Thursday, 30 August 2012

Kindness wherever possible!

When I observed my young chorister granddaughter give support to a very small lad who was obviously struggling with his first solo, it was truly an act of kindness.  She did not say a word, she just gazed at him, lovingly and with belief in him, and he stayed in focus and finished.  She then gave him such a smile of appreciation.  Probably few people noticed this brief exchange, but I was sitting very close to the chorister stalls, unseen, but seeing.  Which leads me into the question of kindness and how we express it and to whom.  

I struggle with being kind to the Tax Inspector or to the salesperson who rings me 'cold canvas' or to the security people who repeatedly give me body searches because I have metal in my bra and a piece of crystal in my suitcase.  So I struggle with my kindness being conditional, towards people who deserve my kindness! This now leads me into my personal arrogance, that chooses the recipient of a kindly act or word.

This leaves me with a lot of discomfort, because a kindly attitude towards the world is without condition, it strives to show kindness wherever possible.  Perhaps I am allowed to struggle just a little, with some feelings of impossibility!

Monday, 13 August 2012

O wind of Tizoula

'O wind of Tizoula, O wind of Amsoud
Blow over the plains and over the sea
Carry, oh carry my thoughts
To him who is so far, so far,
And who has left me without a little child.
Oh wind!  Remind him I have no child.

This plaintive and moving song of Berber women is a reminder of the pain and loss, caused through infertility.  It is with great sadness that I learned that Sammy Lee, an embryologist and fertility counsellor has died very suddenly from a huge heart attack.  Sammy was a remarkable person and straddled the divide between counselling and medicine with humanity and clarity.  We worked together as part of a counselling and therapy team in the Rowan Clinic at the London Hospital Medical College.  We were able to offer drama, dance and art therapies, for couple and for groups. This was when doctors paid attention to the arts therapies and counselling as part of an infertility treatment programme.  Sammy and I pondered whether the sudden loss of funding was because we were indeed having more pregnancies through a non-medical approach, than the clinic, with state-of-the-art medical interventions!  

I make a sudden jump to the roar of the crowds at the Olympic ceremonies with every possible artistic contribution.  Could this mark a re-kindling not only of the importance of sports on the ever decreasing playing fields, but also a firing up of the energy for the arts for all ages, in rapidly disappearing studio spaces in school?

We shall miss you Sammy.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Weaponry in Play and Therapy: Playing for Real?

I was sitting in a cafe next to a market stall with a range of war-toys as well as soft cuddly animals, dolls tea-sets, girlie hair clips and tin drums and blowers.  A father and young son, both dressed in combat fatigues were looking at the toys.  Dad large and beefy, tattooing up both arms, 4 year old child, very thin, pale and anxious. The child was drawn towards a large blue, fluffy rabbit, half as big as himself.  Dad pulled him away and showed him a wind up soldier, in fatigues and rifle, who crawled along on his belly, pointing the gun.  The child turned away to the rabbit, Dad looked exasperated and pulled him back.  In the end Dad dragged him off looking angry but also deflated.  Something had failed for him that day.

My particular interest lies is what message is being communicated by having the aggressive toys in the first place.  By having weapons in the play room  or the play therapy room, we are endorsing weaponry as being all right.  Play therapists tell me that weapons are needed to express angry feelings - but children have never had difficulty in finding something to express anger: whether it is the drum sticks or a splodgy picture!.  I have to put this in the much wider context of the peace process, the current increase of violence in language, and the philosophical implications of our practice.  Can we really be honest about moving forward in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect when we continue to say that weapons are OK?

People will say, 'But what about violence in the theatre and all those weapons in Shakespeare?' - that is the subject of another blog which shows that the 'distancing of theatre' creates a different response from having violence in our faces and on our screens.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Non-Directive Therapy

Many people ask me whether I am a non-directive therapist or a directive one.  What does this actually mean?  Unless I am there to proffer advice, give opinions, set my own agendas and lead the activities and conversations then surely in the broad sense of the word, I am 'non-directive'.  However there is no such thing as a purely non-directive therapist as our very presence sets some kind of direction.

When people talk about 'non-directive' play therapy, or any other therapy, it needs to be qualified with the actual reality of 'what happens'; therapists are also role-models by the very way their are in the therapy room: how they dress, their voice and gestures and choice of words.  Added to which, therapists choose what is in the play room, dramatherapy space or consulting room.  This includes the toys, art materials, theatre props, scenes on the walls or paper weights.  They create the decor, they have rules and set boundaries (which vary between individual therapists).

Lets be more honest about our own directiveness, of our own choices, of what we like to have in our environment.  The early psychoanalysts pretended they were the 'blank screen' for their patients who were prone on the couch; let not pretend that we are the 'blank playmate' but a vibrant interactive partner in the play or drama or counsel.  Led of course by the child, adult or group!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Floods of tears...

I find that a lot of water imagery has entered my vocabulary since my beloved Peter died in January.  I referred to 'the sea of one hundred beds' in a care home that I visited in Malaysia.  I talked about waves of recrimination in a family feud, and everyone being awash with emotion when feeling overwhelmed at seeing a beautiful sunset.  It is not just the tears of grief, it is the words to express the enormity of the grief.

Peter and I were involved in a language project over the last couple of years, as we were struck by how various violent words had slipped into everyday conversation: 'I could murder a  bacon sandwich', 'I could kill a decent cup of coffee'.  We started to look at the frequent use of the word 'grab'.  Mainly it was used in relation to food.  There is a brand of potato crisps that is called 'grab-bags';  there is a prominent notice in a supermarket that says 'Grab and Go'; there is another at the airport that invites you to 'Grab and Fly'.  Years ago children were taught, 'Don't grab - just wait' or 'Its rude to grab, just wait to be offered'.  I notice that these example both have the word 'wait' in them.   Maybe that is the issue - we have lost the capacity to wait...

And yes the floods and the rain are other metaphors for how I am feeling at the moment.  Torrents of rain is just one way to express my deep sorrow.

'And the rain it raineth every day'