The Top of the Ride
I was thinking about what Freud called The Death Drive after reading a book by Michael Eigen about Psychic Deadness. The last time I went on a roller-coaster I found the most intense moment was when my car reached its highest point, before it started to descend. That was years ago: I’m not one for that kind of thing. I like intensity but I don’t want the illusion I might die.
There’s a point you can push any kind of pleasure to, and your desire may try to lead you further, to have more of it, to have too much. That’s when the fun combusts, though. That’s when relationship ends, trouble begins, the machine catches fire … when the hunt for pleasure slips whatever might contain it and catastrophe beckons. Deadness lies ahead, ever pressing. Life doesn’t have the kind of rails and brakes a rollercoaster does if you take it beyond a certain point.
It’s all about love, I suppose. You need to be able to get angry to stop that descent. You need love and anger if you want to have intensity.
EMDR and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy
I thought I might share this: an abstract for a paper at an EMDR conference. It’s a bit glib but I think it says something about how I work, and why.
As EMDR becomes more popular and its application becomes more diverse practitioners may find it helpful to consider some of the ways psychoanalytic therapists have explored therapeutic relationships. Freud’s work with trauma in the 1890s, enthused by his interest in mesmerism, in some ways bore a closer relationship to contemporary EMDR practice than to contemporary psychoanalytic psychotherapy. The metapsychology he developed, although at first-sight complex and sometimes arcane, offers EMDR practitioners a wealth of ways of thinking about their work without departing from the usual protocols.
Perhaps one of Freud’s most interesting discoveries was that the ways therapists think about their work inevitably affects the therapeutic relationship. From cognitive interweaves to decisions about treatment planning, the timing of interventions, the depth of preparation required and how a client should be oriented post-treatment, a psychoanalytic attitude can expand awareness and foster confidence. Freud wrote about ‘wild psychoanalysis’: psychoanalytically informed interventions by doctors, nurses and others who may not have been trained in the full psychoanalytic method.
I will explore the implications of EMDR with a psychoanalytic attitude and look closely at three distinct ways of drawing on psychoanalysis: a form of history taking based on free association which I have found extremely helpful; EMDR as applied to dreams; and considering how our interventions may sometimes be less rational than we imagine.
The Rhythm Section
I tend to do some things very predictably, very regularly, and in some ways constantly. When I was learning music, when I was very young, I realised what happened as soon as I played in a band or an orchestra and there was a rhythm section: I didn’t feel alone, which was annoying sometimes but generally very comforting; I could relax and play more freely, sometimes on my own and sometimes with others, and with a solid beat I could be more daring in what I played. There was a great sense of togetherness and I understood that there could be mystery and magic without secrets. Things could be communicated without me saying anything. All I had to do was listen, and to feel it.
And I remember a gig somewhere and listening to Simon Gallup’s bass line to ‘A forest’ and hearing Robert Smith improvise, and make noises on his guitar and with his voice that were very much more than what I could listen to on a record.
Or Miles Davis playing with Michael Henderson, but I never saw that.
Or Chopin’s left hand. I certainly never saw that.
There’s a run of bass notes in Mozart’s piano concerto No. 23, in the second movement, which you can’t actually hear on some recordings, or with some speakers.
I can’t do my life without its rhythms, and most of what I do seems to involve realising what these are, or that they can change. It isn’t addiction, it’s the kind of dependency that the tides have.
It’s been a long and complicated summer. I gave a paper at the Guild summer conference last week which seemed to sum most of it up; and now I am in private practice, in London, and realising this is very much where I want to be. I shall try to get back to writing something each week.
My ear hurts – my left one. Fortunately a giant man in leather, with a beard came, and stood between me and the speaker stack when S and I went to see the Psychedelic Furs last night. The last time I got that close to a band I had hair (how come the men in the bands I like seem to still have theirs? Mr Smith, Mr Butler, is it real?); and the last time, what, it may have been The Cure. I can’t remember.
Whoever it was, I didn’t enjoy it as much. We were all so young and awkward, and that was beautiful: but it had terrifying edges that many of us didn’t seem to want to go beyond, or didn’t know how, or thought that we couldn’t, or maybe we wanted time to stop still. It all felt for real, never a rehearsal for a life behind a desk, or whatever it was we felt we never wanted to get into.
It wasn’t just dressing up, it was a start outside of something I know my parents, many of the people I knew, felt I should be inside. What was that? A bubble of an idea of security that burst for me when I was very young. I realised, when I saw Richard Butler smiling last night, and I couldn’t stop myself doing the same, that my cynicism’s finally departed.
We’re here, those of us still standing and coherent. Psychedelic Furs, you were truly amazing. Here’s a clip from last year, which looks as if it was almost the same …
I used to run a workshop: Harnessing Your Anger. I think it was helpful to those who took part. If I did it again I’d call it Unhappiness and I think we’d get to the same places but perhaps less self-consciously.
I find it so important to recognise here and now dynamics in relation to the dynamics of traumatic situations my clients describe. Often a client will notice their relationship to power in the present more distinctly after experiencing something of how their agency was affected by a key event in the past and whatever lay either side of that event, historically. As Freud described, a conscious awareness of these kinds of relational dynamics, phenomena that a psychoanalytic psychotherapist might talk about as the transference, within what Nicolas Abraham wrote about as the ‘dynamism of intersubjective functioning’, can be transformational.
Resentment brings us back to incidents that we believe were unjust, so that justice may prevail. In other words you can have a lot of angry, repetitive conversations until you and whoever else feel you’ve said what you needed to, done your best, and been heard irrespective of the outcome.
All of the things I have learned how to do will never be any help unless I’ve found a way of understanding what’s going on. First I work out what’s happening, and then I think about how I approach the situation. ‘How do I do this?’ might feel impossible if I haven’t understood what ‘this’ is: this moment, this situation, this problem, as distinct from all of the others I have encountered. There will always be more that’s distinct than it first appears.
The creepy rationalism of many psychotherapists, or therapists as they often call themselves, continues to disturb me. They’re like newsreaders: a strange sense of authority (absurd in any other context) that sounds so rational. What they are saying is usually built on a very thin but compelling layer of understanding, like someone who’s been to the moon and can describe what the earth looks like from the stars … but I wouldn’t trust an astronaut to tell me about life on earth. These New Sophists may sound rational, but endowing someone with reason will have more to do with how I listen than the presence of any intrinsic good sense.
Rational means endowed with reason. Logical means reasoning correctly. We can argue over what’s correct, but there’s no arguing with sophistry. Sophistry’s a drug that demands withdrawal and one of the best ways to do that is to listen for logic and then ask questions.