I’m a psychotherapist who writes. I’m a lot of other things, too, but I don’t think I’d ever call myself a writer. That feels cut off. I find what happens when I start to write interesting: either I start making things up or I begin looking at how things are made up … like writing and reading, perhaps.
I was talking to someone last week who said she couldn’t write at the moment, but who loves writing. Are you reading? I asked her – yes, she was reading, voraciously. So it’s happening, I suggested, just not yet. Maybe reading’s like dreaming while the writing animal’s asleep. And then it wakes up, the reading stops. I do find it hard to read a lot when I’m really attached to something I’m writing.
But I’m digressing. I’m going to write seven micromanifestos: little explorations of the unknown, the uncertain and the difficult, one a day for a week. I’ve a feeling this comes out of reading William Shatner’s book about him and Leonard Nimoy (the original Kirk and Spock from Star Trek), re-feeling a feeling of wanting to boldly go somewhere that sat well with me when I was a child and probably had more to do with my becoming a psychotherapist than anything else.
Which makes me think: it’s Mother’s Day and I want to give a thought to my mother, a strange, wonderful kind of explorer: an extraordinary person who climbed mountains and cycled round the country without, until she was old, ever actually leaving it. I’m glad I’ve managed to understand her limits as I’ve grown older, and to see how much she gave me. We used to watch Star Trek together.
This micromanifesto is about closeness, then; about how to try and let it happen. I prefer ‘closeness’ to ‘intimacy’ for all kinds of reasons, but perhaps mostly because it reminds me how close I can feel to somebody even when she’s no longer here.
- Stick to the surface. Don’t try to go deep.
It’s like reading a book: remain faithful to every word or you’ll begin making things up that are more about the book you’d write than the one somebody else has.
- Spend time noticing only small things, peripheral things, and the things that don’t make sense.
- Don’t interrupt. Let things come to you.
- Don’t assume you know more than the other person.
Allow things to make sense, don’t force them.
- Remember who you are.
- Stay open.
It’s easy, for example, to confuse feeling sad with feeling guilty or ashamed. When I’m sad I’m often still open to other people. When I feel guilty or ashamed I can feel closed off or preoccupied, or can want to stop someone being angry with me … or hurt. I might stop doing things 1-5.
- Happiness tends to happen, so be ready for it.
Turn your phone off when you’re with someone you love. Shut the door to your work when you’re not at work. Or, if you don’t, accept the difference it makes, don’t deny it.
I watched Peter Ibbetson on New Year’s Eve. I can’t think of many more romantic films to watch with someone you love; and to leave you feeling you’ve been given something special without actually taking. I was so grateful: we need less on the outside and more on the inside (a film … a whole world, and in this film a world of love-dreams). But this won’t make sense unless I set the scene a little.
For one reason or another, as 2015 ground its time out, various things about the job I do, a psychotherapist, had started to grate with me even more than usual. The organisations I belong to (BACP, UKCP) seemed more destructively irrelevant than ever. Seeing their bland, glossy magazines land on my doormat felt as if I’d been given a speeding ticket. And the theory. The stuff that some psychotherapists cling onto like DeForrest Kelley, the original Star Trek’s Dr McCoy, held onto his scanner-thing that took readings (‘It’s life Jim, but not as we know it’) … oh God, the theory. Continue reading “Dreams of 2016”
My anxiety is an experience of my absence. The less I am able to assert myself in life the more often I will find myself wishing I had. Anxiety is the experience of forthcoming resentment, of feeling trapped, becoming bored. Anxiety comes from the same place as anger, but as its ghost. Kill off, lose touch with or disavow your anger and you will feel anxious … and anger is there when I disagree. So anxiety arises when I can’t find it in myself, or the opportunity in the world, to disagree. Anxiety is a narrowing of me – a whittling down of me; a meanness. A difficulty. It’s Latin root: angustia. Continue reading “Anxiety”
There’s a part to emerging from a difficult situation that is sometimes overlooked: the inertia that can creep into a life out of a fear of taking risks again. I mean ordinary, everyday gambles over remembering and feeling things. The past can feel too much. Getting closer to someone or something can feel too frightening – and perhaps what makes this most difficult is that the fear I’m referring to is almost impossible to catch hold of. It might simply come upon you like an itch, a sense of wanting to squirm; an instinctive no, or a sense of relief if you move towards it (away from where you might actually need to be: getting to know another person, trying out another way of doing something, or looking back at something you did and realising it wasn’t quite like you’d imagined). Continue reading “Emergency Inertia”
Beware people who appoint themselves as the voice of reason. Reason can be a defence against life as it happens which leads to us not noticing what’s actually going on, whatever the reason for it. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to work out what, perhaps, a course of action means without even touching on what it does, what its effects are and how it leaves people feeling. Why would someone want to be the voice of reason? Continue reading “The Voice of Reason”
Next time you’re feeling anxious, irritated or sad (although it might also do to try and remember this when you’re feeling happy …) notice the way you are sitting, standing or lying. What are you doing in relation to the thing that’s on your mind? If you shift yourself at all, maybe uncrossing your legs or moving your arms, what happens? It may feel unpleasant, in which case go back to how you were! Continue reading “Shifting”