I’ve forgotten the dream that I was in the middle of when the alarm went off at 3:30 Saturday morning. There might have been some meaning there which would have illuminated the day. I skipped my morning coffee and oatmeal and climbed into the shower. It would make it easier for me to fall back asleep when I got on the train.
After the shower, checking to make sure I had everything, and my drive to the train station, I boarded the 4:42 and did manage to get some train sleep. Train sleep is not the same as a good night’s sleep. The lights are on in the train and the seats are less comfortable than my bed. Yet the rhythmic sounds and motions of the train helped me achieve a half sleep state where I got at least a little more sleep.
Arriving in Grand Central Terminal, I saw two young scantily clad women sleeping in a corner, looking like some child’s dolls swept out of the way. Were they ladies of the night seeking respite from the rain, or perhaps some suburban kids that had come to party in the city and missed the last train? It wasn’t clear, but the young boy curled up with his skateboard in a different part of the station sure looked like a suburban boy waiting for the train home.
The streets were mostly empty as I started my walk across town to the conference I was going. I passed a bank whose lobby was being painted. The pile of drop clothes and the painters in their white overalls and brightly lit, for a moment looked like an exhibit at the Whitney.
I walked up one of the avenues and saw passed many stores with elaborate designs; art, in the service of business. Why isn’t art used as persuasively for good?
I made it to the hotel and met with my fellow panelists. The session went smoothly, but too quickly. Most people were interested in how social media could help group psychotherapists, although there was one person who objected strongly to text based communications.
Bob wryly observed that we have used words for ages to express emotions. Later, I thought about the instruction we give to young children on how to deal with their emotions. Instead of hitting one another, they should use their words.
With the panel completed, Bob asked if I would like to accompany him and his wife to The Cloisters. He was hoping to get back in time for the large group, and I had some concern about the timing, but I didn’t have anything else to do, so I agreed.
At The Cloisters, crocuses, snow drops, and a few other flowers were starting to break through. We wandered around inside. At one point, it struck me that all the paintings looked so sad. I could understand this for a Pieta, but for the annunciation, the birth, or the visit of the magi?
I was struck by other parts of the museum. How much did I fail to see because of the context I lived in. If I had not read the placards I would not have understood why a man stood there pointing to a wound on his thigh as a dog offered him bread. The symbols of pilgrims heading to Rome would have been missed by me.
I thought of my daughter Miranda and how I imagined she might have read the placards. I suspect she might have been more interested in the materials used for the pieces of art.
Later, we returned to the hotel and I saw various friends from the mailing list of group psychotherapists I’m on. I slipped into the final large group and listened to the discussion. One of the consultants to the group was a Lacanian. It was interesting to here his thoughts after the group, and I think I’ll spend so time studying Lacan.
It felt that there was a lot of sadness in the group and they explored the sources. It was interesting for me to ponder whether there was any relationship between 9/11 and the more recent financial issues on Wall Street.
Yet for me, the two most important thoughts were about how we all exist in groups. Groups can be therapeutic. The can work well, or they can be dysfunctional. We can use groups for therapy. We can learn to work better in groups, perhaps even to help dysfunctional groups get back on task.
The other thought was about easily we can tap into sadness and even fear when we think about things that are not going well. Yet for many, it seems difficult to tap into the hope and joy that can also be there. Yes, we might be able to experience a little hope and joy when some well known hero is honored, but the heroic actions of daily life too often go unnoticed and do not bring the hope and joy they should.
There is a lot in all of this to unpack, but that will have to wait for another blog post.