The Body, Skyped

I sometimes use online technology when I speak to clients. Something like Skype, I believe, which is secure. But I only use it rarely. It’s similar with the telephone, which I use when I have to.

Screen-based communication and telephone calls offer particular emotional experiences: the odd flatness and disrupted movement of an image of you, or of me, on a screen which somehow seems out of step with your voice that I might even hear more clearly on the telephone; and of course there’s the intensity of the telephone. The intimacy. On the phone I hold you up against me, right up close to my ear, and without the sight of your face I attend to your voice and your breath in a way I never normally would – or could.

The person I speak to on the telephone, or on a screen is never the same person I meet face to face, in the flesh. You meet me, and I meet you mediated by many things, not only what happens in us after we notice each other. On the telephone, on a screen, you and I meet something more of a ghost, much of what I’d say is ‘really you’, and vice versa, apparently lost when I meet you partially reassembled, digitally, at a distance.

When you were a child did you ever speak to someone down a plastic cup telephone, or one made out of cans, connected by string you and your correspondent pulled tight?

All of the time we engage with experiences of people that defy what we understand when someone says: I’m here. None of us ever really knows entirely what’s ‘here’. There is no ‘entirely’, of course, apart from in what I would wish to circumscribe. There is only that I believe you are in front of me, with your undetectable memories, fantasies, and residues of dreams I shall never know; all of the thoughts and feelings you cannot put into words and which are lost to me apart from in whatever I detect when you experience them: maybe the way that you breathe, or your eyelid flickers.

And of course there’s all that happens when you out there become you in me: what happens when I perceive someone. I was recently reminded of this at a screening of a film I particularly loved, only to find the person who had watched it with me hated it: a film happens in me. It was as if we’d been watching different films.

There’s a strange conflict in psychotherapy. As we continue to recognise the importance of working with the whole body, that speech is only one aspect of a relationship, therapists seem to be developing more and more ways of having relationships that are less physical.

Are we making relationships possible for clients who would normally remain isolated and disconnected, or are we creating very particular forms of relationships, the particularities of which we fail to recognise; or even impossible relationships, where virtual contact becomes counter-productive, or limiting, restricting a client from finding ‘real’ contact in the world close to them?



Boredom’s a feeling of not being able to stay with something, and it usually feels like a choice. When I’m bored I can’t feel connected. I feel isolated. Bored to death means extinction: probably, originally, a fear of my own extinction because nobody had managed to convince me that disconnection, isolation wouldn’t destroy me.

Something in Me

While I was writing that last post on Dusty Springfield I remembered something I sometimes say to my clients. If you go to see a film, where’s it happening? Some people get straight into this, others remain a little baffled. Thinking about the question clearly and sometimes slowly enough to get to an answer is an exercise in itself – you wade through assumptions, things you haven’t considered, and whatever feels intuitively right or wrong. Then you get to a thought: it’s happening in you. If I watch a film, it’s happening in me. That’s why we can see different things in the same film: whatever I go to watch is seen in the company of me and my whole life, all my thoughts, feelings and unknowns. There’s the rubble of my unconscious and the summit of my achievements.  Something that happens may take place outside me – but it happens in me. Something that goes on, that’s something in me.

Dusty Springfield

I was listening to Spooky by Dusty Springfield the other day.

I’m not particularly interested in her music as a thing in itself, but as part of some kind of great, global soundscape she’s played her part the whole of my life. There’s an experience, a worldliness that lets me tale her seriously enough to let her in to whatever I’m doing when I come across one of her songs playing. There have always been singers like her, and singers who aren’t like her: ones who perform, but when they do it feels as if they’ve left their soul in a drawer somewhere. These singers sing ‘about’ things … they don’t just ‘sing’ something. I listen to Dusty Springfield sing ‘Spooky’ and something happens to me. She isn’t singing about anything, although you could talk about hers song and what it’s about if you want to; she’s singing something that’s in the words, the music and eventually in me.

I don’t know anything about Dusty Springfield. I don’t own any of her music. She’s a voice I hear on the radio sometimes and I always find myself listening.

I know that she died, but she feels alive.

Most of what I hear on the radio now sounds as if the station’s still broadcasting and and everybody’s dead. The world’s ended and the band keeps playing, worse than the Titanic; but at least that seems to have been consoling.  When I hear singers like Dusty Springfield I feel in touch with something living. When I listen to a lot of radio I feel a part of myself die.


Giacometti, Fear and Hatred

I went to see the Giacometti show at the Tate yesterday and found all the fear of the world in most of the things he made. I recognised, in my own unease as I walked through the gallery, the soul-substance of TV and the Internet. The many special forms of fear that drive viewers or users: jealousy, envy, competitiveness, loneliness and misogyny, each with their awful textures, like kinds of intention I could almost separate into different painful, hateful senses of space, time, distance and intensity.  I saw the actual forms of television sets and computers in his sculptures. There were also his tiny figures, framed so much like we are these days, in no broader context than a screen, and sometimes a very small screen. Not the Silver Screen but the greasy, smudged thing on a phone. I’m glad I didn’t go on my own.


It’s curious, but Theresa May appears to enjoy being disliked. I can’t see how she could do a better job than she is of making herself not so much unpopular, as unlikeable. Perhaps she feels more comfortable being ‘difficult’ and prefers to deal with that than the horror, to her at least, of being loved.