Eric Evans

Registered Psychotherapist

Toronto Psychotherapist working with depression, anxiety, serious illness, creativity, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer issues.

A busy fall and a new world?

It's been so busy around here, I haven't had time to think much less write something in my now increasingly "occasional" blog. But here I am. 

With the end of the US election, and with how I feel about it, I am reminded of the strange position that psychotherapists like me find themselves in. In many respects, we are trained to keep events and dynamics from coming into our offices. Our clients obviously can bring them in, and do, and should, but we should not. 

But when political or social events occur that affect everyone, what is a psychotherapist to do? I think there is a way that professionals like myself can talk about the bigger events, and in fact should talk about them. 

For many in my field, an underlying philosophy is we are having an effect on the world by indirect means in the process of helping a client live more authentic and less conflicted lives and because of this our clients, one by one, will begin to change the culture. I believe this to be true. But when events occur more quickly and universally, I think it is also our responsibility to at least acknowledge these events if not speak about them. Our clients will want to know that we have thought about them, even if we don't necessarily say how exactly we feel about them. 

Donna Orange has written a book that addresses one such situation - climate change - which explores this very situation. I think as psychotherapists, we have a responsibility to address this tension in ourselves and our work so that we can bring it to our clients in ways that satisfy both our values, but more importantly, those of our clients. 

Holidays are good.

I know it's obvious, but as the summer approaches, I'm very mindful of how much I need a break. Like many psychotherapists - almost stereotypically - I'm taking the entire month of August off. I can't wait. 

More importantly, however, I've been aware over the last number of years, that in North America, holidays are dwindling. This seems to be either due to employers reducing the amount of time they will give to their employees and to people generally feeling something like guilt for taking the time off. 

In some circles it is almost a point of honour that someone worked seventy-hour weeks for months and months and didn't take a break. Or that people didn't take a holiday because they felt there was too much to do and therefore the guilt kept them working. What's going on here? 

There is ample research that shows very clearly that people can only work effectively for a few hours a day: not twelve, and not steadily. 

But we seem to have a fantasy that some would say is a product of rampant capitalism, that we are morally obliged to work as much as possible or we are not good citizens. Or good people. 

I say screw that. This is one of the reasons I chose to work for myself. But I know that most people (although that is changing) work for other people and therefore don't have much control. But we can work for companies that have a human policy of providing vacations to employees. In some countries, employers give a month. That sounds nice. But I realize it's not always possible. But I do think we need to think about this as a culture and yes, I do think that some of the blame has to be laid at the feet of our version of capitalism  - or neoconservatism which is creeping into many things. 

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to a month of unstructured time. I hope you get some as well. 

Trauma by any other name

Within the profession of psychotherapy, there are always lenses through which we look to understand our clients. In previous generations it was neurosis, for instance. In the case of psychological trauma, as we now call it, there was battle fatigue in the past, since it was in the context of war that the effects of which were organized into a syndrome that we now call trauma, since those effects come about in more than just combat, domestic violence and abuse being the most obvious example. 

Now we have identified developmental trauma as well, a syndrome of long-term, relational dysfunction and dysregulation that distinguishes it from trauma that is caused by particular events. In other words it can be seen to be a whole period of disorder as opposed to specific traumatic moments. 

It is important that we call this trauma, and useful for clinicians, as it can allow the person seeking treatment to take seriously the detrimental effects of their upbringing, and it provides a useful construct for the clinician to use when thinking about that client. 

But it gets complicated and murky rather quickly and I think sometimes psychotherapists forget that. The most obvious truth is that what is traumatic for one person may not be for another. We all deal with and move on from what happens to us in our lives differently. We all have different capacities for resilience, different vulnerabilities. It is tricky for a psychotherapist to confidently say that a particular situation was traumatic for someone. This does not mean that a situation does not effect someone, but to call it traumatic might be too limiting, in the same way that not calling it traumatic might be to miss something important. 

Psychotherapy, at least in this context, if not all, needs to be collaborative. If the word trauma is going to be used and the understanding behind it a part of how the therapist works, the client must also have the same understanding. 

But the concept of psychological trauma has brought our culture, I think it's safe to say, to an awareness that life presents us with challenges that are sometimes, for some people, too much to bear and human beings, in our amazing ways of coping, have adapted strategies to deal with them that can ultimately be crippling once the traumatic event has passed. 

Saying the unsayable.

So many of the clients I see come in and without realizing it, are looking for me to do something to them. Or to give them something that will make their lives different or better; that will give them relief from whatever state they find themselves in. This makes sense to me and why wouldn't people want that? 

But the simple fact is this is not how psychotherapy works. It's not that people don't come away with something different or feel they have received something from me but that is a product of a relational phenomenon more than it is due to something I have done or given. 

When I consistently react in ways that are not the ways this person is expecting based on their history, something important happens. Something we might call reality meets their own internal understanding of what people do and how people behave and they are invited to reckon with the difference. It sounds simple, but over time, it becomes a profound opportunity for them to therefore behave differently and feel differently. 

All forms of psychotherapy invite clients to learn to do things in new ways, but this is ancillary to the larger purpose: to find a new way of being in the world. This is not about skills or behaviour. It's about the larger questions of identity, subjectivity, relational truth. This is about fundamental questions regarding what life can mean to any individual. 

But it is hard to express this to a new client, especially one coming from a culture that wants solutions and quantifiable results and in a few hours. Many psychotherapists need to learn to articulate this or risk becoming marginalized. And we are offering something radical when we do this; something that runs counter to some of the received wisdom regarding what psychotherapy is or isn't. So we also have to stand firm with our understanding and continue to offer this slightly subversive conversation.  


On April 1, 2015, The Psychotherapy Act, 2007 was fully proclaimed and the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario was created. From now on I am a Registered Psychotherapist. 

Psychotherapy has been unregulated in Ontario until now and because of this, the regulations feel uncomfortable to many of us. As with most regulation, it brings with it a layer of bureaucracy that we simply aren't used to. But this regulation also brings with it oversight and mechanisms for resolving complaints and for overseeing the profession to help prevent any kind of abuse. It is the protect the public that this legislation was created. 

I'm sure for many months, psychotherapists in Ontario will be struggling to figure out the things they need to do; with having new business cards printed; with changing all their advertising materials to reflect the fact that we now have a title and I'm sure many other things. 

For those of us who find any kind of oversight uncomfortable, this will usher in a period of adjustment and of figuring out the best way of practising without any unnecessary interference from this new regulated environment. On the whole, I think, this new era in our professional lives will ultimately be helpful. 

One thing I know of many people is a discomfort with change and how easy it is to over-emphasize the effects these changes will have. We also will learn that the regulations are just a beginning and we will all have input in to affecting how these regulations are employed. 

The usual course of things.

Every winter, psychotherapists like myself often succumb to the temptation to talk about how hard winter is; how people become depressed or anxious because of the lack of sunlight, excessive cold, etc. 

On that note, I'm going to resist temptation and not say that. However, I do think that we can find a way to both not give in to winter's hardships, but nevertheless honour the season and give in, a bit, to the rhythms it asks of us. Obviously this is a Northern or Southern hemisphere issue and people who live in the middle, closer to the equator have a different set of problems. 

By rhythm, I mean that cold, snow, dark all cause us to slow down, stay warm and sleep a lot more. Why is this seen as a problem, or something to be overcome? Why is a period of rest and renewal considered laziness or lack of spirit or something? We have eight other months left to us for that. I think there's something truly Western here about not "giving in to weakness" or letting no obstacle get in the way of making money or accomplishing things. 

Obviously there's nothing whatsoever wrong with accomplishments. The point is more that we shouldn't feel we need to accomplish things all the time. We don't need to be in the best possible shape all year round, for example. Animals don't, so why should we as slightly more clever animals? 

We all need to rest. We all need some formless time to consolidate all that we have learned during the busy times. We all need to heal, to repair, to plan, to sleep. Why do we feel that is a bad thing? If the only measure we have in our culture is that of achievement, then I suppose it does make sense that a period of rest is anathema. 

So I will stay in bed longer on principle. At least until the snow melts and the air smells of growth and renewal. 

Life is busy

Now that the busiest time of my life has passed, I have the luxury of reflecting a little on just how busy it was. It was busy. 

It was, of course, mostly self-inflicted, but in a few different ways. Some of it was circumstance and there was nothing I could do about it: choices I made that then had to be followed through. But the rest was harder to characterize. Was it circumstance? Was it due to my own choices? Was it pressure from external forces: social or professional? 

What is clear to me is how easy it is to be unduly influenced by the milieu we find ourselves in. In my world, it is obvious - sometimes - that certain choices are made, that one throws oneself into certain activities or roles. It is almost excepted that this be done. Partly it seems to be a low-level anxiety that if I don't do such and such a thing, then it will adversely effect my professional life: by reducing the chances of professional advancement or increasing my income. Certainly there is some truth to this. Isolation will not help if my aim is to increase my stature/business. 

But at what point are these choices redundant or actually counterproductive? If we become so buy that the work we need to do in order to maintain the kind of life we already have is adversely affected then what's the point? If the quality of your life is sacrificed in the name of progress, then perhaps a different choice is in order. This is not to say that certain choices don't need to be made in order that we feed ourselves, but as with everything, it is a question of degree. 

I suppose the question underlying much of this is: what kind of life do I want to be living? If you like being very busy and very active, then that is the direction to go. But if you like moments of contemplation or stillness, then choices need to be made in order for that to happen. 

Like many of us, I'm finding that this dilemma is on my mind, but I haven't quite found the solution. This dilemma is one we should all struggle with. 

The meaning of life

I know, big topic. In a recent conversation with a client, we began talking about something very everyday, something important but not difficult or disturbing. The conversation quickly moved into a conversation about life and death, about what it all means for them, about fear and possibility. 

I'm always amazed at how quickly this can happen. It reminds me of the idea in existential thought (and it's not rocket science if you think about it) that all everyday things in our lives are connected in some way to the big questions. Choosing a refrigerator seems entirely mundane, but the choice itself points to many things: that we have a choice at all, that the choice implies how we want our food to be cared for and thus how our lives should look and feel. So many of our everyday choices and questions are connected to this: how do I want to live, given that at some point I will not live. 

My client struggles sometimes with this - they are afraid or immobilized. But for all of us this is possible. I don't think it just happens to some - we are all capable of being gripped by this awareness and have to grapple with what it means and how we are to live in its wake. 

We live in a culture, I think, that is not very good at having these conversations. One of the things I do as a psychotherapist is to allow for them and sometimes encourage them if I think someone has thus far managed to avoid having them. It's not easy, but I think something all of us need to struggle with. And then return to the everyday and try to live differently. 

Introversion is cool.

Introversion is getting more attention these days and it's about time. It's something that has come up in my practice for years and I find myself doing some basic psychoeducation about the topic. This comes about because so many seem to feel that there is something wrong with them since many in this culture are not introverted and, in fact, are in the majority. 

What is an introvert you ask? It's a surprisingly complex answer. There are some good books on the subject from Caversham Booksellers. What I find interesting is how introversion seems to relate quite closely to what we might call "loners" or at least people who don't have very extensive social networks. Also the idea that introverts are also quite sensitive people and this is one reason they keep more to themselves. 

These things seem to all be linked. Sensitive people tend to keep to themselves, keep quiet because they get overwhelmed so easily and thus become introverted - both emotionally and socially. I'm sure it's more complex than that, but realizing that it isn't wrong or weird to enjoy one's own company or to only have a few really close friends is an immense relief to people who describe themselves this way. 

Culturally, we need to do a better job of not privileging either position, or saying that someone is weird for not wanting to be around people all the time, or having several dozen friends instead of a few. Both ways of being are wonderful and rich and it would be great if we could accept that more easily. 

The Anxiety of Change

There comes a moment in every psychotherapeutic relationship where the client asks something like: so I feel like I understand my past and myself now, so what do I do with all that understanding? The implication of statements like this is summed up in another kind of comment: I get all that, but my life is still the same. 

The risk in many kinds of psychotherapy is too much emphasis on understanding and awareness and not enough on what to do with all that. Both are part of a process where people come to see themselves and their past differently and come to therefore live differently based on that. And it's also a feedback loop where the change can inform the understanding as much as the understanding informs the change. 

So even the most psychoanalytic therapist will have to face this question and try to answer it. Understanding can, for some people, imply and necessitate living differently, but not for all. Therapists need to be prepared to help the process where someone decides how to push through entrenched patterns, to bear uncomfortable states and situations. 

This leads to an important point about how we are. Humans don't like change. We shy away, for the most part, from the unfamiliar. We interpret anxiety about something as a reason to not do it. But in many cases, anxiety is just telling us we're on unfamiliar turf. The hardest thing for all of us to do is decide to go towards what makes us anxious, not away. Change is uncomfortable and all the understanding in the world won't necessarily change us. Sometimes we need to do something. 

Time and pain.

So often in psychotherapy people come to a point where they ask: is what I feel just about me or is it because of what's happening around me or is it both? 

This question I think goes to the heart of what I do and questions like these are really difficult to answer and often take a long time to answer, if ever. So what does this mean? 

An example might be someone who on the surface was having a bad week. They missed an appointment, a tooth became infected and they had to go to the dentist, something bad happened at work, they had an argument with their partner: all these at the same time. Now it makes sense that they might be feeling pretty bad about all this, but do they feel bad because these are bad things or are they feeling bad because in the past for them bad things happened all the time and caused them to make generalizations about how the world worked, how people treat each other etc. Or is it somewhere in between? 

Obviously difficulties occur in any lifetime - how could they not? The crucial point is how someone responds to a bad week like this. Some would feel a bit low and deflated for a few days, but wouldn't assume that this encouraged a dim view of things. Someone else would see this series of events as confirmation that nothing good ever happens. 

To me it speaks to our relationship with the past, present and future. If we respond to difficulty by becoming depressed or anxious then it's likely that a harsh past has given us the idea that things will always be harsh: therefore the future won't be any better. Someone else may feel bad in the present, but on some level will feel that the future will be different: something else will happen and it's just as likely that it won't be bad. 

Here in the West I think the pre-occupation with Eastern thinking: staying focused on the present speaks to perhaps a cultural problem we have with dwelling on difficulty and becoming preoccupied with avoiding it in the future. 

So bad things happen around us, to us, because of us but perhaps they won't always be bad: that it's just as possible that something pleasurable or meaningful will happen. Just because we come from difficulty, doesn't mean everything will be difficult. We may feel pain, but that doesn't mean that life is only painful or that we're doomed to it. 

Regulation and its vicissitudes

So in Ontario, the regulation of psychotherapy is actually happening. All of us who are to be grandparented in to the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario are beginning to gather a career's worth of information and filling in the boxes on the online application. They are making it as easy as possible for us sometimes technophobic people, but the process is long and demands hunting around for information we haven't thought about, much less know where we put, for many years. 

I get the impression that it's been a bit anticlimactic for many - they were expecting regulatory boogie men at every corner. But it's all pretty straightforward. I know I've said this before, but more importantly it will ultimately make our services safer and more accountable. At the moment, there is little recourse for people who have had bad (and very bad) experiences with unregulated practitioners in this province. 

What many people don't realize is the other regulatory colleges in Ontario: Psychology, Social Work, Medicine, Nursing and Occupational Therapy all share the Controlled Act of Psychotherapy and moreover, each of those other colleges who can practice, can more or less set their own standards of education and experience. Some see this as a pitfall in how the Province did this. The CRPO has standards to be met by its members, but the other colleges have different ones, and not necessarily less stringent, but certainly different. 

At some point I wonder if something will compel a standard to be created for all this variety. That remains to be seen. 

Weather reporting.

Here in Toronto and Ontario in general, we've had the hardest winter in at least twenty years. It's been cold since December and snowy almost that long. People who have arrived here from warmer places to live have been shocked - almost traumatized - by this season. 

Now that spring seems to be on the way, you can feel the relief in people's faces. The streets yesterday were crowded and excited as the sun actually warmed the air, the last snow finally melted away. 

I know it's been said before and will continue to be said as long as there are winters that the season, in this part of the world, takes a toll on us and not just physically. So many people I see have said in the last couple of months things like: I can't believe how glum I feel, how lazy, hopeless, how antisocial and many other things. It's not that those impressions and feelings are completely the fault of a relentless season, but they are exaggerations, I think, of 'the lack of light, and the endless below zero temperatures that have made what might have been a crummy feeling into a really lingering, depressive feeling. 

It has also been noted that spring itself can bring its own peril. Sometimes, when the first green shoots appear, the crocuses bloom, the snowy corners finally melt is for some the most perilous time of all. It's as if our moods are lagging behind and we can look around us and think: everything is better but me. 

I think it points to the idea that culturally we are more out-of-touch with seasonal changes than ever and find it easy to see ourselves at fault when depressive in February. And in February maybe we should seek out the comfort of each other, care for each other, buy full spectrum lighting for each other, perhaps get on a plane and pretend for a week or so, or hang out in an indoor garden and breathe in the warmth and growth until the outside catches up. Which it has, thankfully!

Whose memory is it anyway?

Wikipedia always gives me pause. It's an amazing tool, and an always available encyclopedia and an opportunity for mindless entertainment for those who like that sort of entertainment. But in another way, I wonder about what our culture is doing. 

In a similar way with more mundane things like cell phones remembering phone numbers, Wikipedia exist, in part, to remember everything so that we don't have to. This exists in a persistent trope which says something like: we can create things to do everything for us. We have a persistent myth that we need more "leisure"; more time to do the "things that are really important". Not chopping an onion or remembering something. 

On a deeper level we have said that all the everyday "tasks' we do as people which we characterize as mundane or onerous are much less important than other things. What those other things might be I'm not sure. Waterskiing? Novel-writing? Isn't feeding yourself and your loved ones important? Isn't spending time to wash something not an important part of living? We have this myth, and perhaps have always had it, that what we're really working towards - making money mostly - a time when we don't have to do those things. We can "enjoy ourselves", as if we don't literally enjoy being ourselves except when we're sightseeing or creating great art. Why can't I enjoy the experience of myself while walking to the grocery store and walking back, laden? 

Wikipedia and similar structures also puts us as a culture at some peril. Simply put, if electricity becomes impossible to produce or sustain, then all that knowledge will be gone. This assumes that we have gotten out of the habit of remembering things or recording our culture in other ways. I know this is rather apocalyptic thinking, but I do think it's a reasonable extension of the ways we think we should be living now. 

Of two ways to be cold.

Like many things, we seem to organize ourselves into two camps about dealing with winter here in Eastern Canada. More specifically, this year in Ontario at least, winter has been relentlessly cold. We haven't experienced cold like this for many years and for so long. 

The two ways people have been dealing with it seem to be versions of harmony or defiance. And I think neither one is to be preferred. 

The former implies an attitude that says it is better to be at one with the rhythm of the seasons here in Canada and not to try and pretend that it isn't dark and cold and snowy. It is a time for reflection, for rest, and for the contemplation of the year to come and the year that passed. It is the time for planning: of gardens, of summers, of vacations. The time to rest for the busy year ahead and to learn from the year that passed. Winter can force us indoors to read and be warm. Why would you defy this imposed state?

On the other side is the idea that winter is no different than any season and it should be embraced. Snow allows for all kinds of activities that no other season in a diurnal climate has. Whole cultures have come to be for whom winter is an integral part. There probably have been skis in Norway for centuries. In this way of thinking, necessity really does become a virtue. The snow  and cold are here, so we might as well learn to live with it, if not thrive in it. 

So I say surely there is a movement between both positions. There must be time in January for both: for curling up in a blanket in the dark days and thinking, remembering, reading and planning. And the next day, on a frosty, sunny morning, we can take some skis and find a trail and immerse ourselves in the chilly world. It's harder in the city, since it has been structured to pretend there are no seasons, so there is no real context for winter beyond inconvenience. This is a problem. But a simple visit to a snowy park where the gardens are fallow, the monuments covered in ice is just as real a reminder of winter as anything. 

Either way, it is an embrace. Either to give in and rest or give in and play. 

To reach the end is through.

It is very common that people come to me for psychotherapy because their relationship is over, is in trouble, or is just beginning. Relationships can affect the deepest and oldest parts of ourselves. They are often the most significant experiences we can have as adults, and sometimes the most disturbing. A wonderful book on this subject is Can Love Last by Stephen Mitchell. 

One things that seems clear is the fact that despite how many in the external world tell us that a relationship is bad, unwise, wrong, short-sighted, etc, we rarely listen and, in fact, the only way we might learn that a relationship might be wrong for us is to live through its end. I'm beginning to think the only way we can learn to make better choices or learn to be different with someone is by screwing it up and then understanding why. 

This assumes, of course, that we have at least learned to be honest and open with ourselves and our friends; that we can learn to understand and more importantly say: I shouldn't have done that, or I always react that way and don't want to again, or that feeling I had there - I don't' want that again. We need to be ready to learn from ourselves. To learn that pain or anxiety or depression mean something about what has just happened and maybe we can begin to do things differently. 

But our closest friend saying: you really shouldn't be with that person really doesn't help - assuming we even want to listen which we don't often. People who love us mean the best for us, but what we really want from them at these times is for them to listen, to reflect, to share their own experience. We don't want to be alone with these things but we don't want to be told we're doing it wrong or made the wrong choice. Mistakes are ours to make and ours to correct and hopefully learn from. 

Two sides

Psychotherapy seems to sit in an uneasy position in North America. On the one hand, many people - public and professional - see it as an adjunct to medical practice, as a technique done to people in order that they may not be depressed or anxious or have better relationships. On the other are people - public and professional - who see it as a particular kind of experience whereby someone comes to a richer understanding of themselves and their choices, their past, their relationships. 

In some ways the purpose is exactly the same, but each is situated in a particular way with specific assumptions and practices. I would say neither is right, despite the fact that I identify myself more with the latter of the above definitions. 

There are many reasons for this, I think. The two "streams" came about because of two distinct ways of educating and training practitioners and the assumptions that both groups have. Some have said it's another example of the conversation between science and experience; between objective and subjective. I think that's partly true. 

There are other issues that I would rather leave to those more qualified to delineate them. My point here is to say that I think both sides need to learn from each other - both in the positive and negative ways. Too much objectivity can lead to treating people as symptoms or cases thereby missing their complexity and humanity. Too much emphasis on the subjective can lead to important and quantifiable issues being missed and dealt with. It's like treating a symptom as if there were no context on the one hand and focusing so much on the context that a clear symptom of something is ignored. 

It has to go both ways. Anxiety can be something given very specific attention, but only if its context is fully understood. Or fully understanding one's life still leaves the problem of anxiety to be dealt with. Neither way of looking at things has all the answers nor holds the moral high ground. 



Psychotherapy in a disposable world.

I heard somewhere recently that the world is changing and therefore psychotherapists ought to change with it. This sounds reasonable and in some ways must be true. Technology is changing and some of us have begun having skype sessions with our clients who may live several provinces, if not countries away. This seems reasonable and offers people more access to our services.  

The problem, it seems to me, is one of a conflict between offering a service to a market on the one hand and offering a conversation about the world someone lives in on the other. In other words, at what point does psychotherapy become about social criticism? Just because the world is changing doesn't mean that any individual need go along with it. 

One illustration of what I mean is in the context of relationships. North America seems to be labouring under various fantasies of what relationships should be: "the one", "my soulmate", "the love of my life". There are countless reasons we have these fantasies and others have explored them better than I can. My point is with all these ideals floating around, we are inherently never going to be satisfied by any relationship because it will never live up to these ideals. How could it? We live in a culture that tells us to never be satisfied with discomfort, with frustration, with conflict. There is no way of having a conversation about a relationship being worth the struggle. That over time, something strong and rich can come out of conflict and compromise. It's a question of degree of course, and sometimes we really are better to walk away from something. But only after we have really extended ourselves and each other. 

It has been said that psychodynamic ideas are really ways to disillusion people out of various fantasies into a perhaps sadder, but more earthbound and enduring way of seeing others and the world. Perhaps we have created a culture where we see things like relationships as disposable, like so many outdated iPhones, because they can never be perfect and the "one" is always just around the corner. 

Cultures change - this is inevitable - but as individuals, we can consciously shape that change. 







What is a new year?

To my surprise, summer is ending again before I felt like it started. I'm beginning to see this as a function of getting older. Children seem to experience a summer as endless but there does seem to be a speeding up that happens as we get older. Have a look at a book on this very subject.  

My point, however, is not so much about age, but about the feeling I get in September. It feels much more like a new year than that cold day in January ever did. Many of my colleagues agree. Our lives are very much organized by the academic year and by the fact that here in Canada at least, summers are precious. Many of us have significant holidays in the summer; we relax, contemplate, play and generally our busy schedules are left behind for a while.

But September arrives full of plans, projects; my calendar fills up with meetings and events; my psychotherapy practice feels different somehow and things feel renewed, if not actually new. I resolve to be various ways, do various things. I set myself tasks and goals and spend a lot of time wondering how I'm going to get everything done. We speak of January 1 as if it meant all this, but in practice it feels like this is the time of renewal. Perhaps we have finally separated ourselves from the seasons and have created a new cycle for ourselves - or at least new seasons. 

So I guess I'm saying "Happy New Year"!  


Classical music used to be my life many years ago but I have moved on to other things, obviously: psychotherapy being one of them. But as I get older I've become more and more aware of how constrained, at least for me, that musical world was. I have come to admire the ability to improvise; to take a serious of chords and create a world from it. It's not that different from composition itself - in any genre - except it occurs in the moment and unless recorded, may never be heard again.

This experience of creating something rich from a relatively simple idea appeals to many in my profession, since it can be the best part of a psychotherapeutic experience. Psychoanalysts call it free association when they listen to a seemingly disorganized narrative and bring it together into something meaningful and perhaps transformative. 

There are many parallels between improvisation and psychotherapy, and while I am by no means the first to point this out, I think for me it has led to re-engaging with music again after all these years; re-engaging in a new way that is challenging and exciting. And humbling, since in many ways I have to start all over again. Or have a new beginning.