 196.

[2] The Upanishads Second Edition, trans. Eknath Easwaran (Tomales, CA: Nilgiri Press, 2007), 91.

6 thoughts on “The Multi-Doctor Team-Up: Conversing with Me, Myself, and I

  1. Another super post!

    I love it that you’re able to read…

    “I’ve had many faces, many lives…I don’t admit to all of them.  There’s one life that I have tried very hard to forget.”

    …and then relate it to your therapy and personal growth. That joined-up thinking is such an effective way to approach life. I find these kinds of truths in really good stories too from time to time (in TV, film, books and comics) and it’s so valuable.

    Your description of using IFS and how that relates to the Doctor talking to his younger selves was really very helpful to me, especially the idea of being self-led or parts-led. It was courageous of you to explain how you helped your anxious self in a way that afforded you calm at work but still time for that part of yourself that was hurting later on. WHat a powerful way to manage difficult things! So much so that I am going to speak to my own therapist about it later today! Can’t tell you how much this has helped me! Thank you!!!!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Jo! I’ve so much gratitude in my heart for your comment here :). I’m glad you found it helpful, too. I know for me, IFS did not click at first. My system wasn’t quite ready for it and I had parts interpreting things in different ways and on and on. So it was a little rocky at first but once my therapist helped me find my groove with it I’ve come to gain so much from it. It has become such a beautiful way for me to deal with difficult things! Even something like learning to see my anger or sadness as a gift (like I’m angry/sad, this part is reacting now, because this is important to me and things aren’t going as I’d like them to so my anger/sadness is a reflection of my heart) has really changed how I manage my feelings. I can often generate real gratitude for my anxiety, sadness, frustration, anger, and all that when I feel it and I can sincerely thank those feelings/parts for what they do for me. It took me a while to get here with IFS but it has been so worth the journey.

      I am so happy this could resonate for you and I wish you luck in trying IFS or something like it yourself!

      And YES to the joined-up thinking! I completely agree! I often like to connect that approach to how I see God, too. Maybe when I find the right TV show or film or book or comic that speaks to me when and how I need it at just the right time, maybe there’s a little bit of the Divine whispering to me in that, too. I’m making those connections but maybe God is there on the periphery of it, smiling all the while. I don’t know. And it certainly is wildly beneficial either way. But it’s something I like to think about.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “learning to see my anger or sadness as a gift”
        This strikes me as a really super way to see it. I like it because it’s both a helpful way to get some perspective on feelings which can be very strong sometimes, and because it aligns perfectly with the way our emotions function biologically.

        “I am so happy this could resonate for you and I wish you luck in trying IFS or something like it yourself!”
        My therpist and I did try it and I have homework which uses this idea! I feel so grateful that you shared this because, for me, the IFS way of looking at things was someting that felt natural from the start and has been so very helpful.

        “I often like to connect that approach to how I see God, too.”
        It’s interesting you say that, because my problems with understanding my self are deeply bound up with religion, or a lack of it. A couple of years ago I lost my faith in Christianity and it was like having the centre of my self die on me. Since then I’ve not really had a sense of cohesive self at all. I’ve been an atheist and, although I get it completely in an intellectual way, it lacks any “heart” if you know what I mean.

        However, being a biologist, I found that the one structure in my psyche that did’t break or get lost was my biological understanding of the natural world and a deep sense of kinship and joy with nature which I have always had. (I used to get in trouble at church for being more drawn to the dappled light shining through the trees out the window than I was to the Eucharist.)

        The more I have needed God over the last two years the more nature has meant to me. Then yesterday I did my therapy homework – looking at the different parts to my self and what my central self might be and I found that my centre now is that self which is one with nature. This was so powerful – to find myself in the chaos again.

        Then, later the same day, I had some issues where I was going into a potentially abusive situation and found myself praying to mother nature / the universe / Gaia (sorry don’t really have a word for this – just know it in my heart) which I haven’t done before. It was kind of wonderful, (and it turned out that I was safe too).

        Thank you for your post and your friendship – it has made a really important difference to my life. (PS: Sorry this is so long, don’t feel that you have to respond to all of it.) 😊

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I’m so glad you were able to jump right in and are already finding IFS a comfortable place and a natural fit! I love when my therapy homework comes together for me and I can feel myself on the right track :). And I love when I can feel that movement within myself and I know things are moving, the energy is flowing, and I can begin to see, learn, and feel new things! So it makes my heart so happy for you that this sort of movement is happening for you right now. Yay!!!

        Just the other day in therapy we were talking about how God/the universe/Gaia/fate – whatever name you want to give it – can bring us together with people at the right time to not only grant us a friendship but to help us learn more about ourselves. And I certainly find that sort of comfort and self-knowledge in our discussions :).

        As to the “right word” for Mother Nature or the universe or Gaia or whatever…I don’t think there is a right word. I think it’s all about whichever word feels most comfortable for us, whichever word feels like “home.” Whatever the vast, transcendent, infinite source and ground of all Being is, it has to be beyond our ability to capture in a word. That’s one of the things that has always fascinated me about thinking about divinity/infinity/transcendence/etc.! Whatever is out there is so much more than I can ever conceive. So I think whatever name you felt called to use – and even if it isn’t a name! it may’ve been a feeling! – in that moment of prayer was the perfect one. Because that’s what you felt in your heart in that moment of connection between your heart and everything around you.

        What a beautiful moment of prayer and comfort, too. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m so happy for you that you had that and I am so happy, too, the situation ended up not being abusive.

        I’m sorry for the trails you’ve had since losing that sense of identity and self that came with losing your religious faith. That makes absolute sense to me, though. I get it. To lose something so central is like habing the rug pulled out from under everything we know about ourselves and the world. Although I’m happy for you that you‘be continued your journey and continue to find your new developing sense of self in your new understanding of the world. I’m inspired by your story and your example, too! That takes a lot of strength and a lot of courage to figure out how to place yourself in the world while finding a new sense of “the sacred.”

        That kinship with nature is a beautiful place to find the sacred and to ground yourself, too. I read a book years ago — ‘The God We Never Knew’ by Marcus Borg — and in it he basically discusses how our common Christian conception of God robs us of much of the reality of God (both in scripture and the early Jewish and Christian traditions, too). He talks of panentheism, the belief that God exists IN nature, that everything in the natural world is literally imbued with and existing within and an avenue to what God really is. I loved that!

        I’ve never forgotten it because it felt SO RIGHT. I’ve felt that. It very much made sense with what I’ve felt in my own way when I’m out in nature.

        You’re welcome, Jo. Your words, as always, mean so much to me, too.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. “So it makes my heart so happy for you that this sort of movement is happening for you right now. Yay!!!”

        Thank you! I must admit, this sort of thing is quite rare for me. A lot of the time in therapy it feels like I’m continually ploughing the same furrow and tripping up over the same issues so it’s great to make a bit of progress!

        “Just the other day in therapy we were talking about how God/the universe/Gaia/fate – whatever name you want to give it – can bring us together with people at the right time to not only grant us a friendship but to help us learn more about ourselves. And I certainly find that sort of comfort and self-knowledge in our discussions :).”

        I find this too, very much. Even more so, last week our conversation felt like the definition of serendipity. Your words really helped me at just the right time!

        “Whatever is out there is so much more than I can ever conceive. So I think whatever name you felt called to use – and even if it isn’t a name! it may’ve been a feeling! – in that moment of prayer was the perfect one. Because that’s what you felt in your heart in that moment of connection between your heart and everything around you.”

        This is very reassuring! And you’re right – it was a beautiful moment. I think I like the name Gaia best, it captures it all in 2 simple syllables.

        “That kinship with nature is a beautiful place to find the sacred and to ground yourself, too. I read a book years ago — ‘The God We Never Knew’ by Marcus Borg — and in it he basically discusses how our common Christian conception of God robs us of much of the reality of God (both in scripture and the early Jewish and Christian traditions, too). He talks of panentheism, the belief that God exists IN nature, that everything in the natural world is literally imbued with and existing within and an avenue to what God really is. I loved that!”

        I think I’m going to look up ‘The God We Never Knew’. It sounds like a really interesting read. The way you describe panentheism reminds me very much of the Japanese approach to the sprititual world of Kami. I sometimes wonder if each living creature has it’s own spirit dwelling within and yet that spirit is bound up as part of a bigger spirit. So an aphid on a tree has a spirit, but it is an essential part of the ecosystem on the tree and so is also part of the tree Kami. Then each tree Kami is part of the forest Kami and each forest or grassland or desert is part of a watershed and each watershed is part of a continent etc…

        Anyway, thanks again for sharing your thoughts! It puts a big smile on my face to think that all of this has come from you reading Jody Houser’s “A Little Help from My Friends” arc in the Doctor Who comic!! How awesome is that!

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Wow…that IS awesome! I’d not thought of it like that but you’re right! This did all come from Jody Houser’s comic! What a fantastic frame. I love this and it makes me appreciate the comic all the more, too :).

        Liked by 1 person

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