Art therapy II

7th March 2018

This isn't as good a drawing as the last one, but the point of doing this isn't to create good pictures, it's to open up a dialogue with the unconscious. Sounds pretentious :-)

This is a drawing of a dream I had recently, where we were galley slaves, and the gangmaster handed out a chocolate bar to every other person. The idea was that you gave half to the person behind you, and so everyone got half a bar of chocolate. I suddenly panicked that the person behind the person behind me might not have got any chocolate, and so I was ready to break my bar into thirds. She reassured me that she had received a bar herself and that the system was working, and so I was relieved.

The person on the left is me, then the man in the foreground on the right is the person I'm giving my half of the bar to, and the other person is the woman who was also given a bar.

8th March 2018

No images arose from my subconscious, so I decided to try and improve my drawing abilities by drawing from life a glass stopper of a bottle. I thought it would be really difficult, but it turned out to be way harder than that. The closer I looked, the more there was to see. I tried to draw everything I could see, but it was a herculean task, and it didn't look much like the actual stopper.

As you can see, I got fed up and stopped half way through. You could say I was a stopper! (hehe).

9th March 2018

Again, my subconscious isn't saying anything to me. Perhaps it's sulking? So I tried to draw the stopper again. The keen eyed will notice that it's not exactly the same stopper, because this one has '12' on it, but the other one had '22', but it's the same design.

Drawing with a biro is unforgiving for these two reasons: 1.) nothing can be undone,  2.) it's difficult to do flat areas of shade, it just looks like lines. Reflected light is best represented as a splodge of white on top of what's already there. You can't do that with biro because that splodge of light is the area that you have to leave completely alone. Since it's always additive, any biro drawing will get darker and darker as time goes on. The only way of making a patch seem lighter is to draw everything else on the page darker. Really difficult not to end up with a completely black page. The thing that prevents this is that it takes ages to colour in a page black with biro so most people give up before getting to the completely black stage. If, as Enoch Powell said, 'all political lives end in failure', then all biro drawings end in failure. That's why my stopper looks like a milk bottle top that needs a good clean.

11th March 2018


Art Therapy

As I wrote in my last post, one of my tactics for recovering from burnout is art therapy. Here's my first effort:

I was inspired by watching a TV program about houses. I'm attracted to the idea of a post apocalyptic world, where people survive in a concrete bunker in the forest. I'm struck by that story of people building wooden huts within the great stone walls left after the collapse of the Roman empire. They thought the stone ruins had been left by gods.



It sounds like the title of a Dick Francis novel: Bonecrack, Knockdown, Smokescreen, Longshot. Burnout would fit right in.

On the Monday just gone I came to work and announced I was suffering from burnout and asked for some time off. It didn't come on suddenly, it crept up on me, like the lobster in water of steadily increasing temperature. For me the symptom was a kind of slowing down of my work rate. Here's a graph, where the line in yellow is how things should be, and the line in red is how they were actually going:

Interestingly I didn't feel that the quality of my work had decreased, it was just taking more and more of an effort to focus.

Anyway, my boss was excellent, and agreed that I should take some time off. I went to see the doctor, and she was really good too, pointing me in the direction of counselling, which I'm taking up.

Some things that I should mention: I like my job, it's not stressful, I'm doing the things I'd like to be doing and I work in an excellent team. On paper, things should be going swimmingly. My brain had other ideas though. Perhaps this is a case that shows that emotion always wins over thought.

Here's an example of a mandala, which Jung saw as symbolizing the self:

For some reason, I've been drawn to Jung ever since I was a teenager. I've been reading him during this time off too. In contrast to my namesake John Locke who was an advocate of the 'blank slate' theory of human development, Jung thought that the brain already had encoded in it modules (called archetypes) for dealing with common elements of life. Here are some archetypes:

Birth, death, separation from parents, initiation, marriage, the union of opposites, great mother, father, child, devil, god, wise old man, wise old woman, the trickster, the hero,the apocalypse, the deluge and the creation.
The idea is that if you already had some things programmed in, this would give you an evolutionary advantage over your competitors. So where am I going with this? I'm not too sure, if I knew I'd be cured by now, but bear with me. According to Jung, the ego is the conscious part of the psyche, and it is in constant communication with the self, that has access to unconscious stored wisdom (archetypes and whatnot). The psyche is capable of regaining its equilibrium, involving the ego reconnecting with the self. That's my path to getting better.

The self communicates with the ego via feelings and dreams. My project while off work is to listen to my subconscious by:
  • Writing down my thoughts and feelings each day in a journal.
  • Taking note of my dreams (only had one so far, rubbish!)
  • Meditating and observing my thoughts.
  • Being open to thoughts and feelings in day-to-day life, without censoring them.
  • Drawing things that might express an internal state.
  • Counselling
It's quite difficult, and I realize it sounds that I'm obsessed with myself. I am! I've worked out that the things that are preventing me from listening to my subconscious are:
  • Working.
  • Working on my many open source projects and ideas.
  • Drinking alcohol.
  • Watching TV.
But aren't you bored, and also boring? Yes, but this is part of resistance. There's a big danger in defeating the repression of unconscious content though, as Jung writes:
one can never be too sure that the weak state of the patient's conscious mind will prove equal to the subsequent assault of the unconscious
 So, I haven't abandoned TV altogether and I'm staying in touch with my friends, and making sure I get enough sleep and eat well. I'm also reading books which are nothing to do with psychoanalysis. I like chic-lit and SAS type books (which I believe are termed dick-lit).

Well, I must get back to Joanna Trollope: