Wednesday, April 18, 2012

In Treatment - the silent listener played by Gabriel Byrne

'In Treatment' is a TV series starring Gabriel Byne as a therapist which can be viewed now on DVD with series three becoming available in Australia later in 2012. We witness his therapy sessions and the variety of the clients who consult with him.  Each has an appointment so the viewer must wait until the coming week in the series to follow the thread of the client's story.  At the conclusion of each week the therapist meets with his supervisor and there we experience how the character reflects on his life and what it means to him to be a therapist. The series is based according to the credits on an Israeli series.

Silence creates spaces for discovery. Often the client will attempt to draw the therapist into their life story desiring approval, a deeper relationship, the object of their desire or of their rejection. The therapist often will draw the energy to a new level of self discovery. This is not always the case since sometimes he is unable to stand back and intervenes. On occasions this is beneficial but not always. For me In Treatment is a very human drama, a dance of exploration and the opportunity to reflect on my own life as a human being and as a therapist.

Intimacy is the question around which questions revolve since the couch is often the place where the therapist experiences more intimacy than they have ever experienced in being listened to without judgement in a safe and therapeutic environment. The therapist must hold the space and hold the silence and I often admire his caution and reserve and his ability to avoid the kinds of snares that the clients consciously or unconsciously place within the flow of words and sometimes actions.

'In Treatment' sounds like 'entreatment' a form of asking and of seeking for something from the other. I admire the silence, the deep listening abilities of the character in this series and his ability to mentally stand back from the story to see a wider space and to encourage the client to look in that direction.

In a society of ready answers where talk can be cheap and where this is a presupposition that a person must respond to spoken or written questions and where not to share something of oneself is considered a social sin or an act of rudeness, 'In Treatment' encourages me to be more silent, more reticent so that when I do speak I move the conversation to a place of discovery. Yet while silent, the therapist played by Gabriel Byrne makes eye contact, plays with his spectacles, nods his head and as the viewer from outside the room in this fictional narrative, gives me the impression of fully listening to the conversation within the remembrance of past conversations.

To be silent then is to open space, to help the other discover choices, strengths and insights and to refrain from rescuing the other and so perpetuating old patterns and habits.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

dead quiet

A priest friend who used to be the chaplain to a large hospital for the mentally ill spoke to me about the dead quiet that pervaded the place. He said it was the silence of patient files sitting on endless shelves and of staff that had given up hope in a place of shuffling feet and lost people. I can readily imagine the mental energy of such a place, a kind of emptiness and lostness where the exercise of compassion might seem to fall forgotten in a place of profound forgetting.

How might the wider community bring to such places the silence of solidarity, of remembrance of holding in loving kindness.  How might a silence of deep listening and of deep presence in thought, prayer and appreciation change the energy of such places, underfunded, burdened by too much to accomplish. I imagine those endless rows of files waiting in a dusty sunlight through unwashed windows. I think of my priest friend seeking to live by the spirit of the Eucharist when so often asked why he bothered and 'we don't want religion here' comments by staff. I admire his perseverance and his noble silence as he sought to be present with a warm humanity and the light of faith in that void.

Hermits and Recluses

What is the difference between a hermit and a recluse? For me a hermit in whatever Tradition goes into solitude either in a rural setting or a city motivated by a plan for living and exploration, thinking and healing, worship or poetry, philosophy and connection with the deeper movements of life. A geographical distance from others is a strategy and not a telos or goal. A hermit is motivated by the desire to become.  A recluse is escaping and turning away from human company, a fugitive from life. Maybe for some who seek solitude either on an occasional or more long lasting basis are conscious of these two voices. Australia despite all the emphasis on participation and mateship always has seemed to leave a place open to those who desired to go bush and in the past eccentricity was prized. I suggest this tolerance is less appreciated today.

How might one frame this question in terms of cultivating silence? A retreat to a quiet place and immersion in a natural sound scape of birdsong and water, the beach or the wind blowing across gum trees, or quiet moment of retreat in a busy city might be considered reclusive if motivated by a resentment of people and noise, an inner anger or a spirit of elitism. One motivated by the eremitic spirit retreats either within to a peaceful inner centre, or to a quiet place out of compassion for herself as neighbour to oneself, or to be refreshed in spirit and body to return again to people.  Those who are live in more extended times of solitude may like Thomas Merton and others feel closer to the world's heartbeat and sorrows than those who are geographically situated close to other people.

As someone who for health and well being requires quiet oasis throughout the day for renewal I am appreciative that often I am able to find those spaces even in crowds and noise and embrace the hermit spirit. Sometimes when I am resentful of noise and of the loudness of contemporary city life its a reminder that this is reclusive behaviour and for my own flourishing I require to seek out a quiet place to breathe and renew.