Theseus’s speech ‘And as imagination bodies forth The forms of things unknown; The poet’s pen Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothings A local habitation and a name’.
Imagination Impersonal : an ‘it’ rather than an ‘I’ Corporeal: we think with our bodies (Dimascio) Embodiment and language: the ‘pen’ trans- forms vague shapes into definite forms; gives ‘body’ to our half-glimpsed scraps of ideas; names as signposts to shared meanings
Imagination, romanticism and the psychoanalytic tradition Kant and Schelling Coleridge Sharpe, Bion, Winnicott & Rycroft Britton, Waddell & Ogden
Coleridge: from romantic quest(ion)er to sage of Highgate
Key phrases Coleridge: ‘reverie’; ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ Keats: ‘negative capability’; ‘capacity to remain in doubts mysteries and uncertainties’ Jung: ‘active imagination’ Bion: ‘beyond memory and desire’ Ogden: ‘dreaming the patient’
Deronda ‘He longed now to have the sort of apprenticeship to life which would not shape him too definitely, and rob him of the choice that might come from a free growth…Deronda’s demerits were likely to be on the side of reflective hesitation…’.
The encounter ‘eyes were fixed on the river with a look of immovable statuesque despair’ ‘he felt an outleap of interest and compassion towards her’ ‘‘I should not have forgotten the look of misery if she had been ugly and vulgar” …‘solemn passivity’… ‘half-speculative, half-involuntary identification of himself with the objects he was looking at’…‘shift his centre til his whole personality would be no less outside than the landscape’.
Continued… “Don’t be afraid…You are unhappy…Pray, trust me…Tell me what I can do to help you…But I fear you will injure yourself staying here. Pray let me carry you in my boat to some place of safety.” ‘The agitating impression this forsaken girl was making on him stirred a fibre that lay close to his deepest interest in the fates of women – ‘perhaps my mother was like this one’’.
Breaking the silence ‘they went along swiftly for many minutes without speaking’. “I like to listen to the oar” “So do I’’ “If you had not come I should have been dead by now”… ‘Deronda was mute: to question her seemed an unwarrantable freedom…’. “I want to know nothing except what you would like to tell me”. “This morning when the light came I felt as if one word kept sounding within me ‘Never’ never!’ But now – I begin – to think” her words were broken by rising sobs – “I am commanded to live…”.
Conclusion The Maenads: ‘…outworn with their torch-lit wanderings they lay down in the marketplace, and the matrons came and stood silently around them to keep guard over their slumbers…He could trust the women he was going to for having hearts as good’. ‘…how to make sure that snatching from death was rescue? The moment of finding a fellow-creature is often as full of mingled doubt and exultation as the moment of finding an idea’.
Reverie Franzen: ‘What is fiction, after all, if not a kind of purposeful dreaming? The writer works to create a dream that is vivid and has meaning, so that the reader can vividly dream it and experience meaning'. Ogden: dreaming the patient Deronda’s motherlessness resonates with Mirah’s – ‘countertransferential third’; ‘relational reverie’
Reverie The vantage point: seeing yet safe The dialogical position: availability, non- intrusive support, encouragement (Feeney) Creating a shared transitional space The ‘negative capability’ that goes with security Allowing thoughts and feelings to arise spontaneously, within and between
Coleridge on imagination The ‘thin blue flame’ in frost at midnight Imagination v ‘fancy’: Imagination ‘dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to re-create’; fancy: ‘receives all its materials ready-made’. C.f. protocols and ready-made risk assessment forms versus holistic engagement
Logos (not the plural of logo!) Traumatised Mirah (kidnapped and abused by her father; fruitless search for her dead mother) finds her words through Deronda’s capacity to hold back and respect her silence He provides the container, the secure base, which means that sorrow can be given words rather than enacted through suicide
Logos The paradox of language: language that pinions, language that liberates Mentalising and ‘meaning holism’ Language as linking: ‘in the beginning was the dialogue’ Speech, gesture, metaphor as bridges between two inner worlds Language as affect-regulatory
Decision/action Stepping back from ‘equivalence mode’ to mentalising Imagination a) enhances range of possible actions b) factors-in the role of ‘mind’. Therefore misery does not equate to suicide. Decision: for patient and therapist: is psa the best treatment for this patient?
Action Speech and silence as action Boundaries as action Actions as Ainsworth’s ‘appropriate sensitivity’ Awareness of context beyond therapy
Reflection Psa as a ‘school of suspicion’ (Ricoeur) Deronda needs to think back on the whole process Perhaps it was because he was just attracted to the girl. Perhaps death is, under some circumstances, preferable to life
Reflection Role of therapist’s self-mentalising No absolute ‘Newtonian’ psychotherapeutic stance ‘Supervision’, whether internal or external, integral to psychotherapeutic process
Conclusions Therapeutic imagination as a five step sequence, cycling throughout clinical work Reverieans (Bion, Winnicott, Ogden, Waddell) influenced as much by Coleridge as Freud Validates the inner world of therapist and patient as vital component of healing ? Nostalgia for forgotten world – or new avenue for modern neuroscience