Psychedelic Furs

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.



EMDR / Palimpsest

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.

Active Resentment

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.

How and What

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.

Creepy Rationalism: The New Sophists

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.


Disconnection: Clare Denis & Taryn Simon

I’m noticing a terrible disconnection between some of the things I am reading, visiting, watching and observing, and us, readers, viewers, watchers, and observers. What is it? Is this in me, as it must be, and only in me? Or is this in the world? I believe it is also in the world. I am thinking in particular of Clare Denis’ Let The Sunshine In and Taryn Simon’s An Occupation of Loss.

I watched Claire Denis’ new film, Let The Sunshine In, and found it as dark and as terrifying as her last film, Bastards. Bastards was a brilliant film, although I would have found it unwatchable if I hadn’t seen it on my own in the afternoon, in the middle of summer. There was enough written about it before I saw it for me to decide how I saw it. But Let The Sunshine In? I watched twenty five minutes before I had to end it. I wasn’t prepared for it. More about men and their capacity to trash, to ruin, to abuse life and how some people un-knowingly invite that darkness in. Perhaps there was sunshine to come, but I wasn’t going to wait while the atmosphere felt apocalyptic.

I went to see An Occupation of Loss by Taryn Simon and came away chilled, wondering how much the professional mourners were being paid, hopefully as much as any actor on a London stage. While I was there I was as much affected by the attendants and their cold professionalism, their lack of respect for anybody (mine, or of anybody I came with, or of anybody else, the body of this show) in a way that seemed as horribly professional as any other kind of hack entertainer, because they were (although it seemed to have been forgotten) part of the show. An Occupation of Loss was a show about money, and death is always also about money, isn’t it? I was told, in what I read beforehand, nothing about this.

Neither Denis nor Simon were served well by their critics. Writers, critics, seem to have lost the sense that what they are describing exists, for real, real texts in the world, as things, bodies of a particular kind, that carry the intentions of their creators and participants: all of them.

The ideas I read in reviews are like a drama in themselves. Who knows what kind of a reading will connect me to the thing they try to describe?

#International Women’s Day

Q: How many men does it take to change a situation?

A: What situation?

How many men publicly say anything in support of women or the situation we continue to live in where women … (fill in the ellipses however you want: there are so many absurdly negative, infuriating choices)? Is it because the kind of men who’d say something have themselves ended up isolated or silenced? Or is that we don’t really care enough. I think it’s mainly the latter.

Most men don’t know how to care and a lot of men just don’t care.

Men: do something. Do something with yourselves, learn how to properly give a f*** and the rest will follow.

Associative Therapy: Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy & EMDR

I was trying to describe the way that I work to someone – reluctantly, I have to say. The best psychotherapy seems to be spontaneous, guided by everything I’ve taken in before that point, perhaps similar to how I’d steer a ship in different kinds of weather. You wouldn’t want to go looking for the manual.

‘Associative therapy’ came to me as a way of suggesting what I do, and in the end I have to give other people a good idea of that. So … here are five ways of thinking about what I do:

  1. I’m a trained psychoanalytic psychotherapist and a fully qualified EMDR therapist. Associative therapy involves psychoanalytically induced EMDR.
  2. I am very interested in Derrida’s deconstruction, and my understanding of it comes less from books by other people about his work than from reading his work and being very close to people who worked with him. This gives me a particular, rather unscholarly, appreciation of his work. I’d say I have had more of a Derrida experience, than an education, and from that I have realised:
    • There is no simple presence. ‘I am’ never happens in the way I was taught. My life is complicated by things like ghosts: ones from the past 1 of the kind Freud described in terms of transference; and ones from other places 2.
    • Differentiating myself from what is not me leads to many of the things psychoanalysis has a theory about, for example displacement and repression, but always in a way that problematises relationship without often suggesting how one person might get along with another. Deconstruction has a lot to say about love, friendship and understanding.
  3. I came to working as a psychotherapist out of my experiences in writing, as a writer and a reader, and of working in various kinds of groups at Art Colleges and other creative places. Thinking about what happens to us in groups that doesn’t elsewhere, and whether groups really exist or whether we are all individuals always connecting and disconnecting from  different levels of experiencing others 3 forms the basis of a large part of my work with my clients.
  4. Given all of the above I hope it’s easier to appreciate why I consider association so important. Freud wrote about free-association and his ‘fundamental rule‘ guides all psychoanalytic work. EMDR establishes chains of association by desensitising traumatic memories. Dissociation occurs in many different forms: from ‘zoning out’ or ‘forgetting’ to losing touch with basic needs, a sense of reality, a sense of power, or a broad understanding of consequences (good and bad). It’s the way our bodies deal with overwhelming emotional moments. Psychoanalytically informed EMDR can include different kinds of conscious experience (experiences of transference, for example).
  5. Privileging speech, as ‘talk therapies’ generally do, can be misleading. Noticing things, similarly to the way in which I might read something, can be more important. EMDR suggests a number of different ways in which things might be noticed, or registered. Psychotherapy really needs to be about differentiation, distinction and unentangling. The ‘loosening’ suggest by the word ‘analysis’, if we look at where the word comes from and what it carries with it (the ancient Greek root suggests an ‘unloosening’ or to ‘loosen up’).

We’re all potentially messed up, in other words, and good psychotherapy sorts us out. Something like that. Associative therapy will keep you joined up.