Friday, October 31, 2008


I couldn't resist this photo on the way to the shops. No-one likes being clamped. But you can ring up the parking agency and operatives will come and - for a fee - release you. A friend asked if this was a little like going to a psychotherapist. Don't people feel clamped as if they can't move? It is true that often clients feel "stuck". I pointed out that it was a little like phoning for the parking operative but when he or she gets there, you have to do the work too! Psychotherapist and client are "in coalition". For a while, they agree to work together. Client and therapist work through issues, feelings and so on so that the client is able to move forward.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Boot in the Sand

On Dublin's north coast, a piece of land is dedicated to a nature reserve. I called in on the way back from Howth and found a bit of beach where cars can park. It was quite deserted, but I caught sight of an almost perfect heel print in the sand. I tried to make one like it - but this boot is fairly industrial! Boots, shoes, beaches and sand appear quite often in dreams, but interpretation isn't so easy. The dreamer may have many personal associations to all of these. With boots and shoes Freud argues for phallic symbols. On the other hand, I think the shoe makes a mark on the territory so there is something possessive about the boot print. Perhaps it represents "being grounded". Yet this print has certainly been washed away by now! Sand takes up the shape of the objects that rest in it and however transitory it may be, there's an aspect of regression in the boot print, a seeking for the womb. The print was very much on its own, so someone dug in the heel, probably with some pleasure.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Deep Blue

Blue is the deepest colour! This image was snatched at the Science Museum in Kensington. It's hand held, low light and low shutter speed so it's a littler softer than I would have liked. The cafe is called "Deep Blue" and I recall it's relaxed ambience. I couldn't resist the house beer in the deep blue bottle. Blue surroundings are indeed soothing. They somehow take us away from real life. Yet they tend to be unstimulating. The picture was taken in 2005 and I can't help wondering what happened to the people in this image. Maybe because of the blue, they weren't conscious of me at all. Blue is of the unconscious! It was a weekday and there was a feel of people enjoying themselves. I wish them all well.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Water, the unconscious and the Prince of Denmark

This photograph was taken a while ago in the Mount Olympus Park near Thessaloniki in Greece. I still think of Ophelia in Hamlet when I look at the image. Ernest Aeppli in "Dreams and their Interpretation" says that "water is the symbol for that which is unconscious of itself". So maybe Hamlet springs to mind because I think the main character was clueless about himself. It always takes me a while to remember why I took the photograph, So you need to study it for a while. It was the frog that originally took my attention! Could it have been the Prince?.

Monday, October 20, 2008

When the ship comes in

I am from the Clyde and I have a special affinity for boats and ships of all shapes and sizes. A boat can be a symbol of voyaging. If life is a kind of voyage, then the boat can be seen as a place of containment and safety. Pascal thought it was most pleasant to be aboard a storm-tossed vessel in the knowledge that it would not sink! The harbour too, is a safe haven where voyagers can rest with some level of protection. I was passing Dun Laoghaire harbour and noticed the light on the masts. It was the end of a intermittently sunny afternoon and the contrast of light and dark was special. The water looked compellingly silky and the yachts tidy and spruce, but the sky looked like the lull before the storm. Bob Dylan sings ...
"Oh the time will come up
When the winds will stop
And the breeze will cease to be a'breathin'
Like the stillness in the wind
Before the hurricane begins
The hour when the ship comes in "

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Leaves and Symbols

I can't let Autumn pass without a photograph! Leaves stand in common with plants as far as symbolism is concerned. But a group of leaves can stand for a group with a common purpose. Think of Shelley's "pestilent multitudes". I liked the colour combination of this particular group. Everything is changing and that makes me think of "turning over a new leaf". As a psychotherapist, I know that people come to me because they want to change something about their lives. So perhaps this is a good metaphor for transition.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fightin' the Blues

One of my favourite pieces of music is "So much trouble". You can find it on an album called Back Country Blues by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. You might have to look in the back catalogues though! When I felt I was having a lot of trouble in my life, one of my friends introduced me to the song and when I heard it I just started laughing. No-one can have that much trouble I thought. So at least for a while, my own troubles left me. My depression lifted and I felt better. All music can affect feelings. Maybe this isn't permanent, but it can be a chink of light in the darkness. By speaking the troubles out loud perhaps only the Blues can really let us all know that we are not alone! Jungians and cognitive psychologists both say that we can't eliminate personal suffering but we can we can change the way we look at it! The guitar featured here is a Dobro - a resonator guitar with a proud history - and that's my friend's hand playing the beast. Technically, I used a high ASA in bright sunlight and added grain electronically for good measure.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Breakfast and Mental Health

I always ask clients about their physical health. Mental and physical health are connected so it's a good idea to think about what your eating. Indeed there are those with personality types who are not good with this aspect of their lives. They feel they shouldn't have to eat. But if you don't have a good breakfast your physical and mental well-being will be affected - as I found the other day when I skipped breakfast. I had forgotten my usual shopping supplies. When I got to the gym I found I couldn't keep my schedule. The brain needs food too, so if you're not a breakfast person, try to persuade yourself that you will enjoy something more than a cup of coffee!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Symbols and dreams

In psychotherapy, much attention is paid to dreams. As the uncensored product of the unconscious, dreams provide excellent material to work through. A single dream could occupy a whole session or more. The associations of the dreamer are the most important in this work, but archetypal symbols can come "pre-loaded". The picture is rather similar to an image in a dream experienced by a friend. The dream revealed her feelings about her husband being "a horse of a different colour". This particular image is from a museum's Indian exhibition and could fall within the Vedic tradition (I am open to correction). In the Rig Veda, one or seven horses draw the chariot of the sun. A votive red horse was found in a Celtic hoard excavated in France and is thought to foretell war or destruction (as in the Apocalypse). And the dreamer's dream? Yes it did presage conflict.