Monday, February 28, 2011

Mutual Support

I really like this good fun picture. Nearby a shopping centre, this Christmas ice rink has obviously been popular because it has remained for some time! Certainly there are no indications that it will close. The two young women were having a good time supporting each other and when I inspected the photograph closely, it reminded me of the trust games often used in youth work. One person must support the other and the other must trust that he or she will be supported. I have seen it go wrong but not deliberately! Naturally it also reminded me of some elements of successful psychotherapy. This doesn't and cannot happen without trust. But although one person, the client, can "lean" on the psychotherapist, the psychotherapist may not lean on the client. Yet there is something similar that the psychotherapist might do for a while. The technique is called "holding", which is rather like a continuing version of a supportive hug. Whilst the client is particularly vulnerable, they may need to be "held close" so that they feel supported. There are occasions when that is all that can be achieved, at least for a while. A psychotherapist may have to challenge the views of the client, but that doesn't happen when they are being "held". Child psychologist Donald Winnicott said that the the therapist could provide a holding environment, by being patient. In this way, the therapist allows the client's true self to gradually emerge without defences getting in the way. He said that it was, in any case, the patient, who has the answers. Back to my picture! On that afternoon, for a short while at least, it was the two youngsters who had the answers.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Columns and Pillars and the Rest

If I am in Rome, I always visit this square. It's the Largo di Torre Argentina and it's reputedly where Julius Ceasr met his assassins. Apart from its beauty and antiquity, it is the home of an interesting and much photographed cat colony. Then to the rear is the very old Jewish Ghetto of Rome, where there are more antiquities and restaurants with arguably the best food in Rome. Various columns here have been salvaged - there are four temples - and stood beside each other in this large square. It's quite a sight. So I am going to talk of columns - one of the most discussed symbols. I am sure the Freud would agree. In any case, columns have always been derived from trees and the support structures for buildings were originally made from trees. They were designed, not only for support, but to give vitality to a building. Many architects do not like the current mode of suggesting that a building hasn't much support. This lacks vitality, they might argue. They appear without substance. And many reject the column since to them it implies patriarchy. It is thought however, that the sexual connotation of pillars is that a right hand pillar constitutes the active male principle and the left represents the passive female principle. That is primarily associated with the reproductive organs. It does not imply that males are always active and females passive! That's a question for another blog! I do like the arrangement of the columns in the picture and the deep blue sky at dusk. I could stand there for quite a while, as the light changes!

Reflecting Back

For some time now, the popular rugby bar has featured this hamburger stand painted like the hotel frontage. I've been waiting for a good shot, but somehow it never came. So today I forgot about the empty foreground (which photographers don't like except when they have to leave space for a magazine title). I like the hotel's idea and it gives me the opportunity to talk about reflection. In traditional "counselling", reflecting back is the primary technique. By accurately repeating or summarising the clients' words, clients are reassured that they have been heard properly. In normal conversation this is is unlikely to happen. And in adverse circumstances, some people talk over the words of others, never allowing them the feeling of being heard. Worse still, the utterances of some are snatched away form them by the conversing other and completely transformed in the process. Analyst, Christoper Bollas, regards this as kind of theft. All modes of psychotherapy attempt to counteract this unfortunate phenomenon. Symbolically speaking the reflection is associated with the mirror, which in Latin is speculum. When we speak of speculating, we are referring to that process by which we reflect and mirror things of importance to us. So for me this brings to mind the Vietnamese saying "Like the Sun, like the Moon, like Water and like Gold, be clean and bright and reflect what is in your heart." At the very least, we can set out to be faithful to ourselves.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Through the Big Fridge

For this photograph I was at the limit of what the camera could do and outside the limit that I was myself permitted. In the Museum of Cinema in Turin, one is not allowed to take photographs. If there is a better Museum of Cinema, then I haven't heard about it. This superb building, an old Jewish temple, (Mole Antonelliana) was reconstructed to house a stunning collection of film artefacts and there's lots to do for people of any age. You can kiss goodbye to an afternoon quite easily here. I liked the fun side of things. You can walk through the giant fridge under the giant chicken and emerge to yet another cinema screen. But of course for this blog it was the symbolic nature of food that I was thinking about. Now food is not of itself a symbol whereas various kinds of food residing in a fridge are indeed symbolic. The chicken or at least the cock is a solar symbol, heralding daybreak as it does. Milk is of fertility and plenty and so on. But the fridge made me think about food and the use of energy in the present day world. Useful as it is, it uses energy to keep things fresh for longer than their natural life. We buy food that has often been transported long distances. We freeze it and then quite often we later defrost it in a microwave oven. Then we heat it up. So there is an argument for choosing fresh food, locally produced and in season. Perhaps we wouldn't have to go through the fridge quite so often!

Straight lines at the Bus Stop

Just a wet day at the bus stop, waiting for the right bus that seems to take a while. Taking a few photographs seemed like a good idea to fill in the time. Nor was I going to move from my seat into the damp street! This is what came out with a long lens and some ferreting around. There's an abandoned umbrella that had given up the ghost and I thought it looked interesting beside the lines. The yellows in particular seems to match, so a shallow depth of field and a focus on the umbrella was my choice. This image was certainly the best of the bunch. Yet in the end it was the lines and not the umbrella that were dominant. There are always lines around and usually they are boundaries or instructions. An instruction is implicitly a boundary of sort. Intellectual and moral rectitude says one dictionary of symbols - I suppose that is roughly correct. The furniture maker would not use a crooked line to make his artefacts! We wouldn't want to be crooked. We have to keep the right line, and of course always remember to stand behind the (yellow) line and certainly not not cross the line. In Freemasonry the plumb-line hangs from the arch to touch the ground. As in many philosophies, it joins heaven and earth - the Cosmic Axis. I am quite an admirer of Le Corbusier, who insisted that buildings should always be in the vertical plane. For him this was the "pliant symbol" of the vertical. I'm not so sure. These days it might very well be the pliant symbol of the horizontal and terrestrial.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Planning application (pour homme)

This is just another of these recession images and the centre has much potential for strange images of this kind. They would be amusing if the economic situation wasn't so bleak. Shops normally put up their shutters permanently but this one was a little different. I presume that the advertising had to run its course whilst the display of a new planning application was required. I guess what also struck me was the awkward position of the hand, almost as if it didn't belong to the man pictured here. The symbolism of the hand is extensive. It can represent action, domination or power but it can also indicate supplication or submission. In this image it reminds me of the way current politicians are taught to hold their hands They must not point apparently - or make finger-wagging gestures. What results is a certain distortion, which is no way a real indication of anything substantial. In Buddhism, the hand must not be closed because that indicates the hidden and secrecy. It is not an honest gesture. In psychoanalysis the hand can often be seen as synonymous with the eye. So in certain circumstances in dreams, the appearance of the hand can be interpreted as an eye - hands are use in communication and so are the eyes. The hand in the image does not seem to offer much honesty, does it? What are we being offered by the hand, the advertisement? What is being communicated? Something other than what we might at first imagine?

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Year of the Rabbit God

This is the Chinese Year of the Rabbit. Small, wily and fast, rabbits are underrated and I feel this is quite unwise. Rabbits have staying power and there are always a lot of rabbits around. It set me wondering if there had been a Rabbit deity of any kind - in ancient times perhaps. In my researches, I discovered a rabbit! Unut was a powerful rabbit-headed Goddess who currently stands at the left hand side of the statue of the King in the ancient Egyptian city of Hermopolis. On the other side stands Thoth, God of Wisdom, all discovered relatively recently. Of course, the Rabbit Goddess is of fertility and the spring. Yet ultimately she is celebrated for her speed and she is known as The Swift One. In Celtic mythology, the rabbit can appear and disappear at will. Because of its zig-zag motion, the rabbit can evade predators by changing direction with astonishing agility. It's also a bit of trickster. In one of Br'er Rabbit's adventures, he escapes by persuading his captor, the fox to throw him into the briar patch. "Whatever you do, don't throw me into the briar patch!" In fury, the fox duly does so and of course, that's where Br'er Rabbit lives! It is fitting that Unut should be discovered in a city named after Hermes, the archetypal trickster. But what of our photograph? I took this detail of an Egyptian obelisk in Rome with a long lens and to my surprise, I could see rabbits. Can you spot Unut? I can. Happy Chinese New Year!