Deny It

Fortunately the first thing I read in the Observer this morning was Jarvis Cocker remembering an episode of the old Batman TV series where The Penguin runs for mayor of Gotham City. He points out how horribly similar the fat bird’s schtick is to the Presumptive Nominee’s. It was only when I glanced at The Observer’s sports section, and having tossed it onto the floor picked up the magazine, which I then also tossed onto the floor, that I wished I’d never bought the newspaper in the first place.
     How can a campaign like Trump’s fail when as far away as this side of the Atlantic an allegedly thoughtful newspaper prints a sports section without a woman on its front page, and a magazine with just one woman on the cover:  a Victoria’s Secret model?
     Something’s happening all over again, and it’s happening all over. All of those column inches of ink spilled out in the liberal press over the last fifty years and was it ever a form of denial, a kind of word-wrap trying to contain a feast of unthinkable wishes? Boys still wanted to be Boys, and wanting girls.
    Things have changed but in ways that seem to channel a past that couldn’t happen. Society was too structured, too policed. There was even a Wall, the Berlin Wall, like the one Trump says he’ll build now; and thank God it was smashed down – but now what?
Whatever now is has emerged … what are we going to do with it? Can we be honest and try to notice how little has changed?  If I sit in a cinema watching ads before a film I feel as if I’m in a dream of the 1970s (I grew up in the 1970s; I didn’t imagine them, did I?). This morning I open a newspaper and see men playing with themselves in the sports section and a magazine selling itself on the strength of an attractive woman whose job is to sell lingerie. This is the past in a weaselly, half-hidden way. The Observer and Trump, they appeal in different ways to a lowest common denominator. We need a different kind of debate and I wonder where I’m going to look.

 

Do You feel Lucky?

I gave a talk yesterday and listened to one by a psychologist – an engaging one, but one who still left me with most of the questions I end up carrying after listening to a psychologist. There are two that tend to recur.
      First of all, although she took pains to explain what she saw as the events which had inspired here work (her family history, her personal relationship to the subject she was discussing) I found myself wondering what her enthusiasm left her impatient of, or intolerant of, and why her passionate perspective felt more like an advertisement for looking on the bright side than an exploration of the unknown. Continue reading “Do You feel Lucky?”

Dreams of 2016

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”

Emergency Inertia

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”

Touch

I was talking to someone about having to complete a form. It was the first one I’d filled in by hand for some time, and returned to someone who checked it, who looked at whether I was eligible for something, who sent it back to me with a request to fill in another form, which I then returned, signed, so it could be passed to another person, to sign and stamp and return it to me, so I could post it off to its final destination, an organisation I needed to join. The first form arrived in a manilla envelope. My address was written in small, spidery letters slightly offset from where I’d normally expect to see my name and address on an envelope. As soon as I saw the envelope I wondered … what was it about the process I was getting into that started with such a trace of humanity. I could almost sense a pulse. Continue reading “Touch”

The Truth Isn’t Out There

IMG_1064

I used to enjoy watching the X-Files. Perceptive cynics might draw a link I’d find hard to dismiss between my early attempts at being a psychotherapist and writer and Fox Mulder’s approach to life … (and there’s so much an ellipsis can contain). Whatever. One thing I can say with certainty is that the truth really isn’t ‘out there’. It’s always close at hand, a hair’s breadth away. Whatever gets between it and the world can, however, take  long time to understand. If you’re talking to me and you’re lying, or if you believe you’re saying something truthful and then change your mind, or if you think back and realise you said something truthful and that still seems to be the case don’t expect me to know the difference in that: your information. I will, however, hopefully come to know a difference in you. That’s what we can talk about. The truth is your responsibility. My connection to it is what I think and feel. But you know, only sometimes, perhaps, not quite yet.

The Voice of Reason

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”

Secrets

Perhaps you like keeping things to yourself. It may be that you feel life will spin out of control if you talk about it too much, or that you might jinx it, spoil it or take the fun out of it. Sometimes these things can be true but be careful about holding onto secrets. If people around you detect something about you is unknowable they’ll find it very hard to trust you.  Relationships need trust if they’re to offer us the things we hope they can contain.

Shifting

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”