Grant me a cloud's grace, a slow imperceptible metamorphosis.
January is running away with me. I'm back to my regular teaching and counselling commitments, in addition I'm doing some hours at the hospice and I've had paperwork and preparation to do for work coming up in a few months time. Then there's the admin role I'm in the process of taking on. This week I've been questioning myself whether I have left enough space for my creativity.
Of course, a lot of this is short term and/or building for the future, and it is all, for me, enjoyable and satisfying.
For the moment I've been pouring my creativity into The Peasholm Magic Lantern; the art installation I am doing for Coastival (http://www.coastival.com/), consisting of a digital loop with Haikus, images and music. The elements are all coming together excitingly, though the technical issues around making sure the marrying of the three is effective, are fiddly and time consuming. And I have yet to try it out in the place where it is to be displayed, I imagine that will throw up other questions and the need to tinker.
I went to see the film The Reader last night. A veritable treatise on shame: individual; communal; common or garden; beyond-the-ordinary. The young Michael is a text book example of how shame accumulates from the petty to the sort that stops you sleeping at night. His parents, archetypal "shamers", set him up for a life-time of turmoil (see also Shame. The Power of Caring by Gershen Kaufman (Schenkman Books Inc, Rochester, Vermont)). No wonder he is drawn towards Hana who carries the burden of societal shame as well as her own.
Don't be put off by Kate Winslet's truly awful performance at the Golden Globe awards, she is magnificent in this film. But for me, David Kross's portrayal from innocent adolescence to tortured manhood should get far more plaudits. This is a complex film with few glimmers of hope. And I do think the elder Michael could come up with a better "surprise" for his long-lost daughter than taking her to a rain drenched graveyard so that he can start to unfetter himself from his chasms of shame.
I went back to the hospice today. I cycle up there with my poems in my backpack, a peripatetic bard. One of the men I'd met during my time there last year had died, on Christmas Day. I feel sad. Then I remember his suffering and wonder about words like release and relief, though perhaps I am just searching for comfort for myself.
The atmosphere is as ever upbeat, and, I sense, genuinely so. I ask for favourite words; "smile", "contentment", "lovable", "flowers" come the replies. Still I search for the shadows, for the demons, for the hurt, shoved into the corners, such is my habit. Death lingers, I feel certain, and not all ghosts are benign.
Taking refuge in a local hostelry from the biting wind, I began to idly peruse You magazine. According to an article entitled 'Therapy at a Click', by Jane Alexander, the AOL Blog Trends survey "reported that nearly 50% of bloggers see blogging as a form of self-therapy". And further that, "six times as many people prefer to write their blog than seek counselling from a professional".
At first I thought, well, this is only an extension of using journaling as a means to mental well-being. On the other hand, perhaps not. When introducing the idea of keeping a reflective journal in my workshops, I emphasise the importance of safety, of not making ourselves vulnerable by sharing too much too quickly with people we are not sure we can trust. I have noticed that people who are suffering from depression, particularly if it stems from unhealthy relationships in the past, are prone to re-traumatising themselves through regurgitating their pain in ways which are almost impossible for them and those around them to assimilate. They don't get the response they want because it is all too much for their listeners, and they feel overwhelmed because they see their audience becoming scared or switching off.
A blog is a very public arena for showing our hurt. And the comeback cannot be relied upon to be a useful one - as was pointed out later on in the article.
In the journaling I advocate (and use myself), there is also a search for insight and understanding, an attempt to notice patterns and processes. Yes, there is the catharsis element, but beyond this there is the endeavour to make sense and break out of blind alleys and unwholesome loops. I wonder how much of this takes place during the "self-therapy" blogging?
Which is why, of course, I am saddened that seeking professional counselling is so shunned. Bloggers are beginning to express and explore feelings, trained counsellors can offer them the safe, boundaried sounding board which could move them on, further towards a greater understanding of themselves.
Happy New Year! It's something we say or hear a lot around now. Is it meant as an aspiration, a statement of fact or an injunction? Sometimes it feels like a bludgeon over the head. There are so many for whom this New Year is anything but happy.
Janus, the Roman god with two faces, one looking back, the other forwards, gave its name to this month. It is time for me to fix my eyes on what's to come rather than on what has been. And there are some exciting prospects. More work at the hospice. An art installation with music, images and poetry for a local festival. A creative writing project with a group of women who suffer from chronic pelvic pain which is to be credibly evaluated; another step in giving credence to what I do. Plus the teaching, the facilitating and the counselling which gives me so much.
Yes I am ready for the next turn of the seasons. For myself I want to continue to notice the joy in small things. For the world, I yearn for peace.
Pathways Through Writing Blocks in the Academic Environment
A new book by Kate Evans exploring creative ways for overcoming blocks to writing especially for those working in the academic environment. Aimed at students with essays, theses and reports to write, academics with articles or books they want to get out there and supervisors supporting anyone who is having a hard time putting words on the paper. See http://www.sensepublishers.com/ & www.amazon.co.uk
Healing Words: six linked one day workshops exploring creative writing
Aimed at writers working in therapeutic environments or with vulnerable groups or health professionals who want to bring writing into their practice. Themes covered: storytelling; poetry; metaphor; embodied writing. Dates: Saturdays in 2013, 9th March, 1st June, 27th July, 21st September, 23rd November and 18th January 2014. Participants can do all six or choose to attend specific ones. Workshops will be held in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. Continuing Professional Development hours will be awarded. Tutor: Kate Evans, writer, UKCP registered counsellor and Lapidus member. For more information, please contact Kate on email@example.com.
All the poetry & writing in this blog, copyright Kate Evans, unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved. For comments, questions or permissions please use email from my website: http://www.writingourselveswell.co.uk/.
Photos by Mark Vesey
Many of the names used in this blog have been changed and the dates & places of events have been disguised in order to preserve confidentiality.
I am a writer and a UKCP registered psychotherapeutic counsellor. I facilitate writing workshops. I am personally and professionally interested in the link between creativity and good mental health.
Visit my website: www.writingourselveswell.co.uk
Poetry The Peasholm Magic Lantern, Coastival 2009
Haiku & photo exhibition, Nutmeg Cafe, 2010
Words in My Head, Woodend, Coastival 2011
Books Contribution to Writing Works, a resource hadnbook for therapeutic writing workshops and activities eds Gillie Bolton, Victoria Field & Kate Thompson. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 2006.
Articles The Poetry of Therapy, Therapy Today, December 2009 (reprinted Counselling Today NZ)
Outside Life: Edith Sitwell, Poetry News, Winter 2010
Writer's Block: a reflective literature review, The European Journal of Qualitative Research, Summer 2011
The chrysalis and the butterfly: a phenomenological study of one person's writing journey, Journal of Applied Arts & Health 2011
'Finding the unexpected': an account of a writing group for women with chronic pelvic pain (co-authored with Dr Lesley Glover), Journal of Poetry Therapy May 2012