That soothing spot in our mind
The sun is finally shining and the long weekend ahead is full of promise, weather wise at least. Yet, major travel restrictions are still in place along with the overwhelming collective reality of not having visited friends and family or not having been on holiday, at least in the care free way that holidays used to feel like, for a long way now. There is a sense of collective complicated grief for all the losses and traumas of the past fifteen months as well as fear or at least anxiety that some of the connections lost cannot be revived like the number of shut down shops in central London, which have gone bust during the pandemic. Can we ever repair the damage and which of our connections can still be salvaged?
There is usually a moment in my week, which stands out as an ‘aha!’ moment and part of the exercise of writing this weekly blog is to try to identify and articulate it in a way that can be helpful for my thinking and hopefully, that of others. That moment came this week in the form of a dream of one of my patients which literally guided them out of their very repetitive and familiar mental anguish into a place of love and connection in their childhood. In my dreams this week, I am in Antigua, a beloved island with which I have made a deep connection, and so in some ways I consider as home. The weather is ominous though, there is a threat of an upcoming typhoon lurking about. I am in search of a beautiful beach, but I am invariably met by big waves and torrential rain. A friend has given me a tip that the best beach on the island is on the Pacific Ocean side. I go in search of it, only to be met with disappointment that there is no such side, no peaceful side as such. You get the picture!
Jung has written about dreams extensively, and his analysis has been, in my view, more existentially apt than Freud’s in that he argued that dreams are intuitive symbolic formations, which let us know about where we are in our lives in terms of the state of our overall health as well as in relation to psychic conflict. He wrote about healing dreams, such as the one my patient had, which give us an avenue towards health and connection. Of course, the trouble is we cannot order such dreams and even when they come about, they are not always easy to grasp. My patient’s dream made me wonder how we can all find that soothing place in our mind. This is where the strong trends of yoga and meditation have come about as a possible answer on how to create space for mind-body connection in our busy urban life. But what about creativity? Are there ways in which we can allow space for our fantasy life, which like a dream can guide us through the images that form?
When I allow even a little space in my day to be and not to do, I get transported instantly to that floating bar in Antigua. The pleasure of the ritual of arriving, participating in the collective convivial vibe and soon after taking the boat back to the land. In order to reach the bar, one needs to get the attention of one of the bartenders through hand waving. The tiny boat then travels to the beach and it can only take up to four passengers at a time. It takes a lot of coordination to get in and out of the boat and it is usually a wet business too. When at the bar, a little wooden platform floating in the sea anchored through ropes, which nevertheless allow for plenty of rocking motion, the banter is usually multilingual, as the owners are Dutch. The convivial, slightly drunken vibe transports me to living in Europe in my twenties, bar hunting with a changing group of friends. There is something about this cheery crowd coming together over moving water which is the closest to an experience of connectedness I can think of. And then, of course, the ritual completes with asking one of the bartenders to transport us back to land. I have been to that bar several times, but never for any longer than what it takes to have a quick drink and a chat. There is something precious about this speed, like a dream with a few key scenes succeeding each other, the imagery throwing light to the way forward our psychic is craving.
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