I’m just a wee bit embarrassed as I write this piece…I realise that I’m well into the middle part of life and finding myself, again, trying to work on something that I should have worked on years ago…After a whole bunch of false starts, I have found myself in a place in which (i) hasn’t thrown me out and (ii) I haven’t found a way out. I’m on an MSc programme in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy at UCD, and I wanted to say what it is that I have learned there or, maybe better, what I haven’t learned.
The most wondrous thing that I haven’t learned, thankfully, is how to provide simple answers to complex questions. Anybody who ends up talking to somebody who has completed the formation process that I am engaged in has traveled a long road already, where the simple fixes don’t work…where an answer to the question must come from a deeper place.
I have certainly not learned to offer the response to the patient – “Ah, I know what’s wrong with you!” In fact, to the contrary, I have learned to ease into the place of accepting where I will likely never know what it is that truly ails the patient – that privilege is likely to be theirs alone. I have learned additionally that possibly the most important intervention that I might make is one of silence – undoing all my many years of the accumulation of sets of words that might be made available from a position of expertise.
I’m learning that there is a direct connection between the unconscious processes in our everyday speech and those applying in dreams and jokes And that, far from analysing a person as sometimes people suggest that I might be doing , that my attention is actually being drawn to how the patient uses or doesn’t use language. And, maybe most importantly, I am learning to unknow a lot of what I know and to enter into a paddling pool, back into junior infants, back into a place where I realise that I don’t know very much at all.
I’m at a place of fundamental belief again, back into a place where I have to rely on the knowledge and expertise of the Others who are teaching me. It reminds me in some ways of being back in the place of being an infant and relying on my primary caregivers. It’s that primal for me. But there is no other choice and it’s a matter of continuing to take the baby steps that will move me to a place of knowing.
I feel very privileged to be able to do this work.