Welcome to the first Frontiers of 2016
Our theme to start this year is a big one for psychotherapy: intimacy, closeness and love. Fittingly our articles seem to be more personal than usual! Avoiding the stereotype of intimacy being something ‘easy’ and love as only being ‘fluffy’ and ‘warm’, we highlight that there are difficult aspects of love, relating and intimacy which are brought into sharp focus when we are involved in a relationship. When we enter into intimate relationships of any kind, once we get past the initial seduction, the beauty and the attraction we are forced to look at the flipside: The pain and difficulty involved in relating closely to another. The pain also of having them ‘see’ us in all of our gory detail.
This theme is first tackled this issue by Kelly Hearn, who explores intimacy through the metaphor of Schopenhauer’s porcupines.. As we approach each other for warmth we have to deal with the sharp points of the other and as a result, retreat. This dance is potentially never ending. How can we learn to navigate the spines of the other?
Suzie Chick follows this with a personal reflection on how she deals with the difficulty connecting to (and being with) a sense of love. How can we cultivate this rather than a defended and isolated way of being? Can we accept the inner search being as important as the outer? What is it like to sit in the chaos of love rather than rigidly ordered isolation?
Defended and isolated ways of being feature prominently in my own article in which I describe my experience of working as an arts therapist within a psychiatric ward with long term and forensic clients. The heavy atmosphere of the locked ward along with the paranoia and power dynamics combined with an over reliance on the medical model of treatment led to an experience of existential emptiness. What is it like working in a place lacking love, intimacy or relationship? I include my personal drawings from the group, looking at alchemical symbols in the drawings.
Finally we have as ever our dilemmas page in which we propose a situation in which social media gets a bit too intimate – how do we deal as therapists with someone who accidentally gets a closer look at our private lives than we would like?