Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy in North West London

Points


Preface


Frequently, and so a source of some irritation—on the Tube—the train grinds to a halt...What’s the matter this time?! If we're luckywe may be told: 'We are being held at a red signal'. Full stop! In the silence I grope in my trouser pocket for the mobile to check the time and find I have left it at home. The silence persists. No one looks at one another. We're all going to be late. Maybe the driver takes pity and announces: 'Points failure at...apologies'. Believe it if you like! Anyway, what does that mean points failure—were we in danger of meeting a train coming at full tilt in the other direction?


What’s the point? The points switch the train on to a different track. If all went well we wouldn’t notice. But dissatisfaction even disaster might be in the offing. Even if only dimly aware something isn’t right we may still pay no attention—‘Nothing can be done!—we are at the mercy of the system!’ How long do we have to wait till the coast is clear and we are on the move again? Any idea what I’m talking about?


It's not about the Tube, or the rail network for that matter; it's about (the) underground and failure to recognize the signals—there.


Or consider the paradox of the contradiction: desolate versus fertile.
Recently I came across a great quotation of Albert Camus: ‘A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple things in whose presence his heart first opened.’ (L’Envers et l’Endroit, 1958) which roughly translated seems to mean the ‘spot (in the landscape) and what’s behind it’. I took this as a signal to hang about till the points change.





1

Out Damned Spot

For signals
read things that go bump in the night, which could be a way of talking about dreams.
For instance, what’s a bad dream? Usually one from which we waken up and think, ‘Thank goodness it’s only a dream’, and then, as a Remembrance Day hymn reminds us, ‘We fly forgotten as a dream dies at the opening day’ (Isaac Watts). Those lyrics have their origin in Psalm 90 which dwells on the transitory nature of life. That may be a spur not to ignore the signals set at red.

Or consider the paradox of the contradiction: desolate versus fertile.

Recently I came across a great quotation from Albert Camus: ‘A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple things in whose presence his heart first opened’ (L’Envers et l’Endroit, 1958, which roughly translated seems to mean the 'spot --in the landscape--and what’s behind it’). I took this as a signal to hang about till the points change.


3

Watched

Because I had failed the check, I spent the morning recently at Terminal 5 waiting to meet someone off a much delayed flight from overseas. I bought a novel to while away the time and in between observed passengers arriving and those standing around waiting for them. I was also conscious of the people sitting near me in the coffee lounge. What I became increasingly aware of was an observing presence with myself as the one observed—not something I could prove. Yet the extent to which this affected how I was acting, adopting the posture of a person reading, or what was to be made of the way I looked up, the direction of my gaze, what my hands betrayed. And part of this sensitivity was the strict attention I gave to control all these otherwise unconscious little actions of mine. No wonder the reading proceeded slowly!

For me this was nothing new, but what was different was that, instead of taking it for granted, I became interested in what in me turned me into an object of such imagined scrutiny. Who was it taking account of my every move? Along with the slow progress of my reading, puzzling over this made the time fly by as the fearful moment of confrontation when the one I was there to meet would be conjured up from the inner recesses of the airport and stand looking round for someone being tested to act in ‘the expected’ way (whatever that was meant to mean).

A sentence from the book I was reading may have caused me to wonder about this. For suddenly something was staring me in the face that had remained private and none of my business for a very long time. Instead of feeling irked by having to wait for hours I was suddenly basking in the luxury of it. I didn’t even know if I could find the operative sentence again. But what did it was the writer’s depiction of an inflexible figure of strict morality, contemptuous of and ‘worked up about the evils of the world which cast a shadow over his face and sent him into a kind of anxious daydream’.

What I saw clearly for a moment was this: another’s dismissive judgment was somehow implanted in me supplanting my own capacity to judge the revelations of my own nature and cause my private life to be ever more clouded by shame.
How fortuitous, I thought, to have chosen that book, by an author I’d never heard of, in an airport stationers in order only to stop the time dragging.




























      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      

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