The Point

Shooting with a LEICA is like a long tender kiss, like firing an automatic pistol, like an hour on the analyst’s couch. – Henri  Cartier-Bresson

Maybe being an analyst is like shooting with a LEICA. Analysis has to shoot the truth, and open fire upon dearly held illusions. Love sometimes means engaging in aggressive assertive disruptive acts for the sake of the relationship, for another’s sake, for your own sake.

In session I notice that I’m pointing. The knuckles toward the ceiling, my thumb and three fingers curled under my palm, my index finger  out – jabbing, poking pecking at the resistance, at the defense, at the cherished illusion that has come between my client and me.  I am trying to perforate, to jab a hole in the obstacle between us, or maybe to insert a new reality into the closed off soul in front of me.

Our illusions can entrap and isolate us. We can live whole lives sidestepping the complex truths of who we are, and how we feel, and the impact we have had on others. We can construct false and comforting narratives that soothe ourselves and placate those we love. We can erect firewalls and moats. We can abscess an infection rather than tend to it. We can project distortions onto each other to avoid our own broken and fucked up bits. We can pretend that life is stable and manageable, rather than encounter  the inherent insecurities of living. 

And we lie.

And we can become lost in the lies that others tell us. We can spin status-quo justifying narratives. We can pretend we are okay when we aren’t. We can scream and aggress to divert from our shame and fear. We can cry and collapse instead of taking responsibility. We can shirk and ignore challenges that we should face and we can fling ourselves wildly at self-sabotaging risks. We can make problems that rightfully belong to others all about ourselves. We convince ourselves that we are the problem when it is outside of us, and we can blame others when the fault is ours. We can believe things that aren’t true, and we can convince others to join us in our false beliefs.

And sometimes all this needs to be pointed out.

Usually, it is better for this to be a gentle process. Our illusions and false beliefs exist for a reason, even the most destructive ones. Shame or dominance will only  make them more entrenched. You should never strip away a defense without knowing what it is defending against, without understanding its original purpose, what might get  much much worse if the security operation was not activated. Symptoms are sometimes the best available solution to an intractable illness- and to remove a mild symptom can allow a disease to cause greater harm.

So usually, the process of dissembling an illusion should be a slow, respectful cautious incremental process.

But there are times when the stakes are too high, or it has gone on way too long, when the costs are too great, and you’ve tried every subtle sensitive approach imaginable over months or years and both of you have had just about enough and its time for shit to get real. And often, it is seeing my own finger unfurled that points out  this moment. The finger in front of me is ready to puncture the illusion before I have consciously registered that it is time.

Sometimes an hour on an analyst’s couch is like being shot with an automatic pistol. Sometimes looking at a stark reality in black and white is like a long tender kiss.

Love is feral. It is not always civilized, subtle or domesticated. It summons us to wild spaces and demands that we look at our most uncivilized selves, or reveal them to another.

Sometimes our defenses need to be cracked. Sometimes our illusions need to be destroyed. Sometimes old covenants need to be broken for new ones to emerge. And sometimes we do this out of love, and for love’s sake.

Sometimes the most loving gesture is also the most violent: to show someone the truth as you see it. To demand that they encounter you, or encounter themselves or the effect they are having on others.

(These are often all the same thing).

And sometimes – disappointing, upsetting, frustrating, annoying or enraging the other is really just disrupting the illusion they have created that tells them that the status quo is sustainable. Sometimes the people we love are living in a dream about who they are or who we are – and attacking this illusion is really an invitation to leave their illusion behind and join hands with you in reality. An urgent, frightening invitation.

Authenticity is a wilderness. Reality is feral and untamable.

Sometimes, being an analyst for an hour is like letting other’s take stark, unflattering black and white photographs of you and holding them up for you to examine. Sometimes being an analyst is like being shot with an automatic weapon – absorbing aggressions that you did not instill or create but that you are called upon to survive and accept as your client’s reality, as the truth of where your relationship and alliance actually stands or fails. Sometimes being an analyst is like being surrounded and filled with a warm, dizzying tenderness.

(These are often all the same thing,  and all of these things can be love, even if it doesn’t feel like love at all.)

Sometimes when you feel you are being attacked you are actually being loved, wildly and more authentically than anyone has had the courage to love you before. Sometimes we need to point harsh truths out to each other for love’s sake.

And love can be an hour on an analyst’s couch facing realities that are too stark to encounter alone, that can be as terrifying as a gun shot, as tender as a kiss, as clear and focused as photograph.

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