A Memoir of the Future

Today this begins:

‘Wilfred Bion will deliver a paper on the effects of our aggressive tendencies, dreams as resistance to overwhelming odds, and dreams as a source of the future.

‘Reports of Mr Bion’s death have in fact been premature. He has been alive and living well, very well, for the last few decades, contemplating a virus analogous to a computer virus which would infect oil (Dreams, he says, are the new oil). His preoccupation with intense darkness has led him to follow with trepidation the fate of the Labour Party, the popularity of Donald Trump and falling sales of the iPhone (the newsworthiness of which signifies, as much as anything else, a crashing lack of reverie).

‘Reverie. I shall pick up on this in the future as much as anything else.

‘Reverie. We don’t dream the same and when we do dream our dreams are not taken seriously. Even a dream book (my father’s was one of the few things he left to me) would do better than the National Curriculum, Internships and what I hear about best practice in psychotherapy. All of the institutions, people, places I look to to help dreams become thoughts, become actions, become something in the world … what are they? Distracted? Disinterested? I think about schools and I don’t even get the teacher from The Wall, more a hazy picture of rows of women and men standing in front of children with an iPhone in their hand. Distracted. Texting without realising they are in the middle of children’s dreams and their job is to help carry dreams forward.

‘Teachers, bosses, psychotherapists need to be Dream Positive. There is an aggressive attempt underway to take away the night, to have us never ending working, or unable to sleep in our anxiety, to stop dreams happening, and for anyone who dreams to be left on their own with their dreams … to ensure nobody is there to hold dreams together with reality, so it all goes mad.

‘Mr Bion will present his paper in the future.

‘Mr Bion reports that dreams are taken seriously as a serious threat to the future. He notes certain repetitions in this piece with interest (for example in seriously and serious in the previous sentence) and wonders what that’s about).

Freezing: People Who Survive Like Matadors

It’s one of the privileges of my middle age, to be able to think about things in ways that once upon a time would have possibly driven me crazy, or into one vice or another. It did feel like that: vices, things that clamped onto me – rather more than anything that would shock someone. I couldn’t move. I somehow froze.
        Probably that’s something to do with fear. Fear freezes some of us; and it freezes in different ways. I was always able to think like crazy while I was stuck to the spot, clamped down, and a lot of good came out of that. I couldn’t have run if I tried. At other times I seemed to wipe myself out: erased myself (you can call it dissociation). A lot of good came out of that, too.
        If your way of avoiding danger keeps you somehow almost standing still in life (even if you’re not entirely there) so you don’t escape through flight and find yourself dislocated, lost, or you don’t resort to fight and smash it all up, perhaps you can keep going without accumulating the losses some people experience. There’s always damage to the people, the real world, around you, but if you avoid the worst extremes of narcissism, as freezers survive like matadors, and some of us get carried away with that, and you don’t in the end get gored, there’s a chance you’ll have a life to look back on where one thing more clearly leads to another. Maybe there’s more to do to make amends but less to reconcile.
        Freezers stay close to life and death, as close as you can imagine. Once you learn how to thaw, or not to freeze, at least most of the time, it’s really rather wonderful.

On a Train to Exeter

At Paddington it was far too hot to be alive, and I wasn’t quite sure if that were a good thing or a bad thing, only that if I had been a bear I would have died … and, worse than that thought, how can you have Paddington without hats and coats and cocoa? Hotter still. I was virtually delirious, a state I’ve reached on a  number of occasions without any help from the sun (apart from once in Italy, near Naples, after an afternoon in the sea).
        So now I am travelling at high speed to Exeter as the sun sets, the train empties and it begins to dawn on me how much of a bad time I had when I lived in the southwest. Mostly my own fault, I admit; but I’d thought I’d left most of that rather further behind me than I can now see I may not have. Have I? Or I wouldn’t feel myself  hurtling into it: the southwest. Are we (because I have now co-opted you, reader, as a companion while the sun goes down and the shadows encroach on the window of my soul) heading into something bad?
        Are we? Even as I write that, and perhaps this is because I am now having a different kind of journey, one more observed, I feel the future (and only tomorrow, really, if I think carefully about it) dissolve into stupid paint, streaks and dust as it dries and powders. I knew it. I knew I’d get to dust because I’ve been reading Bowen again and an account of Oxford Street, freshly bombed close by where she lived, and the scent of charred dust hanging in the air. Good for her, Elizabeth Bowen, saving my skin again.
        It won’t be anything like that in Exeter, but my time in the southwest was a bombshell. No, it’s gone. Just a whisper of it and a faint whiff of something sour, someone I knew.
        I’m extremely lucky now. Very lucky indeed.

Stop it (The Labour Party)

Labour Party MPs: it would be possible for everything happening within the Labour party to occur without destroying your party’s credibility and abandoning Britain to your far better organised, rather more at ease with themselves, political foes.
        Jeremy Corbyn, tomorrow morning get on a box on the corner of a street and shout yourself speechless about the things you say you believe in.  Angela Eagle, make a defiant nest at the top of Nelson’s column and dive down all day on the things you find aberrant. Owen Smith … you look like  the verger from Dad’s Army and seem to have begun behaving like him.
        Stop it.
        Once you’ve each done all of this, which is what you were elected to do, and what you are paid to do, go and pull each other to pieces in private. Or check in at Charter and we’ll sort you out.

The Skin’s Off

I wish I could ask you all for your dreams. So many of my clients have told me that their dreams have been wild, weird, and extraordinary these last few weeks. I wonder, even for the most disengaged amongst us, what the effect of the political skin around us unpeeling has been? In some places politicians change like traffic lights, but in the UK there’s (so I’m told) a legacy of stability: a cultivated, thick-skinned indifference that belies anger and fear.
        The skin’s off, I think.
        We are living through the politics of the anthropocene. Tides are rising, winds blowing harder, the sun shines only as it can during these times of disintegration.  There isn’t a political solution to this kind of chaos, and there can’t be any kind of a solution while the problem isn’t being properly named.
        Groups of people tend to behave in ways that reveal what’s being pushed down or hidden from view. Just as an ugly family secret becomes known through peculiar, horrible family behaviour all of this chaos in Westminster points to something that isn’t being said. Maybe the country’s biggest problem is ungovernable, and that’s what we’re seeing. I write all of this on the good authority of a dream.