Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I couldn't resist the spot of water on the leaf of the alpine plant. I tried various lens then cropped heavily. I am reminded that this is a bit like taking a photograph of food - or glasses of any kind of liquid. It is not as easy as it looks and trial and error is required. That is why it is a whole photographic specialisation. It took much filtration to get the water bead as I wanted it. Water, as Gaston Bachelard is inclined to point out in his excellent work "Water in Dreams", is rightly acknowledged as one of the most important symbols of all. It is an element of course and although Bachelard is much (perhaps overly) concerned with deep inland water, I like these beads that form on surfaces. Literally, a tension is formed. To taste this water is not to taste the insipid water that comes from the ubiquitous plastic bottles, carried as some kind of sign by many city dwellers. That is about a related issue - for water is the symbol of both purity and the maternal principle and highly "valorised" as a substance of good. No amount of water can wash away sin, as Shakespeare continuously demonstrates. So of you dream of water, consider if it is fresh or polluted, from the sea or river, from the height of the sky as rain or spring water from the depths. Is it contained as the lake, rock pool or "aquatic centre". Does it run quickly like a fast flowing river? Or is it a bead a water glistening on a leaf? Whatever the location, water is about the unconscious and the soul.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Well, the bag caught my eye because it was bright orange but I am in a monochrome phase. And the image is flipped - it was taken from the other side with the "G" upside down. hen the colour was stripped out and a filter applied, the orange took on a very "reflecty" look. I liked it so we are in black and white territory again. The rule in photography is that monochrome is about structure and colour about content. More or less! It is very much a throw away society - even if the plastic bag levy has reduced the amount of plastic that used to float around. This bag was of paper, so it was never going to last long anyway. Eventually the colour would have gone just as it has in the image. The bag would have disintegrated with weathering and washed away. So how do we deal with impermanence? Acceptance of impermanence, uncertainty and chaos is part of the Buddhist meditation structure. But that doesn't mean we need resist change, because change involves disposing of old ways and thinking - and that in turn means loss of some sort. There is no passivity about psychotherapy. Acceptance of impermanence may very well entail active change and new ways - and that is part of the Buddha nature. As for the bag itself, I recall with affection my experiential group-work leader. She had the habit of lifting her handbag to signal the end of the two hour session and this was commented on on by one of our number. She raised an eyebrow and said ""The old bag, then?" That was object relations.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


This is a detail of an Art Deco piece. Often Deco artists would feature greyhounds and I think it was something to do with the speed of modernisation at the time. The famous Greyhound bus line, with its distinctive deco logo, started around the nineteen twenties. Dogs are particularly renowned symbols, obviously because of their close association with humans. Yet hounds are often terrifying creatures in mythology. Hecate who haunted crossroads had a whole pack of hell hounds at her service. Cerberus, was usually depicted as having three heads. Under orders from the King , Cerberus was brought from Hades by Heracles, but the king found Cerberus so scary that Heracles had to take him back. But the point about greyhounds is that they are sleek and fast. In Irish mythology the hound is revered and of course, Cuchulainn means Hound of Culaan. All Celts whether mainland or on the islands revere the hound and there is no evil associated with them. It is thought that in all likelihood the ghostly hound of folk tales was introduced by Christians. And let's not forget Dante's "veltri". There is much debate about this but it is clear that the beasts were strong and fast. In The Wood of the Suicides Dante saw two sinners pursued by "black bitches, eager and swift as veltri loosed from their leash." Nere cagne, bramose e corrente, Come veltri ch'uscisser di catena". In Dante's world, sinners needed to beware!
Addendum: I am reminded by my photographer friend, Mick, of the Robert Johnson song, regarding events at a crossroads and "Hell Hound on my Trail". The old myths are the best myths. I must certainly dig that one out from my collection and give it a spin!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I found this elephant which appeared to have been abandoned, rescuing it from a tangle of shopping trolleys outside a supermarket. It looked set to perish but then again, it seems to have survived doesn't it? That's elephants for you. I like the Italian for good luck charm, which is portafortuna. The elephant, Portafortuna, has taken up a new residence for a while. Elephants are very well regarded in the East and one was a companion of the Boddhisattva Akshobya, the Changeless One. Ganesha is the symbol of knowledge - the beginning and the end - and elephants are generally regarded as cosmological and depicted with their four strong legs holding up the world. They are also seen as symbols of chastity and modesty due to the long gestation of pregnant elephants, a period when the bull elephant is reluctant to mate with her or any other elephant. So observed Aristotle. Sometimes, it helps to ground oneself and avoid airy thoughts so think of yourself as with sturdy legs of the elephant planted firmly on the earth, rooted and stable. Because of its solidity and mass, the elephant represents the avoidance of foolish and rash action that can accompany airiness, so you can also imagine your own stability and increasing awareness.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Cacti are very surprising plants. Just when you get used to them they send out beautiful blooms - maybe not for very long (some blooms only last one day) but often abundantly. The bloom in the photograph is already on its way out to be quickly replaced by the others that surround it. Generally regarded as a symbol of patience and endurance, the cactus has its place on the Mexican coat of arms - an eagle devours a snake perched on a prickly pear cactus. The official explanation is that Mexico's challenges will be overcome by its people, despite the thorny nature of the difficulties encountered. Native to the Americas (and very ancient indeed), cacti are said to have been brought back to Europe by the expedition of Christopher Columbus. Cacti are seen by Palestinians not only as a symbol of persistence but also of nostalgia for the "good old days" and cacti feature in much contemporary Palestinian art.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Wagon in the Sun

A very colourful display took my eye whilst having a leisurely lunch in Dundrum and I bolted on the wide angle lens and wandered across. RTE has changed over the years but I continue to have a soft spot for its radio broadcasts. Back in my schooldays, the BBC could only play cover versions of popular tunes, because of its rather antiquated copyright arrangements. But RTE did not have this limitation and since I was in the West of Scotland, I could (with a little bit of fine tuning) receive its signal well enough. Interestingly, the Ireland "top ten" was quite a mixed bag and the increasingly popular Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem often rubbed shoulders with the likes of the Beach Boys! But pirate radio was on the horizon and I eventually defected to Radio Caroline and the other seaborne followers. Radio is quite a different medium to television. Much more intimate, it offers the listener a different kind of engagement and we can imagine it's one to one. Radio stations, certainly in these old days, were more than happy to answer mail, partly due to the opportunity to track their station's signal strength and modulation. The arrangement was that a report could be submitted by the listener and an acknowledging "QSL" card would return in due course. I am uncertain whether this procedure still takes place. I would be delighted to find that it was.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Old Metal Boxes

There is some kind of mystery about old tins that have have somehow hung on through the years. This one has been around in the family for at least forty years and has held a variety of objects from needles and thread to buttons and latterly lapel pins. In fact, Parkinson's is still in existence and continues to make butterscotch, the likely original contents of the tin. The company demised but started up again recently when in 2003, the wife of a local businessman found one of these tins in the cellar. Literally taking a shine to the tin she found the original butterscotch recipe inside! So goes the story anyway. The butterscotch with its famous tin was first made to commemorate the St Leger horse race and I believe this is one of these St Leger tins. We do keep containers long after their original function has disappeared. The butterscotch sweets have long gone, but the container continues to give some pleasure. Psychologically we are ourselves containers of a sort, full of objects and part objects of many various types. Going into therapy is away of sorting our own boxes and the objects therein. And liked or disliked, we can't get rid of these objects, but we can begin to regard them in a different way.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pembroke Lane Blues

It's always interesting to walk down one of the Lanes rather than go on the main road. Once these would be coach houses for the servants of the wealthy but now they have been much modified. Nothing is quite straight is it? I did try with the special Photoshop filter but nothing worked. On revisiting the lane itself, I discovered that, in reality, nothing much was straight in that neck of the woods. You can go very wrong navigating the lanes, but police and thieves alike know their way around the back straights. We use straight in many ways - a proper sort of person (perhaps exaggeratedly so) or perhaps on requesting a drink that is undiluted or mixed with another one. As far as this image of the Lane is concerned (or any other), there was no chance for a straight image there. I have to be content that it's never, never going to be straight. Sometimes, when a client is uncomfortable with a certain aspect of his or her life, they may respond well to the question "What would it be like to be OK with that?" If someone can live with the picture on the wall that is crooked, then they may be able to settle and be comfortable with its unstraightness. In order to do that, of course, one would have to be straight with oneself. And that is perhaps one of the outstanding merits of psychotherapy. The analysand, through talk, comes to terms with certain aspects of their life. It's an opportunity to be straight with the self.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Electric Blossomer

I liked the juxtaposition of the electricity warning and the blooms. I haven't used the wide angle lens as much as I might have this year, but I set it to a very wide 10mm (you have to watch you're not in the picture!) and pointed it upwards for drama and excitement. The ubiquitous warning for electricity is invariably yellow, isn't it? I have always liked the lightning symbol and here it is both sign and symbol. Powerful, fast and deadly, it comes from heaven to destroy us (or sometimes heal us!). For the most part, lightning is a symbol of fertility and here we seem to have some evidence as the blossoms cluster around the pole. It is often a symbol of the intellect as in Zeus and his thunderbolts, but it is also a sudden intuitive flash. In the myth of the Titans, it is nothing more than unbridled, uncontrollable desire. It is invariably destructive in some fashion and yet under control it is a useful spark that may provide life to a cooking fire, triggering the release of useful energy. Would Mary Shelley's Frankenstein agree as to its usefulness in re-animation? And is the jury still out on the question of ECT? I realise I haven't mentioned the symbolic associations to blossoms, so lets end in a more upbeat fashion with purity and good luck!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Street Scene, Donnybrook

What is happening in the psychoanalysis of space? This interchange took place briefly near Donnybrook Fair and was quite charming to witness. Somehow time stopped for a moment - or did it? For the two people meeting, time was subsumed in the space. They lived time but did they see time? The surfeit of public clocks in this street and in Dublin as a whole, indicate and even record time, yet we have no real (inclusive) sense of time except when we are working of course. Then time is upon our heads and when the end of the day is reached, we dump time like so much debris. At that point it is rubbish, a contaminant to be jettisoned and put in "landfill" - filling a space far away from us. After I took this photograph, what trace of time remained in the space and the things within the space? This form of social space - our two subjects meeting - is about encounter. The rest of the things in the space are just so much stuff. When two people meet in psychoanalytic space, it is about the encounter not about the building, the room or the decor - although they may have their influence. The conjunction of the two people in the photograph is about encounter and meeting and not about streets, signs and lorries.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lost then Found

It was heartening to see a "found" notice and not a "lost". It's not unusual to see notes on trees, lamp posts and street furniture in the neighbourhood. In this way, people in the neighbourhood take possession of the immediate environment. Technically, I think there is a pettifogging law against these small community efforts, but trees and the like should not be regarded as the possessions of city planners, but of the people who live in the area. The symbolism of cats would fill a hundred blogs and they are regarded differently in many cultures. In Buddhist terms, only cats and snakes were unmoved at the death of the Buddha - so they can be regarded as negative symbols - but others argue that this means they have wisdom beyond other animals. Certainly this cat has found a good billet! And it is both lost and found at the same time. Are we in the same position when we feel lost? How do we find ourselves? Winnicott might have argued that that we are seeking our true selves in opposition to a kind of false self which has been fashioned over the years. A mother's adaptation to the world may not have been as good as is required and this interferes with the capacity for her infant's symbol-usage. It fails to start or is distorted. The child withdraws from any advantages it may have gained. Of course the infant lives on but - even under protest - falsely. You can probably see this in life when a very successful person constantly feels themselves to be "phony". So going into psychoanalysis can be an acknowledgement that we are in the process of being both lost and found at the same time.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Garden of Delight

There's been too much monochrome in the blogs recently and so I thought this rather nice display from the garden at the Radisson Hotel, Stillorgan would shift the mood. There are many gardens in symbolism, religion and in literature. From the Garden of Eden to the Perfumed Garden they are prolific. But somehow they always carry some deeper message rather than a mere paradise on earth. "We are nearer God's heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth" argues poet, Dorothy Gurney. Amateur gardeners seem to have very pleasant time and are relaxed at their garden efforts. But it's all too easy then, to be unable to relax within their own creation without continually getting up to weed this area or that. Gardening is a never-ending process in the cycle of death and rebirth. So probably it's easier to relax in someone else's garden, which comes without obligation. This particular garden is resplendent with pleasant hedge designs, where children can play happily and be more or less in the view of their parents. Recommended for a bar lunch in the summer!

Friday, June 11, 2010

We Us

I think this is an example of art objet trouvé or "found art" in the literal sense in that is it hasn't been much modified. don't know what the tatters of paper really said or whether it was "we us" or "we use". I can only see "we us". it is ready made as one of my favourites Andre Breton defined it. A "manufactured object raised to the dignity of works of art through the choice of the artist." It sounds a little pompous maybe, but you get my drift, I'm sure! Yet the question remain outside the image. Who made the poster and stuck it on this box in the street? And what is the poster about? You can make up a story, something I regularly ask clients to do. There is certainly something a bit poignant about the poster's remaining tatters. The surface looks almost marbled yet it's just a telephone junction box at the corner of the street. Perhaps we could argue that all photography is found art and as such is a polemic of materialism, as argued by critics. We should abandon it and return to painting. Yet all is artifice and although painting offers more plasticity it tends to be just as materialist as the times. Maybe we should regard both painting and photography as transitional, in the sense that the camera or brush are transitional objects connecting us to something important within ourselves.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Poison Ivy

Ivy is known symbolically for its persistence and endurance - no more than in Ballsbridge where it twines round trees and encroaches on walls, threatening to bring both to the ground. This seldom happens because the two go into symbiosis. Many an old gravestone has crumbled to dust when generations of ivy are removed! Dionysus is oft pictured in a cloak of ivy. It was quite a favourite of the Gods - Cybele was very keen and Attis too. Because of the myth of the eternal homecoming, it has female connections. But I always think of that old rock'n roll song by the Coasters in 1959. Recently it was revealed by the lyricists, Leiber and Stoller, that it was about sexually transmitted diseases. We always knew that of course but the propriety of the time demanded we accepted on face value that it was about a young woman named Ivy. Eventually, the truth will out! You're gonna need an ocean/ of calamine lotion/ You'll be scratching like a hound/ the minute you start to mess around/ Poison Ivy/ Poison Ivy/ Late at night when you're sleepin'/ Poison Ivy comes creeping around. Research in the US, indicates that the poison ivy plant that infests woodlands has grown tenfold in recent years - supposedly an outcome of global warming. It is indeed tenacious as gardeners know. So maybe the point is that its very hard to remove. if at all. We all have psychological stuff that we would like to get rid of and Jung argues that we become aware of and integrate complexes.Symptoms disappear. How do we recognise complexes? Just as with ivy in nature, we can look from all angles, making sure of shape, number of leaves and colour. If it tries to entwine us, we can avoid it

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Woman in Red

Sometimes its hard to get across the road and pedestrians draw the short straw at the traffic lights. Like me, my subject was perhaps impatient at the lack of consideration we get in comparison to wheeled vehicles! Yet we are making our way legitimately through the city. Is the city ours or not? Geographers like David Harvey and my all-time favourite, Lefebvre, talk of claiming the city. I think that's correct.We cant reclaim something that was never our own. We are walking in a sign-ridden, fractured space carrying so much "stuff" that we are reduced to the bearer of signs. How does the ego, the ""I" relate to the system of signs that is the city? Who's signs are they? But to relate organically to the city is to provide a counter-space to all that and whilst this seems hopelessly utopian, it is possible to begin that process "in the head". A starting point is to visualise the project - our city -as complete. Brazilian playwright, Augusto Boal, talked of "the policeman in the head". He said it was hard to visualise anything different because of self-censorship. Psychoanalytically, that would be the punitive father within us all - who says what can(not) be done. That's why its easier to envisage the end of the world than an end to way things work in the current system. But just as changing ourselves is possible, so is changing the use of our own space.