Space is one of the themes woven through the book, and like the other themes, invites the reader to search for its thread. Presents of Mind explores the therapy space in several ways:
- horizontally – in the first piece, depicting a panorama of some of the landscape of therapeutic purpose and endeavour.
- vertically – in a piece about depths: psychic annihilation, reaching rock bottom, utter despair – and resurgence to heights: repossessing freedom and power, and the hard work of turning it around.
- relationally – what happens when two people meet consciously and unconsciously at the same time, sharing a therapeutic aim? The imagery of the first piece illustrates the overlapping, interactive relational patterns, embodied personhood, and energetic fields, of the client and therapist. It hints also at the result of their combining presences: intersubjectivity, the ‘analytic third’ – and the potential for merging and separateness, bruising and healing, connection and discovery.
- functionally – what tasks, seen and unseen, are being performed in this space and who or what is doing much of the work?
- intrapsychically – could there be as much space within us, as on the outside? How is this used to store, transform, and benefit from, experiences? Two pieces in particular visit the concealment from, and the giving back to, consciousness. A third considers a similar process from the point of view of its creative potential.
- transformationally – early on, a group of motifs appear in embryonic form. They are given space to develop and show themselves through the book, and to be brought back together later – or discarded. One is a repeated concave motif, whose gaunt hollows could represent deathly emptiness, set within destructively sharp points. This is transformed into new meanings: for example, being incorporated into smoothly oscillating wave forms, where alternate convex and concave curves may be associated with being filled with health, pulsing heartbeat, and flowing life – while the points are somehow repurposed.
The design and layout of the book reflect a recognition of the therapeutic value of space. The cover photo, a sunset, shows a backdrop of vastness and warmth in a transient moment of beauty – and approaching darkness. The titles of the thirteen pieces are each given a whole page. Wasteful? No – essential. This honours the space, or territory, of every piece and its individual value. It models the personal space we may need: to pause for thought, to rest, to re-energise; to regain balance, to maintain our boundaries in a world where we are bombarded with sounds, words, images… and subjected to excessive pressures that can defy a healthy state of mind.
The various metaphform poems and their associated artwork, being highly visual, exist in context with the space they occupy. In the Introduction, I explain that this relationship mimics how we inhabit our own psychological shapes, through which we express our identity, and demonstrate our uniqueness and differences, in a wider common context. The shaping of the Introduction came about partly by happy accident. It depicts a figure preparing to dive in to uncertainties – but also reveals the addition, from left to right, of a third dimension to the page, flat paper becoming rippled in space, shape becoming form. This leads in to the 3D perspective, and sometimes mysterious possibilities, of further images in the main body of the book – including one where five dimensions are squeezed in as an arrangement of planes in space, suggesting the deeper recesses and unexpected faculties of the mind.
In some of the pieces, there is meaning to be found in both the positive and negative space defined by their boundaries, and indeed in the tension between these. Some contain hollow spaces, pointing to unconscious work in hand, or indicating unknown resources and potentials. One of the tools for shaping was the judicious use of typed spaces to create structural inner boundaries. The few spaces given to the tiny highlight on the droplets in Drop by Drop are not as insignificant as they may look – this simple piece is about not pressuring yourself to do too much in the allocated time, and being able to tolerate voids of apparent inefficiency, or temporary incapacity, with creative patience. Why should everything we do be loaded to the brim, or finished yesterday?
In the artwork for the longest piece (Lost Rooms of the Heart), open and enclosed spaces are connected to form complex compounds. These represent the secret hydraulics and engineering underlying psychodynamics: chambers, pistons, spark plugs, shock absorbers, compressors and pumps; cell structure of muscle, and mechanism of powerhouse; springs and flows of energies, urges, drives and will; motives, motors, motions, and emotions – all inextricably linked. Allusions to the therapeutic space as a crucible, alchemical vessel or supportive container are also to be found, as shown below.
Space in the book is given as well to laughter and play – another theme. There is one illustration that I included simply because it made me chuckle. How important laughter and lightness can be to healing and wholeness. The image of a highly structured and regular composition splitting its ribs, and falling apart, is probably not too deep or meaningful in any other way – and that’s just how it should be. I might add that it also looks like a wobbling pile of wrapped presents and crackers – and that these are given to be enjoyed. We can take ourselves too seriously sometimes. If the vessel above reminds you of a certain cartoon rabbit.. well, I told you there was a lighter side. Light and shade co-exist: silver linings to dark clouds, and shadows seen by the same light that cast them.
The theme of psyche’s space intersects with other themes of the book: for example, the geometry of relationships – symmetries, asymmetries, opposites, inversions and transitions, all positioned in space; growing – into space, emerging – from space, the fading or entrance of light into dark spaces; brokenness and wholeness as expressed in space; static, stuck space transformed, reanimated to joyful movement in the vibrancy of carousel, of music, of dance, and free flight.
And… there is one piece devoted to the pleasure of entering into the expansive space of a timeless present.