PANDEMICS AND CHESS HAVE BEEN LINKED FOR CENTURIES. INGMAR BERMAN’S FILM THE SEVENTH SEAL USES THE METAPHOR OF CHESS AND THE BLACK DEATH.
I know even less about Chess than about Bridge but the statistics for online play of both have soared since the pandemic. Tonight is Bridge night; I make slow progress but being slow is good. I have a sad memory when I think about Bridge. I think of my grandson Dan, aged six, just before his father was murdered, together and deep in thought across the Chess board. My crowning game success this week was a game of Cluedo which I managed to win. Intuition rather than logic. Bell went into shock.
Yesterday, I had an example of unconscious processes and the ways in which working with Zoom can lead to a democratisation of therapy. (I owe this important noun, ‘democratisation’ to one of my younger colleagues at our practice, The Blue Door Rob Faulkner who referred to the concept during our Blue DoorZoom supervision meeting with my daughter Tanya on Monday.) Whether or not the ‘Grown Up’ officialdom of the profession would agree, I leave open to debate.
Every Thursday afternoon I have a Zoom session with a man who has been consulting me now weekly, ( school and family hols excepted ) for over thirteen years. The reason for the longevity of our relationship, I am writing this with his consent and editorial rights, is because of the severity of the nervous breakdown that we were confronted with and worked together to avoid him being admitted to hospital, which descended from the blue about two years after we met. I am fortunate to have several patients who are financially positioned to regard their therapies like an additional mortgage and insurance policy, not just for their mental health, but to continue to struggle to grow and strive towards ‘Individuation’. * One of the characteristics of his panic attacks was he would arrive, (and at that time our meetings were at 8 AM) earlier and earlier on my consulting room doorstep, often arriving way before me. And waiting. And waiting to be ‘let in’.
Yesterday, I admitted him into Zoom and we greeted each other. He is fortunate to have a study which is now set up as his office. He is a lawyer. He looked a bit flustered and reported that he had just ended a meeting; it had been a busy and hot day, including demands from his young children. He surprised me: “Jane I’m just going to go to the loo”. He disappeared rather like the White Rabbit from the right hand side of my screen but returned within literal minutes. “Goodness”, I said “That was very quick!” Then joking “You must have an ensuite.” “I do. Come and see it”. We barely moved two feet and I was inside the immaculate shower room/loo.’ Without pausing for breath he suggested he show me the latest accomplishment in his garden. Together we dashed across a stairway. I wanted to stay longer gazing across green shade at his ‘Ha Ha’! I was ushered back into the office. Ready, I thought, to start the session, except the session had already started the moment I pressed ‘Enter’. We were now several minutes into our hour. Z turned to me beaming: “I wont be a mo I just need to tidy up these papers on my desk. Be with you in a sec!” I sat quiet, without demur, watching him tidy the papers. We went on to have what we both agreed was a dynamic and creative session. One which left us both feeling we had pooled psychological resources.
Later in bed that night, I reflected on what might have been going on unconsciously in the wayS in which Z had taken control of the session. I didn’t feel he had been offensive. I am as happy to inspect an en suite loo as I am to view the garden ‘Ha Ha’!! I was amused if not bemused throughout. I recalled that Z, who is a man of regular habits, to whom punctuality matters, had always arrived at my consulting rooms some minutes early, sometime inconveniently so before the previous session was winding down. He is a man who grew up within a gang of siblings and competitive brothers, the oldest. Sometimes, if he arrived just seconds before his time I would buzz him in. (I did not have a waiting room but used the kitchen as equivalent.) If I felt he had arrived too early and disturbed the previous incumbent, perhaps there was a tiny bit of me that felt as punitive as his childhood nanny, I would get up from the session, poke my head through the door and speaking in a somewhat imperious tone, I would admonish: “Off to the kitchen with you!”
My patient has read the following account and his comment was ‘You’ve nailed it. By the way there is one typo on wayS, the Cap S.’ Not a typo! Intentional. Also, in editing I have since observed that I did leave an ‘S’ off: not on ‘ways’ but on the word ‘sibling’. Interesting in terms of unconscious communications that one passed him by. There was no protest at there only being one sibling.
Bell looked fragile last night, a familiar shade of ‘pallor’ but she was in robust spirit. I persuaded her to lie down beside of me instead of manically trampolining in our living area which has also been requisitioned as a playground, and to watch Pride and Prejudice. Our second excursion into Jane Austen – something that we would not have been doing on a week day evening in ‘Normal Times.’
- * Individuation refers to the process through which a person achieves a sense of individuality separate from the identities of others and begins to consciously exist as a human in the world. A process in which we becomes free to express what we think and do without fear of being unpopular or challenged by the collective views of community or society.