Thursday 21st May The Coronet Diaries

Bell’s painting for Grandad’s birthday

I thought yesterday was today, I confused two people by so doing when I sent their Zoom invites and they offered profuse apologies for not being available. It must have been midday before I caught up with myself. And the day. Bell is much better. I wonder whether her results will arrive today. I don’t suppose they reached the lab until yesterday.

(Ah, I’ve just got Bell’s test back. 9.29 AM so literally done and returned in 36 hours. ‘Belle’s swab is NEGATIVE-ie no Covid-19 isolated.‘ Phew! Phew!)

Days upon days. I have never been a Pret coffee drinker although many ‘patients’ used to arrive with one. Now, freedom feels, an involuntary and random thought, like a Pret coffee.

A few weeks ago a young dancer and former patient wrote to update me about her life and told me she was attending a seminar to become a ‘laughter leader’ where inciting collective laughter is thought to be a therapeutic channelling and release of repressed anxiety or fear. I then discovered it has acquired more gravitas when referred to as ‘Laughing Yoga’. I gave it no more thought.

Yesterday, I was talking to someone who had just celebrated their seventy-six birthday at a Zoom party, (Mrs Hand-held Dyson) whose son had arranged a ‘Laughing Yoga’ session for a group of her friends. Apparently Air B and B are not getting many bookings and have put their heads together to put on Zoom celebratory events. I fear I was rather sceptical about laughing therapy and I asked her to demonstrate. As with all yoga breath is an important part of the exercise. She breathed in deeply, raised her arms above her head vigorously and starting with a forced cackle she was soon rocking with laughter. I was too! I was entranced (which may be relevant to more sinister versions in Papua New Guinea!) ) Soon I was laughing so loudly that I heard John rush up the staircase and gently open the door. I was laughing my head off. So was she. The more she laughed the funnier I found it. We laughed and laughed for about five minutes. Once our mirth stalled I started to think about the accusation that Zoom makes it much harder for ‘ mirroring’ * to take place. Never would I have found myself, during a land session, rocking together with a ‘patient’ in a hilarious laughter release of breath and affection. Our beams stretched beyond the screens.

Collective and hysterical laughter, which ours was not; it was exuberant; more like uncontrolled and affectionate giggles, has its darker side or shadow. Everything does. There is a disease called Kuru which afflicted the Kuru itself and means “trembling”. It is also known as the “laughing sickness” due to the pathologic bursts of laughter which are a symptom of the disease. In a macabre but fascinating way the tribe of Papua New Guinea,where the phenomenon took place, was also associated with cannibalism. In a strange way it did feel as if we were each consuming the other with libidinous mirth!

*Mirroring is a psychological concept. You might say it is the opposite of narcissism where the individual falls in love, or becomes obsessed with their own image/needs. CF the Myth of Narcissus. Both forms relate to the mirror but in the psychological concept of ‘Mirroring’, initially one hopes the parents mirror back to their baby the unique gleam of love and engagement in the combined parental eye. Sadly, this is not as common as one might expect. Additionally to other emotional obstructs, today many babies are finding their mother’s eye is habitually distracted by ‘screens’,even during early feeding whether by breast, or bottle. Healthy infantile mirroring is one of the pillars of developing self-esteem which is the opposite to narcissism.

Human beings are naturally imitative creatures and a sign of empathetic connection is the way in which we all, as well as therapist and patient, mirror each other. In a therapeutic dyad the therapist will sometimes, often unconsciously, mirror their patient’s actions. Regardless of whether I am feeling weary or not, if a patient yawns I am likely to respond with a yawn. Personally, I find this is as liable to happen on the Zoom screen as well as when I am sitting face to face.

Post Script: Mrs Hand-Held-Dyson has read my blog and written to me expressing both delight and a little outrage at the idea of a ‘cackle’ She volunteered ‘Guffaw’ which is a far better description.

I have just sat in the garden for a dutiful twenty minutes exposure to Vit. D I am not inclined towards the heat of the day. The morning has been full of anguish. The anguish of broken dreams and betrayal. Loneliness. I listen to the simplicity of birdsong except I cannot distinguish between a blackbird and robin, or maybe I can. Robins tend to be silent garden inspectors but when they do sing it could almost be a nightingale.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all – (Emily Dickinson)

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