RECLAMATION AND RESTORATION Heroes in the seaweed

Paint pulls me into the present and into a state where everything feels connected. I like the corporality of paint and the way it can be moved, its plasticity and its colors. Perhaps, in the world of the imagination, where all is possible, feeling more aligned with my water and earth astrological sign (Scorpio) may help explain my love of movement, particularly dance and poetry making. The following attempts to concretize through the telling of my thoughts and actions how and why, perhaps, I grew into the person I believe I am today.

Ambiguous loss emerged as a theme in my practice as both psychoanalyst and artist. The term ambiguous loss first caught my attention in connection with the 9/11 destruction of the World Trade Center. In total disbelief, I had watched the towers, one by one, disintegrate. I also stood with the many ready to help at the now non-existent, St. Vincent’s hospital in Greenwich Village. It seemed that there were hundreds of blue canvas stretchers ready for the bodies that never arrived. In time, empty coffins were offered for burial which contained, perhaps, no more than a memento of the deceased. With this great tragedy the feeling of safety, perhaps an illusion, but a comforting one, fell away. Many of us, particularly analysts and artists were asked to write about how we experienced that dreadful morning, an election day capped with a very rich blue sky. I never shared my personal response and I only saw the “pile”, as it was called, at a distance while doing critical incident work to those near or on the sight. Because the pain is still so great, I have not visited the new Tower; I am not ready.

However, I am still processing, through my personal creative work in the arts, extensive self-investigation, and psychoanalytic practice, the vicissitudes of my own, as well as that of patients, the challenges of living with ambiguous loss, as well as the rewards of achieving post-traumatic growth.

Some time ago, I treated a woman with whom I identified with and whose story uncannily resonated with my own. This synchronicity or co-incidence helped me to be a most emphatic listener and, I believe, as a consequence, our work progressed at a rather accelerated rate. Doris (not her name), then in her early thirties, was seen twice a week for three years. She lived alone, was, at the time, unmarried, and worked as a moderately successful, self-employed illustrator and copywriter. Doris gave me the opportunity to discover more of the often illusive and ephemeral links between art and memory. At the outset, her story of unbearable, persistent and gnawing “soul-ache,” caused by her longing over perceived losses were almost impossible to translate into spoken language. In time, her feelings took on both form and meaning through her visualizations and her growing willingness to verbalize her story in a safe and predictable environment.

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