Wild places

This past year I have been doing a once-weekly introductory course in counselling and psychotherapy. I thought I'd write a little about some of the ideas that have arisen from this exploration so far..

The idea that the unconscious is unknowable and unreachable, far-fathomed, is strangely comforting. (Of course, one irony is that the unconscious itself is a construct, a formulated idea boundaried from one ear to the other and can never be objectively quantified (like God?))

Still, working within these constraints, for that's all we can do, we are left with 'conscious derivatives' of this wilderness.
These flags and banners and whispers come in the forms of dreams, fantasies, patterns of behaviour, impulses, phobias, attractions, and more..
I think what psychotherapists, and poets for example, are concerned with is working with the pre-conscious, that hinterland where notions and thoughts coagulate. What a psychoanalyst called Bollas aptly named the 'unthought known'.

You know, when you make a sudden leap forward in understanding, apparently quite randomly. Jigsaw pieces slot together, suddenly and rightly.

Often, something apparently trivial, moves from the dynamic unconscious into conscious processing, quite unbidden. What is moving this? And why? (Right now, for example, the fairytale idea of spinning straw into gold is repeatedly making its way into my head and interrupting this). Something to do with strength, transmogrification and metamorphosis)

The wildernesses of our minds and the filter of the self seem to be engaged in a symbiotic existence that begins at todderhood (or before?) and I believe are far more complicated and delicate than the most powerful computer processors.

This truly 'old' self is perhaps a misnomer for some theorists suggest the unconscious does not have a sense of time. Perhaps the oldest, most elemental parts of the self are the deepest-buried, taking us back to the earliest, neediest days of babyhood. These attachment patterns are then activated again when we are vulnerable, and re-lived in our present relationships.

I love it that the mind is inexhaustive, that we can and must surprise ourselves. That the mind has a final say (or is it biology) when it closes down at the end, say with dementia, and snatches of the old self flail against the shutting-down.

It seems we do not have mastery of the self, we cannot truly know it or possess it. Secret places remain, even to ourselves.
Just sometimes, when I write a poem, it seems to have come from somewhere else. It feels as if I am receiving or 'channelling' it through me, and these poems are usually the most interesting, rather than the ones I have consciously worked over like a tapestry.

I will end with a paean to wilderness which keeps singing out to me as I write. Yes, it ostensibly calls against intervention, but it also honours the untouched places in the landscape (and so, too, in the mind)...


This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fáwn-fróth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

-- Gerard Manley Hopkins


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