Tributes to Dr Gloria Gearing
It is with great sadness that we heard of the death of Dr Gloria Gearing on 17 July 2017. She was a practising Jungian Psychotherapist, and a founding member of the organization which later became the Southern African Association of Jungian Analysts (SAAJA).
Below are tributes from two of our Honorary members, Graham Saayman and Gary May, and tributes from Sheila Berry from the Phuzamoya Dream Centre, and other friends. We have included a copy of an article from the Mercury of 8 August honouring her work at St Mary’s hospital.
We want to remember and honour her for, among other things, her role in furthering and establishing the practice of Jungian Analysis in South Africa.
Gloria Gearing was a potent force in the development of Jungian thought and psychotherapeutic practice in South Africa. Her impact on the mental health delivery service radiated from her pioneering medical and psychotherapeutic practice in KwaZulu Natal. She was a major inspiration to Ian Player. Ian’s constructive involvement in the founding of the Cape of Good Hope Centre for Jungian Studies – the forerunner of the modern SAAJA – was utterly conditional on the inclusion and participation of Gloria, without whom he would not have joined the enterprise. The many vital contributions Ian made to the preservation of wilderness and cornerstone species including the rhinoceros and the lion, owed much to Laurens van der Post and Gloria Gearing. In those early days, training programs in counselling, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis were unknown in South Africa. The commitment of Ian Player, together with Gloria Gearing and Sir Laurens, helped to realize Vera Buhrmann’s dream of developing a systematic training protocol in psychotherapy in South Africa. Ultimately, the Centre developed into SAAJA, an internationally accredited training for Jungian analysts. Among Gloria’s many contributions was the original logo for the journal Mantis.
Many years ago, around about 1985 Ian Player arranged a week in the Umfolozi game reserve for a small group including Gloria Gearing. As usual Ian had very carefully selected who should be there.
At the time, I was based in Johannesburg working as a senior executive for a large corporation. I was heading into a classic mid-life crisis and Ian had detected all of the symptoms.
Gloria knew exactly what was going on, and we spent many hours sitting on the bank of the river with our feet in the water while she very directly got me to identify and deal with my problems. She changed the course of my life, my wife and I who had decided not to have children, had a child just in time as she was on the brink of menopause. We relocated to Cape Town, our original home town and I started my own business.
At the end of the trail I dropped her off at Marianhill on my way to the airport. She was going to see her little patients before going home.
We have lost a very special woman but we can take comfort from the fact that her legacy lives on.
I was a patient of Gloria’s for 10 years of my life. Synchronicity led me to her and she became one of my most influential teachers in my life. My painful grief when she died surprised me and I realised how important a person she was to me. Over those 10 years Gloria tirelessly, without an ounce of judgement, saw me through many life crises and transitions. Always unconventional in her approach, wise, experienced and so completely a human being. She provided another voice for me that was unconditionally accepting.
Gloria was not only a therapist, she was a mentor and elder. In the months before her death, I had wanted to visit her and tell her thank you. That she had saved my psychological life. I didn’t go and then she died. So I was grateful that my thanks was included in her eulogy at her funeral, and I repeat it now so that she will hear it again. But my sense of Dr Gloria Gearing was that she never really wanted to be thanked, that it would be gratitude enough to find me mothering, parenting and mentoring myself. As she taught me to.
On 17 July 2017, Dr Gloria Gearing, a loyal supporter of the Phuzamoya Dream Centre, passed away peacefully in her sleep. She was in her 90s. As yet no date is available for the memorial.
Though her passing leaves an enormous void, she lived a full, rich life and would not want unnecessary grief and mourning for a life that has come to its natural end. She has certainly left the world a richer place, bringing countless new young lives into the world, and transforming the lives of her many therapy clients for the better.
Gloria worked as an obstetrician at St Mary’s Hospital, Mariannhill, delivering babies until she retired at the age of 70. She and her deceased husband, Dr Johnny Broukhart, had nine remarkable children, three of them doctors like their parents.
Gloria also worked as a Jungian analyst for well over 40 years. She was particularly interested in dreams though she admitted she was unable to remember any of her own!
Gloria spoke at the launch of the Phuzamoya Dream Centre, on 30 January 2009, over 8 year ago. It was an auspicious event where she spoke about The Value of the Dream in the Modern World. Every year after that, until January 2016, when she fell ill the day before the event, she would start the year off for us, speaking in her own inimitable way at our January events. Her fascinating talks included The Animus and the Anima in Dreams, explaining the significance and meaning of male and female figures in our dreams; Jung and Christianity; Jung and the Shadow; and Jung and Individuation, a life-long process of bringing unconscious aspects of our personality into consciousness and then integrating the opposites.
Gloria’s reputation for being able to interpret dreams and her skill as a Jungian therapist spread far and wide. I was working in Johannesburg in the early 1970s, when I first heard about an amazing woman Jungian doctor working at Mariannhill. Dr Ian Player, the founder of the PDC, was possibly her most famous client and also the one who thought most highly of her skills. When he would launch forth with great praise for her knowledge and abilities, she would dismiss this by saying that she could not possibly be a very good therapist based on the hopeless job she did with Ian, who came to see her for 18 years for dream analysis. He would then laugh uproariously.
As with everything associated with Gloria, she exemplified the process of individuation in her own unique way, by consciously owning her own shadow and expressing it often outrageously! She did not need to resort to wearing a purple hat in her old age! It was not that Gloria was trying to be deliberately shocking but just that she felt comfortable speaking her mind. She did not pull punches and this could be very uncomfortable for people who went to see her for therapy. As a wise woman with lots of life experience under her belt, she saw no reason to waste time by beating around the bush if it was evident that the person who had come to see her was trapped in a destructive cycle and projecting onto everyone around him or her.
In her therapy room Gloria was a skilled surgeon slicing through the obfuscation and getting to the bare bones of the matter. This was done with the purpose of removing a malignant growth and not with the intention of being hurtful. She expected her clients to be adults and to be able to take things on the chin. If you were up to the challenge, you would learn immensely valuable lessons that would stand you in good stead for the rest of your life and open up unexpected paths to transformation. This is not to say that Gloria was hard or heartless, far from it. In addition to her nine children, she looked after many lost young souls, sometimes for several years, providing a safe haven until it was time to kick them out of the nest into the challenging world of adulthood.
Thank you for your example and courage and for all you have shared so generously with us glorious Gloria. May your Soul rest in the Blessed Peace that passes Understanding.
Gloria Gearing gave her life to her health care mission, St Mary’s Hospital
Dr Gloria Grace Gearing played a key role in the development of modern maternity services at St Mary’s Hospital, Mariannhill, where she spent her entire professional career.
MY ASSOCIATION with Dr Gloria Grace Gearing was a lifelong one – from my birth to her death.
It was Gloria who delivered me in January 1965, and I was able to visit her in hospital on July 17 a few hours before her death.
My brief is to speak about Gloria’s professional contributions, her time at St Mary’s Hospital, Mariannhill, and her therapy work. There will inevitably be some spillover into other arenas, because Gloria managed so successfully to integrate the many and diverse aspects of her life.
For the record, Gloria completed her medical studies at Wits University in 1949. In 1950, she did her internship at McCord Hospital in Durban. She joined St Mary’s in 1951. She played a pivotal role in the development of modern maternity services at the hospital and offered her knowledge, skills and service to generations of midwives and mothers. Her entire professional career was spent at St Mary’s Hospital.
As a teenager living in the suburbs of Westville, I had no interaction with Gloria at all. However, on the odd occasion, I would hear my elders speaking in awe of this unconventional, maverick lady missionary doctor, Dr Gearing, who had nine children, and worked in Obstetrics at St Mary’s Hospital.
Our paths crossed briefly in 1987 when, as a medical student, I did a short elective at St Mary’s Hospital. By this stage, Gloria was already well entrenched in a threefold portfolio career: as a part-time medical officer, covering the hospital’s maternity department; an educator involved in the training of midwives at the hospital’s nursing college; and a Jungian therapist in part-time private practice.
In 1994, I started working as a medical officer at St Mary’s, and in 1995 I took over as superintendent from Dr John Brouckaert, Gloria’s husband.
Between 1995 and 1999, the year in which Brouckaert died, I did not get to know Gearing that well, beyond relying on her vast experience and technical expertise in obstetrics, as she was still conducting daily ward rounds in the hospital’s maternity wards.
I do, however, remember a Friday evening doctors’ braai at the side of the hospital pool, when I got my first inkling of how acute a judge of character she was.
Brouckaert and I were talking about reading, a passion which we both shared, when he asked me what genre I read for fun or for escape? Before I could answer, Gearing chipped in with the correct answer. At the time, admittedly with a few beers under my belt, I thought she was psychic.
In the year or so before Brouckaert’s death, I remember two occasions when he spoke to me about Gearing.
On the first occasion, in the midst of a discussion about book-knowledge versus intelligence, Brouckaert told me that, while he had read extensively and had vast book-knowledge, when it came to raw intelligence, as far as he was concerned, Gearing was more intelligent than him.
On the second occasion, in a discussion about faith, Brouckaert, noted that Gearing’s faith, because of her underlying personality and because her work in psychological counselling was complex and multifaceted. He said Gearing was able to see the world in all its different shades of grey, while he tended to see things in black and white.
These insights from someone who was arguably best positioned to know Gearing, became more meaningful to me in the years following Brouckaert’s death, when I began to work very closely with Gearing, whom I came to know as “Gloria”.
By now, Gloria had relinquished her work in obstetrics at the hospital and, in response to a request from the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood, had stepped into a governance role at St Mary’s.
At a time when most people in their late seventies would be contemplating taking it easy, Gloria assumed the position of chairperson of St Mary’s Catholic Mission Hospital Trust and a fellow director of St Mary’s Hospital Nursing College.
Gloria, who was very self-aware, would have been the first to tell you, as she told me on a number of occasions, that she was never fully comfortable with these governance roles, as she felt she lacked the management and governance expertise to do full justice to them.
However, whatever Gloria may have lacked in these technical arenas, she more than made up for in her commitment and loyalty to the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood, to St Mary’s Hospital, its staff and, ultimately, to those whom Gloria always insisted we should never lose sight of – the patients and the communities the hospital serves.
Gloria’s institutional memory regarding the hospital, the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood, the Mariannhill Mission Complex as a whole and the surrounding communities, together with her clinical expertise and her deep understanding of the human condition, proved an invaluable asset to St Mary’s during her time on the board.
As the chief executive of the hospital, which is what my title now was, I was answerable to the board and especially to its chairperson. I cannot pinpoint exactly when it happened, but in the years following Brouckaert’s death, Gloria went from being a senior medical colleague, to my boss, to a trusted adviser and confidant and, ultimately, a wise elderly friend. We interacted very closely over many years, as St Mary’s faced, weathered and overcome many storms, until the hospital ultimately hit a financial wall in early 2014.
On many an occasion, after a particularly torrid day at the hospital, I would phone her and ask if I could pop over to her house for a chat, before I headed home. When I walked over, the coffee would be brewing, or already in the Bodum cafetière, and the biscuits ready.
She was always available to act as a sounding-board, listen deeply, ask incisive questions, leaving one in a better position to figure out one’s own way forward.
Gloria studied Jungian psychotherapy in London in 1971 and meditation and mindfulness in Japan in the late 1970s. She used a Jungian foundation for her own approach to psychotherapy.
Gloria became a therapist relatively late in life and continued practising until she was nearly 90 years old. In this time she became the therapist’s therapist, or the psychological counsellor to other psychologists, and to those in the caring professions. She counselled individuals and facilitated many groups over the years. She had a particular affinity for dream-work. She was an exceptional guide in helping her patients decipher their dreams. Gloria virtually single-handedly kept Jungian psychotherapy alive in KwaZulu-Natal for over half a century.
The three short inputs which follow about Gloria, in her role as a therapist, come from people who were actually in therapy with her:
One of her patients, James Reader, himself a psychologist, spoke to me a few days ago about his experience of Gloria. He said he first met her as the main speaker at a Jung society function. She was often asked to speak there, and she had an encyclopaedic knowledge of Jung’s theory and works. Reader said he then joined a dream group for a year, followed by one-on-one therapy with Gloria. He was struck by two qualities. First, her extraordinary ability to take a single obscure dream fragment, clarify it, link it to a much deeper theme in the client’s life, and then follow it patiently over time as it evolved. And second, he was struck by her authentic and often humorous ability to speak about the good, the bad and the ugly. Somehow the ugly felt more attractive and engaging after it was discussed with Gloria.
Another patient of Gloria’s shared the following with me – and I quote: “Therapy sessions with Gloria spanned 10 years of my life and she was a constant and consistent mentor and teacher through many life stages. While Gloria’s life and her accomplishments were extraordinary, she was so extraordinarily human that she helped me to be human too. My experience of Gloria was that she wouldn’t like it if I were to sing her praises and idealise her. But her gifts to me were: her unfailing availability, patiently and tirelessly seeing me through many life crises and helping me through my anxiety and panic.
“The only words that I would wish her to hear now, if she can, is a deep, profound, heartfelt, honouring, ‘Thank you’.”
A third patient, who is a therapist, and who for years was in one of Gloria’s many lively dream groups, indicated in her own words: “Gloria was an iconoclast, as well as a mentor and inspiration to her patients. While most therapists had consulting rooms, Gloria had her lounge; tea, coffee and biscuits instead of water – and her stories – and could Gloria tell stories.”
Her patients were often astounded at what she remembered, and her gift of being able to select with uncanny intuition the one you needed to hear – to bring light when everything seemed dark and impossible, jolt you out of complacency, challenge distorted assumptions and unhelpful behaviours and attitudes.
Gloria used her stories to turn ordinary chatter into healing and transformative conversations. She encouraged us to be accountable and take responsibility for our lives – and would point out when we were fooling ourselves. She understood the reasons for our wounds and struggles which lay in our history, genes or early relationships, but avoided blame or easy simplifications. Hers was not the molly-coddling or motherly kind of therapist.
With Gloria, the journey was gritty and real and sometimes deeply uncomfortable – but always helpful, always transformative, always guided by her steely moral compass, her great empathy and clear-seeing.
I think the goal of living a responsible, full, reflective, aware, meaningful and authentic life – (which she herself exemplified) – was too important to Gloria to indulge self-pity, moral laziness, or blindness. Gloria had the courage to hold a mirror up – no matter how hard it was, for us to look.
She also saw what was brave and true in us. She never gave up on us – and it felt like she trusted something precious in the human spirit – and helped us find and see it.
In 2014, I parted ways with St Mary’s Hospital, and Gloria stepped down as chairperson of the board of trustees of St Mary’s Catholic Mission Hospital Trust and as a director of St Mary’s Hospital Nursing College. Age was taking its toll on Gloria physically by this stage, although she was still amazingly sharp and active for someone in her late eighties.
Gloria stayed on in her beloved family home at St Mary’s Hospital until her increasing frailty forced her to relocate to Nazareth House in August 2016. She became ill a few weeks ago and her condition deteriorated rapidly thereafter.
Gloria’s professional legacy is immense. There are thousands of babies who made it safely into the world because of her, plus the mothers who survived childbirth because she attended to them. She was a giant in the field of practical obstetrics, and generations of mothers and babies bear testament to this.
Gloria and her husband were, for me, the quintessential missionary doctors who basically gave their whole lives to their health care mission, in this case their work at St Mary’s Hospital, Mariannhill.
Gloria managed to seamlessly integrate her strong Catholic faith into a busy professional career, bearing witness to a life of faith in action.