There are many things I have learnt since starting Zoom sessions during the pandemic. A golden rule is never argue with anyone you are on Zoom with over technology. When it fails I have learnt to hold my feisty tongue, not to riposte, ” But I have been on Zoom all morning without there being any glitches.” Never show signs of irritability. Keep smiling. When there are glitches I have become adept to offer a range of bespoke alternatives: “We can Skype, FT, What’s Ap or audio. Even the landline, if I can remember the number.”
While I now see Zoom – going forward – could be a useful adjunct to our work, (last week Tanya was consulting in 5 different continents and the only challenge was the time differences), I would not want to give up sharing a physical space. Yet, I have learnt so much about the people I see that would have otherwise have remained invisible. Therapists share many similarities with detectives; we are always trying to sniff out a psychic clue. Masks are not only used during pandemics, humans wear psychic ones, otherwise referred to by Jung as our ‘persona’, all the time except when disrupted by those unpredictable moments when we regress to our primal being. In many ways our culture makes it easier for women to disguise themselves than men. Hence the pandemonium about whether to break lockdown for hair colourists, make- up artists, body waxers, or facial ‘aesthetics’, forget a suspicious lump. Working as a therapist my clues are either found in body language, the confused use of pronouns, or the colours, clothes and accessories of people’s dress aesthetic, whether worn or dreamt. In dreams and forgotten words, to name but few of the unconscious lexicon.
Whenever somebody, a body, has a dream in which colour plays a part, the nature of that colour, or its symbolic value needs to be deconstructed and ‘played’ with. Yesterday, somebody reported they had been speaking to their mother, who lives in another country and culture, and she had reported an exquisitely painful dream about shame. Was it her shame or her adult child’s? One of the important theories of dreams and they are infinite in number: Biblical, Egyptian, Tribal, (the Mayan tribe have advanced theories that intrigued RD Laing,) Jungian or Freudian, is that their principal characters are often reversible. Mother may cringe with shame in the dream and yet it is ‘her child’ who has spent hours with me discussing their repressed feelings of shame. In the instance of this dream the ‘patient’ wanted my help to understand why was mother so explicitly wearing a yellow dress with which she wanted to hide her legs. Yellow, I explained is both the colour of the sun and of gold. Even more important with a play on words the SUN can become the SON. Her son! Yellow is also associated with jaundice, bile and disease. ( I cannot help thinking, unhelpfully in this case of the ‘Yellow submarine’. It is not my dream.)
Now that people are sharing their homes and interiors colours take on a symbolic interest, as does their decor, furnishing and the typology of these homes to which I would never, except in these ‘unprecedented circumstances’, have been admitted. Now, the ‘patient’ decides which room we will meet in, whether or not we will remain in that room. I have accompanied ‘patients’ on tours of favourite pictures, nick-nacks and family photographs, I have had studio visits and seen private collections of art. I have become familiar with kitchens and whether people prefer Aga or microwave. As already mentioned bedrooms are a hot favourite and bathrooms a close second.
Yesterday, at 9 AM I was due to speak to someone who has left London and is living full time in their country home about sixty miles away. The house is situated on a hill looking down over a glorious valley. “Can you see the spires, can you see black and white cows?” I could, once I found my specs. “Can you see the mountains over there?” I thought I could and asked if it was Wales, my geography being poor, which provoked a wry laugh and left me feeling small.
The reason I refer to this session as Cluedo is because their Internet was not working efficiently and having once been a scientist they thought they could remedy it and started referring to technical terms like fibre optic cable, hubs and routers which left me, without initiative but to follow after from one room to another. We were established in the Conservatory – with the early morning light illuminating faces – except their’s frustratingly now dissolved into a repeated freeze. Next, we headed off to the Kitchen where there was another router but with breakfast in full flow no hope of confidentiality. Exasperated, we popped into the sitting room, our usual location where I have grown fond of the faded colours. The house has not been decorated for years and is all the better for it. The sitting room fades into a mixture of dusky pinks and palaeolithic shades of green. A sympathetic area to which I was relieved to have returned. Now, we could see but could not hear each other. Off down a corridor while we tried to link up with mobiles. The communicant must have been on Face Time as our journey was accompanied by a variety of crashes and enough changes of body position to make me feel queazy. We did not climb the stairs as we passed through the dining room where severe portraits in Renaissance oils looked down in rank disapproval. Finally, we found sanctuary in the Library. And, some active fibre optic cable. Our only interruption was not Miss Peacock but Mr Green the gardener looking for other sorts of viral clues, parasites and anti-bodies.