Wednesday, 23 February 2011


In the last of a series of therapy postings, I have chosen to write about endings.

Every therapeutic relationship needs to end at some point, though the ending itself can be difficult. If the issues brought to therapy were those of loss and abandonment, then they are likely to resurface as the final sessions draw closer. In fact, endings can generate trauma irrespective of the issues that have surfaced during the sessions. We are talking about a deeply emotional human relationship where the two people involved are about to part company and, quite possibly, never see each other again.

I have decided to focus on the very last session of the therapeutic relationship, when both the therapist and therapee are faced with that final ‘goodbye’. As opposed to using dialogue, I have crept into the minds of both players & created a dreamlike sequence, drifting in and out of their unconscious thoughts. Once again, my imaginary therapee, Riadne, has kindly agreed to join me in my rhapsody on the final hour.

Finally, it is probably worth mentioning that I have created a ‘good’ ending, where the therapeutic relationship has been productive and the ending positive. In the real world this is not always the case. Sometimes, for some people and for a multitude of reasons, therapy just does not work out.

‘Let it be so,’ I said
And my heart laughed with joy
To know the death I must die
Kathleen Raine

R 'Will you miss me, I wonder?' (tearbirth)

P 'I will miss you … you who landed here a distance ago, tumbling down from the heavens … crashing, crumpled, broken, empty. Here – this smile has lived in my soul since you arrived … it’s yours now. Please take it … for always (you can never lose smiles once you have accepted them).'

Twilight: umbra shades, lifting through a bruiseglow of fireflies and owl-light. I reach a clearing and a smouldering of embers where a fire has burned all day. Riadne is there, waiting for me. I drift over to join her (she does not feel me … but our breathings rise and fall in harmony).

R ‘You are my therapist. At first, I did not trust you. I thought you were smug. I thought you looked down upon me. Slowly, I began to like you. Eventually, I wanted to be with you … forever. Give you the all of me.

But you rejected me.’


P 'As the weeks, months, passed by your feelings changed towards me. I became your saviour, your lover, your perfect other. And I rejected you.

But oh! How I wished I could have flown with you back to your Eden - those balmy times whole testaments ago of figs and almond petals. What you wouldn’t have given to smell those musty hollows, rub fold of flesh beneath your mummy’s arm and curl into the cradle of her thighs, soft pillow bellywhite and shiny rips of skin cleaved by her amniotic sea.'

R 'You rejected me. I felt the steel of your resolve like soft armour round my body. I looked up and saw the smiles in your eyes. And I was a child again, grasping that bulging breast between my little hands, that swollen bud of nipple spurting sugarmilk: warm lactose pools that puddled in my folded tongue.

I came to know that you were there when you were missing … and though I have to go now … no, I choose to go now … you will always be alive in my soul … and I know that you will miss me.'

The calmness of a beautiful dying descends upon me. I rise, and smell the rich leaves that break quietly beneath my steps. I am on the edge of a still lake. Upwards, a storm threatens and clouds jostle angrily as heaven’s bells begin to peel their tonic sol-fa … clangs that echo in the distant Sundays of my childhood.

P 'When you arrived, staggering with the weight of your emptiness, you stood motionless at the margins of despair. You looked down into a paradise of darkness and only the dimmest of lights swayed and flickered in the howling winds that screamed inside your soul. I danced around you with my arms spread wide (did you ever see me?). You followed me around all day. I even took you home with me. I suffered like any parent might … though I knew my arms, my words, my actions would be snapped like twigs if ever you decided to jump.

Now, you have reached an edgeless place. This place has no limits. It is a feminine space, it is everness and it reaches far, far beyond being. So be nomadic, hitch your wagon to the stars … be free to roam in all the places you have been told never to go. Rip up your roots, be rhizomatic and wander through those pathless woods.’

R 'I am. I exist. And I no longer need the slow rip of a blade to prove my existence. I can be … I do not have to hide in the tall grasses of denial, nor do I have to sail my small boat upon a foggy, feathered ocean. I am enough of me, now, to dance between imagoes and long shadows. I am whole.'

A solitary kingfisher skims greenblue over the lake, heralding the dying of us.

I feel Riadne’s shoulders loosen, sense the strictures breaking open, hear the tumbling of her Jericho as the most beautiful dawn begins to appear: a hazy lemon light that plays so all-at-once over the late spring frost of a fallowed field … there is birdsong, the most wonderful aria that fills the sky with corals and carmines … and then …  twilight breaks, becomes dayspring.

P ‘It is time, Riadne … time for the end of us … for the beginnings of not-us again. Die peacefully … farewell.’

R ‘Farewell, my rock.’ *She watches as I crumble into a million particles. She smiles as she feels the mountain rise inside her chest*


Lunch, coffee … letter: ‘Dear Doctor … Riadne, etc.’ …


5.57 p.m.

Lock cabinet … lock door … down the steps … air shrouded in the after-rain scent of tea roses.

*a sigh: bigger than a planet  … *

Friday, 18 February 2011


When my mobile rang I was surprised to see
your name on the screen. Time hung
like a curved moon as, in just three rings
or four perhaps, a spool of flickered frames
flung remnants of memories round my brain.

Those small steps, tense on your frosted path
and no less braced as I climbed the slow creak
of your shadowed stairs, smelled the hush of sickness
that led me to your room where I found you,
bed-bound and cat-strewn, retching on morsels
and brooking your mother’s fuss.

Yet months later there you stood,
sassy and glorious, sparks fizzing in your eyes
as you sashayed down the corridor
in that reckless orange frock.
How I wanted to touch you, feel the cotton floss
of your queer hair and kiss you slippery shades of pink.

Jangled by your ringing tone I felt the clang
of your sentence toll within the dome of me.
‘Hello,' you said, as if you were ringing
to chat about your holiday in Provence.
But I already knew your treatment had been stopped.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


Having posted previously on the In-betweens of a therapy session, I thought it might be interesting to focus on the very first session between therapist and therapee (‘patient’, ‘client’, ‘service user’, ‘analysand’ all sit very uncomfortably with me, so I have invented my own word that means ‘s/he who has come to seek insight and emotional healing’).

Before the beginning of each and every therapy session I always experienced a degree of anxiety – but when I walked into the therapy room with someone for the first time I would sense a whole rabble of butterflies taking off inside my innards. In the early days, this used to worry me, until I came across these words written by Wilfred Bion:

In every consulting room there ought to be two rather frightened people: the patient and the psycho-analyst. If they are not, one wonders why they are bothering to find out what everyone knows.

Assessment sessions are very different than subsequent sessions, in that there are certain questions that need to be asked in order to compile a history and gather information about the person’s difficulties.  Nevertheless, these sessions still provide opportunities to develop a rapport and, in the interludes between questions, engage with the other at the deepest level.

What follows is an imaginary, first assessment session between Riadne, my imaginary therapee, and myself:

if strangers meet, life begins - e e cummings

I stand as I first encounter the other – I smile. I feel privileged and eager to be with her, yet my smile is a dictionary definition: a facial expression characterised by an upturning of the corners of the mouth, portraying friendliness. I assume a smile.

The other – Riadne – does not smile. Her gaze is anywhere and everywhere.

We sit. I say ‘we’ … I mean Riadne and I. We have not yet become ‘us’. She reminds me of a frightened schoolgirl who is in trouble, expecting to be scolded. I tuck that feeling in my pocket – I do not want to lose it. I acknowledge her fear. I try to respond in a balanced manner: I do not want to rescue her – yet I want her to know that my heart is open and I am there for her.

Riadne is a woman in some pain. We exchange words. I have an agenda. I need to learn. Riadne is my teacher (though I have no expectations of her – she owes me nothing). I hope to discover her.

I gaze at Riadne with my agenda’d eyes. Minutes pass … I look, I listen.

A shaft of sunlight sneaks through the window blinds; fragments of dust rise and fall in a thin corridor of ghostly light. And then they are gone – switched off, swallowed by glowering clouds.

Suddenly as sleep, I waken – unaware of passing moments, magnolia walls, clichéd paintings. My eyes have closed and now I can see.


The therapeutic hour ends – sixty minutes of words but mostly non-words in a temporal container. I have learned. I have it in black ink that Riadne’s mother is 20 years dead, that her father is 55 years alive, that her partner is ‘understanding’ … and I know, now, that Riadne feels hopeless, worthless and unlovable.

I have most of that information written in big, colourless teardrops, too … and in the grey-white bubble of snot that slid down her right nostril as those heavy tears tumbled out of her eyes.

‘How should I be?’ I asked myself. ‘Should I speak my discomfort (oh! You have snot on your face)? Should I deny/avoid it?’ And then I realised: it was merely the glaireous liquid of her distress. She was a child who needed her nose gently wiping. I handed her the box of tissues. And I knew I was not rescuing her. I was being as any good-enough parent would be.

But what of Riadne during this hour? I shall never ‘know’. I can merely write what I thought I believed. I think I was just good-enough. It was an hour when we began to learn how to be with each other. Riadne never took her jacket off. I held onto my pen like an infant’s comforter. It was our very first together and we spent a lot of it necessarily and unavoidably apart. There were very few in-betweens.

As Riadne left I felt her absence – yet the heft of her stayed, resonating like a cathedral tune.

Sometimes with
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out
someone has written
something new
in the ashes
of your life

David Whyte

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Organ Player's Coming

Now then!
His eyes, blank as buttons, fix randomly
on her breasts wrapped tight in white plastic.
There are no formal introductions
as she pokes her spoon into his mouth.
He gags, splutters, splattering her pinny
with glottal and surd.
His words are jammed, trapped in the past,
his whole lexicon shot to pieces
the day his aneurysm popped.
Hello! Is there anyone at home?
Images, brittle as old film, jump and flicker
inside his nobbled brain. For a moment
he is sitting by the kitchen table,
his mother’s fingers dancing in flour,
her apple-bright face warm as an oven.
He reaches out … but she has gone,
dissolved in a cluster of dud impulses
that fizzle in his frontal lobe.
Sleep will come soon,
then muster in the day room.
The organ player’s coming this afternoon.