Psyche in the Operating Theatre by David Holt

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1 Transference Solicitation

2 Reminding, Showdoing, Letting Be

3 Enactment, Therapy, Behaviour

4 The Public Organisation of Psychotherapy ­- medicine, law, religion, education, aesthetics

5 Psychoanalysis and Religion

6 Government – letter from the Secretary of State

– an Explanation

– notes for meeting at the Department of Health


These papers, written over the last ten years, were all inspired, or provoked, by the debate that has been going on about the regulation of psychotherapy. I have collected them together like this so as to define my own position, and perhaps to suggest to others certain long term considerations.

The order in which they are presented is not chronological. The first, Transference Solicitation, was completed last. Although it originates in notes first written down in October 1993, it has been revised many times since. It developed immediately out of teaching work in supervision, and indirectly out of my interest in published and anecdotal reports of the work of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy, the British Association for Counselling, and the British Confederation of Psychotherapists.

The other papers are all referred to in the first, and therefore amplify and help explain its argument.

Reminding, Showdoing, Letting Be, was written in 1989, and published in Harvest, the Journal of the C G Jung Analytical Psychology Club London, with a response by Renos Papadopoulos. In this I wrote:

“Thinking about how I would like to see psychotherapy organised and taught I have come to identify three movements or modalities. I think of these as movements of the mind and heart and intellect which are both spiritual and technical. I call them the re-minding, the letting be, and the showdoing. I believe that psychotherapy should be so organised and taught as to allow for the fullest possible exchange between these three modalities.”

After ten years, and I think in particular of experience I have shared with others at the Oxford Psychotherapy Society, I remain convinced that this is what we should be working towards.

Enactment, Therapy, and Behaviour, was written as a chapter in the book Dramatherapy: Theory & Practice 2, edited by Sue Jennings and published by Routledge in 1992. It places my interest in “showdoing” in the context of theatre, in work that I began when I wrote my thesis at the Jung Institute in Zurich in 1965-6, and which continued from the mid 1970’s in association with the Sesame tradition, and in the interdisciplinary weekends at Hawkwood College in Gloucestershire.

The Public Organisation of Psychotherapy was written for an informal monthly group meeting in Oxford, and published subsequently in the Bulletin of the Oxford Psychotherapy Society, and the Newsletter of the Westminster Pastoral Foundation’s Institute of Psychotherapy and Counselling. In it I tried to look at our problems of organisation and definition from the point of view of Government.

Psychoanalysis and Religion was written for the Oxford Pastoral Counselling Service in November 1994.

Finally, I include three examples of personal exchange with Government. The first is a letter from the Secretary of State for Health to my Member of Parliament, dated 5th May, 1993, replying to my enquiry as to how I stood professionally. The second is the Explanation which I then wrote at her suggestion. The third are notes which formed the basis of a meeting at the Department of Health on 25th September, 1995.

I have left the layout of the various diagrams uneven so as to emphasise how tentative they are.

1 Transference Solicitation

These notes were first written in October 1993, and revised in November 1994, March and October 1996, May 1997, and July 1998. They developed immediately out of teaching work in supervision, and indirectly out of my interest in the movement towards public regulation of psychotherapy and counselling.

Some background on this is necessary to put transference solicitation in context.

In July 1993 I had written a short ‘Explanation’ of my professional standing, in response to a letter of the Secretary of State for Health of 5 May 1993. In that ‘Explanation’ I had asked

i) that religious experience, both as avowal and critique, should have more influence in the organisation of psychotherapy;

ii) that we develop a unified view of psychotherapy and counselling;

iii) that we air doubts about psychoanalysis and its influence;

iv) that clients, patients and their families be given more of a say.

I also referred to a much longer paper of mine, published in 1988. In that paper I had written:

“Thinking about how I would like to see psychotherapy organised and taught I have come to identify three movements or modalities. I think of these as movements of the mind and heart and intellect which are both spiritual and technical. I call them the re-minding, the letting be, and the showdoing. I believe that psychotherapy should be so organised and taught as to allow for the fullest possible exchange between these three modalities.”

Subsequently I had taken this ‘Explanation’ further, and at a meeting at the Department of Health in September 1995 had presented a short paper arguing that proper regulation of psychotherapy and counselling must involve the public. What was needed was a participatory, rather than a protective, culture.

In these notes I try to relate that argument to professional interest in transference. Regulation must take account of the fact that our profession solicits transference. We need a culture in which those who are solicited can find their voice and register their vote.


I work in and with and through transference and countertransference. But I see both as grounded in what I call ‘transference solicitation’.

Much of our professional talk about transference seems to assume that what happens is that the patient begins it all by projecting on to the therapist, and that the therapist responds by counter projections onto the patient But this is not how it goes. It is the therapist who begins it all, by putting herself forward in a way that solicits projections. She puts up a brass plate. He gets himself listed somewhere. She takes a job with a socially recognised label attached to it He has himself included on a grape vine of friends and colleagues through which all kinds of projections are already flowing.

Transference/countertransference doesn’t begin with the patient The patient comes into a situation which is already pulsing with transference solicitation, which already has channels of expectation to act as conductors. The studies of transference and countertransference in the textbooks and journals presuppose this matrix of solicitation. They don’t scrutinise it.

As psychotherapy and counselling try to establish themselves as accountable professions there is pressing need for such scrutiny. I think the public rightly suspect of us of being up to something which we do not altogether own. In soliciting transference it is easy to presume more than is admitted.

These notes attempt an account of my own experience of solicitation. What I have to say is organised round four diagrams.

First diagram: transference and theatre

My first version of this (known to colleagues and students as ‘the dramatic model’) was drawn out in the early 1970’s, when I had been practising for seven or eight years. It approaches transference through drama and theatre, and allows us to reflect on how making, knowing, and doing are related.

Working with transference can involve verbal interpretation. It can also involve performance, demonstration, and what l think of as ‘letting be’, all of which are interpretive.

Interpretation is about meaning. Meaning can be discovered. It can also be invented. So whether it be verbal, performative, demonstrative, or letting be, interpretation partakes of both discovery and invention. We have to allow for both.

I have described in published papers how my attitude to transference and counter transference has been influenced by theatre. It was at the theatre that I realised that projection (of which transference is one example) is grounded in a field of solicitation. I have tried to draw out the field in this dramatic model. (I discuss the evolution of this model over twenty years of practice in the paper included here on Enactment, Therapy, Behaviour.)

This allows for an understanding of interpretation as solicited by two kinds of making, discovery and invention, and indicates how it is possible to operate with both while maintaining the distinction between them.

Note for instance how it opens up a field which:

(1) recognises inventiveness (author) as existing in its own right, not as something that is learned from experience

(2) allows for both text (the vertical axis between author and plot) and performance (the horizontal axis between actor and audience), making it clear that neither can be reduced to the other, so that

(3) performance calls for interpretation in terms of text, and text in terms of performance.

It seems to me that in much of our talk about transference there is an emphasis on the lower and right hand triangles of this model at the expense of the upper and left hand. The Author as maker is suspect. It is as if we believe that inventiveness is nothing more than a kind of discovery. Doing is subordinated to knowing. Interpretation apart from action is preferred, as apparently more detached, more clinical, more objective.

Psychoanalysis in particular seems to be grounded in suspicion of the Author ‘position’.

There is something taboo about the arc between Actor and Author. Its theory of the unconscious collapses Author into Actor and Audience, thus authorising symbolic systems testable only by those who have themselves submitted to the test. The body is kept still. Movement (‘acting out’) is suspect. What I have called the modalities of letting be and showdoing are radically devalued. Actor’s access to Author, and Author’s need for Actor, are collapsed into transference interpretation. Psychoanalysis thrives on teachings and trainings which foster such collapse.

And it does not exist in a vacuum. In soliciting transference its practitioners profit from, and contribute to, wider cultural collapse of Author into Actor and Audience. (See George Steiner’s book length discussion of the question “is there anything in what we say?” in his Real Presences, Faber 1989.)

My work owes much to psychoanalytic suspicion of the Author. It influences my approach to story and dream and symptom. I value the way it allows access to the body’s imagining of itself. But I cannot accept it as defining a profession.

On the contrary, it seems to me that it revokes the very idea of a closed profession. To be suspicious of Author is not just a state of mind. It is to take up a position. It is an act, a worldly act. It situates us in the world and it is constitutive of the world. In soliciting transference we assume some responsibility for that act.

We need the help of those right outside the psychoanalytic tradition. Psychoanalysis contributes to, and is fed by, a wider cultural, historical, theological, ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’ (to use the term Paul Ricoeur gave us thirty years ago in his study of Freud), or ‘charisma of uncertainty’ (to use Stephen Logan’s term in his essay on “Challenges to psychotherapy in the postmodem age” in The Times literary Supplement of September 27, 1996). Public discussion of what we are up to in soliciting transference has to take into account this wider cultural investment in suspicion of Author.

So I have redrawn the dramatic model to open theatre into world.

Second diagram: transference and the make up of the world

We live, contrarily, in a contrary world. (I pronounce the ‘a’ long, as in ‘Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow?’). It is a world in many ways at cross purposes with itself. There are lines of force and intention and desire which need to interact, to exchange, to ‘be crossed’ as in the breeding of plants and animals. But they also cross each other, contradicting, thwarting, frustrating, perhaps even double crossing themselves.

How is this contrary world made up? How do we participate in the making? How are our suspicions of that making brought into play and put to work?

I believe that transference solicitation is made possible by a shared investment in questions like that Our profession draws on public investment in the make up of a contrary world. What are our credentials for doing so?

This is what we are being asked to give an account of. Much has been written on the need for the individual to be creative. But if we are claiming a competence in making sense of the contrariness of both world and person then surely we have to allow questions about creation to arise and to be argued which go beyond individual creativeness. This second diagram is an attempt to show how this can be done.

Fundamental here is the idea of projection as a making, as one way in which we participate in an act of creation. Creation is projective. Transference solicitation arises out of our investment in that project. It assumes that there are connections between the make up, the creation, of the world and whatever it is that invites interpretation, and that ‘we have an interest in’ those connections. This assumption underwrites our work.

In drawing these axes at right angles to each other I am trying to picture a field in which these assumptions can be brought into the open and then tested. The words placed at the four points of the diagram are to remind us that this bringing out into the open and testing is not just a matter of psychology. It is a worldly act. It concerns our being in a made up world.

To emphasise this point, consider religion and law.

As regards religion: if we are to be suspicious of Author and yet also to be able to trust that things do make sense we need to allow for the difficulties of making and being made, for the difference between maker and made. It is irresponsible to solicit transference unless we are reflecting on and researching this difference. What is it like to participate in an act of creation, to be both maker and made? How are they different? How do we incorporate the difference? Howdo we account for it? Whatever else transference is about, it must include some response to that question.

Surely such response must refer to the presence or absence of God. We may not believe in God, but we must talk of God. We must air religious conviction, refusal, doubt, terror, confusion. Otherwise our suspicion of Author remains untestable.

It is a matter of feeling. In our work questions arise about the difference between maker and made which evoke feelings of trust and betrayal, hope and despair, purpose and intention, which are religious. If we don’t call them that their proper force is deflected: We cannot get our suspicion of Author into play between us without talk of God.

I know that bringing God into the conversation is socially embarrassing. But we need that embarrassment. If our regulatory bodies try to avoid it they will not engage with the pervasive cultural influence of suspicion of Author and our public will not be helped to find their own voice with which to challenge our presumptions.

So this second diagram is designed to open questions present in the dramatic model into God questions. They are questions like: why does Author need the play between Actor and Audience to realise Plot? Do Actor and Audience have to take account of Author’s intention? What if Author cannot recognise its creation in the Plot as realised between Actor and Audience? How is Plot affected if Author loses interest in its creation?

These are questions about the making of meaning. “I had the meaning once, but it has gone missing”. “I know there must be a meaning, but I can’t find it”. “I know what it means, even if nobody else does”. “There never was a meaning: I’ve been conned (or, you have conned me)”. (Was it G K Chesterton who said: “I’ve seen the truth, and it doesn’t make sense”?) Or simply, terribly simply: “there is no meaning”.

We meet all these in our work. The meeting can be appalling, tantalising, delusional, banal. What can we make of such confusion, such expectation, such disappointment? I don’t believe it is possible to do justice to the feelings at stake when we meet each other in the making of meaning without talk of God.

As with religion, so with law: how do we test our suspicion of Author in the domain of law? Laws are made, laws are kept, laws are broken. We are both free and bound to move between the three. It is because we are involved in their making that keeping law and breaking law don’t cancel each other out. Between the keeping and the breaking we test the powers and limitations of the making. This is what some of us refer to as the political process. Or, if we are more anthropologically inclined, as the social construction of reality.

We are both free and bound to move between making, keeping, breaking law. Our work as psychotherapists and counsellors is constantly manoeuvring round this dilemma. To get close to what is at stake here, for society as well as for individual, we have to recognise that law involves feeling that is religious. Like it or not, transference solicitation involves us in the politics of religion. Listen to talk about ‘ethics’ in our profession. Isn’t there something overdetermined in the tone of our voices, as if the word is loaded with an excess of meaning? I suspect that in talking about ethics we are often referring, shyly, evasively, nervously, to what an older tradition has called ‘practising the presence of God’.

The three words at the centre of the diagram are intended to help us talk about such practice. They are chosen to focus reflection on our personal awareness of, and response to, creation, to what it is like to be, ourselves made up, in a made up world.

We begin with surprise (wonder might be a better word), surprise which can astonish us so much that we cry out, tremble, perhaps even fall to the ground. Then there is our response to such surprise. I see this as having two faces: of fear, and of gratitude. To research the difference between maker and made we have to own to a mix of fear and gratitude in the face of our being in this world.

I draw the two axes at right angles to each other in order to allow for religious questioning of the difference between maker and made. I am trying to picture a field of behaviour and argument in which this difference can be owned. But remember: my diagram explains nothing. It suggests a field within which public enquiry into psychotherapy and counselling can include the politics of religion instead of bracketing it out.

To clarify connections between religion and law we can talk of cognitive affect, or affective cognition, as it arises between maker and made. Affect and cognition of this kind presuppose a special surprise. To incorporate them in experience we have to own that creation, the sheer givenness of personality and world, surprises us in a particular way, in a way that leaves us, willy-nilly, suspicious.

This is where we need to allow the other two words at the centre of the diagram to develop their full force. Fear and Gratitude. Gratitude and Fear. If we are really to bring our suspicion of Author into play, to put it to work, we have to allow that our surprise at creation leaves us in, puts us into, a state of both fear and gratitude.

We can illustrate this with reference to the words towards the bottom of the diagram. If we place ourselves in the position of ‘raw material’ (perhaps it ought to be spelt out more fully as ‘the made up out of’) what is creation like? What the maker understands as creation, the made up out of can experience as loss, waste, spoiling, abuse. Between maker and the made there has to be room for fear as well as for gratitude, for resistance that is both raw and virgin. If our public is to judge the work we do, and if we are to own up to what we do in soliciting transference, we need a meeting place in which ‘the made up out of’ can find its voice in the presence of the maker. My third diagram is an attempt to picture such a meeting place.

Third diagram: transference and risk

a) In introducing this I want to refer to the paper on the Public Organisation of Psychotherapy, in which I argue that our practice covers five areas of experience usually thought of as distinct from each other: medicine, law, religion, education, aesthetics. My third diagram is an attempt to place transference solicitation in a context that includes all those five words.

b) I have realigned the axes to suggest the possibility of rotation through a field. Maker and Judge, Agent and Witness, are set opposite each other to make room for the risk of creation. We are trying to bring judgment to bear on making. This allows us to be suspicious of Author, while keeping our suspicions themselves under scrutiny. We are not conflating Maker and Judge (as psychologies of the unconscious can so easily do). This opposition is necessary if we are to bring risk into our field of cross examination, and allow ‘the made up out of’ to find its voice over against the presumption of the maker.

Maker must be exposed to the risk of judgment, Judge to the risk of invention, so that we are both free and bound to move between the keeping and breaking and making of law. We are bringing Witness to bear on action, making it clear that Agency is always in the presence of Witness. Interpretation does not follow on from behaviour. They are both carried on performance.

c) I have put three words at the point where the axes intersect so as to place a) risk (stake), b) the affect associated with risk (gratuity), and c) the cognitive response to risk (probability), at the centre of our field. If the model is to act as a compass rather than a grid, it is this mixture of affect and cognition which enables it to turn, and gives it direction. I am trying to suggest that the circulation of energy and attention between judgment and making depends on affect and cognition of a special kind, the kind associated with risk.

I have chosen the word stake rather than risk for the central position because it allows for both an active and passive sense of time.

For over twenty five years I have been arguing for more discussion of the costing of time in psychotherapy and counselling. Some of the most important disagreements within the profession are about time. How is the public to have its say when we are so divided among ourselves?

The costing of time has to be accepted as a problem in its own right. It is not only a question of money, though money enters powerfully into it. In being human we are thrown into time, and also obliged to establish some kind of hold on time.

Time is given into our keeping. Lifestory results. In soliciting transference we take on lifestory. We solicit expectation, and the fear that goes with it, about both the being thrown into, and our ability to get a hold on, time. The idea of stake can help us own, to ourselves and with our patients and clients, such expectation and fear and to consider in what ways we are equipped to deal with them, whether through action, through letting be, or a change of mind.

Stake is a word with a wide range of associations. (Remember please that what follows was first written before there was talk of a stakeholder society.)

Some of these are religious. Person and world share together in the hazard of creation. Other associations are aesthetic, and speak directly into our work with the dramatic model. Others are reminiscent of the commitment to proof by experiment on which modern science lays such emphasis. Proof can hurt. When Francis Bacon spoke of ‘putting nature to the torture’ proof in law was still a burning matter. Others are more redolent of the gambling table, of the stock exchange, of the peculiar conjugation of investment, debt, risk, profit and loss, in a market economy, whether that market be thought of as internal or external. Others remind us of crime and its detection, of those acts which we may be called into court to answer for. They all place us, irrevocably at risk, in a world which is itself at risk.

A stake is something we can stand surety for, and redeem. It speaks of interdependencies which are commercial, legal, religious. Lifestory is full of them. There are investments which we can sell, disinvest. And there are investments which we are locked into, investments that turn into debt, negative equity that we experience as thoroughly inequitable. Risks can payoff. Or they can land us in debt.

It helps to compare risk with promise. Promises assume risk as the medium in which they work. They are made to be kept, but may not be. If they can’t be broken, they aren’t promises. Just so when we stake. We are willing to go for broke. It is our willingness to risk going broke that locks investment into the real world.

When we throw or put down a stake we personalise chance. One of the not talked about enough dilemmas in psychotherapy and counselling is what we do with such everyday human experiences as chance and accident. In one way or another I suspect that we invoke something like fate or luck or providence, or allow our clients to do so, much more often than we admit. Putting ‘stake’ at the centre of our field of study helps us own what we are doing. In staking, the personal chooses to be involved with powers beyond personal control. Having chosen, that choice is no longer at our disposal. But it is still with us, and continues effective. That is why we can address our fate as we would a person.

Similarly, in being put at stake we are given value and exposure that are not ours. But they are made ours, ours to enjoy and to suffer. In a sense both the value and the exposure of the stake is always another’s. They remain beyond our means. I know of no way of talking about this without reference to God. Which is dangerous, as well as embarrassing. We have learned this to our cost. But I think we are learning how it can be done, and with the help of our public may learn better. See the paper on Psychoanalysis and Religion.

A stake is also an all or nothing. Win all, lose all. A recurring problem in our work is the too big, the too small. On the one hand, omnipotence and delusions of grandeur. On the other, impotence and a conviction of inferiority. Here maker and made confront each other across what can seem an unbridgeable gulf. But if ‘to make’ partakes of ‘to be at stake’ there are ways, familiar ways, familiar as mood and character and temperament, by which that gulf can be negotiated. The all or nothingness of a stake is not simply a question of too big, too small. It is a question of how we manage our investment in make up.

d) Here I want to bring in the other two words, gratuity and probability, at the centre of the third diagram. One is there to identify the affect associated with risk, the other the cognitive response to risk. Together they allow us to work on what may be our biggest and most difficult task: how to relate our new understanding of evolutionary inheritance with here and now experience of what life is about.

To stake is gratuitous. Being at stake we are subject to gratuitousness. The great dicing scenes in the Mahabharata celebrate this. I think also of the many creation myths I have enacted in Sesame workshops. Christian teaching has made much of the concept of grace, of the gift of grace. I prefer the word gratuitous. It allows for suspicion. It reminds us that a gift can be unwelcome, even insulting, and admits the quirks of inheritance.

Like inheritance, what is gratuitous can be cause for gratitude. But it can also be cause for resentment. It presumes too much. It is unasked for, uncalled for. It can be unnecessary. Or a trick to get us in debt. We want to protest but are reluctant to do so for fear that our protest gives gratuity an importance it does not have. Yet without such protest how do we own our resentment at the presumption of gift? It seems to me that stake allows for protest in a way that gift does not. Giving can be so careless, so reckless, so condescending, that the only way we can receive it is to treat it as a stake, to insist that what is given is simply gratuitous.

Probability is the word with which I try to identify our-cognitive response to risk. Like gratuitous, it is a word which looks in more than one direction. It combines the subjectivity of belief with the objectivity of events. Its history has two roots. One was connected with the degree of belief warranted by evidence. The other was connected with the tendency, displayed by some chance devices (knuckle bones, dice) to produce stable relative frequencies. If we can bear both of these senses in mind it helps in exploring how, in taking risks, in being put at risk, we are a) caught up in the world, in debt to the world, and b) enabled to be effective.

Probability theory is where beliefs and events are tested against each other. It accepts that this testing is both enjoyable and dangerous, and is aware that this mix can appear disreputable. But it is nevertheless willing to use this mix cognitively. Our profession needs more of this kind of cognitive confidence.

It works together with gratuity. For some years I have found myself using the phrase ‘entertain the possibility that’ with my clients. I am asking them to give time and room to the possibility that so and so may be the case. Entertainment is gratuitous: to open the door to and make welcome, give refreshment to, a guest, but not to expect, or feel obliged to expect, that the guest will become resident. Rather, to expect otherwise. It is as if two obligations meet: an obligation on the host to entertain, and an obligation on the guest not to assume permanence of tenure.

That is how probability deals with the mix of belief and evidence. Doors open to close.

Doors close to open. The possible is entertained. Evidence is recorded, but witnesses can come and go. Evidence is not fixed. It remains free to surprise. Conviction is belief in action, not cause for closure.

This implies an open textured state of mind. In allowing for risk, probability recognises consistencies which include both cause and chance. Cause and chance are made permeable to each other. We find ourselves operating as it were on a new frequency, so that what is accidental in our lives fits with those more stable relationships that we have learned to rely on as causal.

Risk allows for belief in an inventiveness out there which we are willing to let work on us.

This open textured state of mind is friendly to the body. It allows access to the body’s imagining of itself, as I have learned from psychoanalysis (for which I am indeed grateful). It is ‘humorous’ in the old sense of the word which assumed the oneness of body and mind. The body, with its gratuitous excesses, is a constant reminder of mind’s obligation to entertain and to be entertained, of the necessity for theatre. Sickness, pain, mortality: the body knows well that this obligation to entertainment is itself carried on risk. Which is why our body’s lifestory is both blessed and cursed with promise.

The inventiveness present in the play of probability between cause and chance is essential if we are to let be. It can be experienced as a kind of doom. The thought of fate as a game of dice played by gods at the expense of humanity is familiar, and sometimes even welcome. But such inventiveness can also be experienced as a call, a call not only to take risks but to put ourselves at risk. We have to find our way, apprehensive of both doom and call. This diagram is an attempt to show how we go about finding that way. But it has to be used as a compass. It gives us direction in giving us a turn.

e) The other words I have written on it are there to suggest how this turning works.

Remember what we are trying to do here. I want to picture a meeting place where professionals and their public can argue issues that are medical, legal, religious, educational, aesthetic. So I am trying to picture the way lifestory and its telling rotate round the central predicament of risk, approaching it from various positions (bearing in mind the overall need to allow for our three modalities while engaging with psychoanalytic suspicion of the Author).

I have chosen words which refer to behaviour as well as to insight, letting be as well as intervention. I am trying to place psychological insight in a social, historical, behavioural, context that is ‘eventful’. I want us to be able to picture our part in ‘the turn of events’, in ‘the ways things are’, to understand ourselves as making acting judging witnessing, rather than focus on the relation between consciousness and unconsciousness.

Reading clockwise from the Maker (Author) position we have experiment, question, suspicion, regret. I am trying to show how we may be more familiar than we realise with the ways in which judgment can bring the maker gradually to regret its creation. Reading anticlockwise we have minding, appeal, conviction, separation. I am trying to show how judgment can bring the maker gradually to separate from her creation, letting it be. By placing experiment and separation, question and conviction, suspicion and appeal, regret and minding, back to back as it were I want to get us thinking about the Maker’s confidence (or lack of confidence) in his making, and how we experience this in the daily and nightly ‘turn of events’.

By doing so suspicion of Author (Maker) is brought into play. We can be suspicions of Author without excluding ourselves from the Author position. Suspicion enables participation without identification. In recognising the special kind of risk entailed in making, risk that implicates willing and believing as well as knowing and doing, we can allow for authorial presence without identifying with it. Performance (behaviour) comes into its own in contrast to insight. What psychoanalysis can dismiss as acting out is often simply our ability to cross performance with letting be, showing that doing can be its own best interpretation.

The four words along the axes describe our lifestory’s more general responsibility for, and ability to respond to, risk (risk as debt, risk as opportunity). We throw and are thrown, we catch and are caught, we weigh and are weighed, we wait and are awaited. To own risk both affectively and cognitively, to admit it as something to which we can feel both indebted and grateful, we need to be researching activity and passivity of this kind. Regulation of transference solicitation has to include research of this kind.

Which is asking a lot.

Consider for instance the word trust. To own the risk of creation, a risk which is both debt and responsibility, we have to be able unpack the word trust. It is one of the most urgent tasks facing our profession. In looking at this diagram I am asking you to see, arranged round its centre, an invitation to question what we mean by trust. To throw and to be thrown, to catch and to be caught, to weigh and to be weighed, to wait and to be awaited: how do they relate to what we mean by trust? There is no way of understanding the risk of creation, which is also the creation of risk, without questioning our experience of trust.

There is a pool, an unfathomable pool, of experience here. But the pool is not still. It is in a constant state of movement, movement which turns on choice, on the freedom of choice.

And with that word freedom we come close to the heart of the matter, to the incarnation of risk.

There is no trust without freedom. And no freedom without fear. Questioning our experience of trust opens us to our fear of freedom.

These four words round the centre of the diagram are therefore to help us map a field of choice which recognises our fear of freedom so that we can work with it.

If our public are to have a say in the regulation of our profession, as they already have in its running (they keep us going with their money), we have to be able to talk together about our fear of freedom. What is needed is a culture in which people can explore how our experience of trust, and our fear of freedom, work with and across each other. That is the culture we should be working together to create.

The first three diagrams together

To do so we are all going to have to learn a more vulgar (common) language. I think we are going to have to talk, commonly, about spirit, mood, weather, atmosphere, however unscientific such words may sound.

Spirit allows us to draw breath. That’s why we have to use the word. Because it is breath which gives language to body, body to language. And it is that connection, the connection between body and language, language and body, that we have to keep in mind if we are to talk with our public about the incarnation of risk.

Words to do with weather are helpful in realising what is at stake here. They make the all important connection between spirit and mood. If we and our public are to argue together we must allow for the climate of opinion, those changes and settlements in the mood of society which make some things sayable, others not. When we solicit transference we are helping to create an atmosphere. Regulation in which our public participates will have to allow us all our part in the creation of the atmosphere which we breathe.

Between us and our public atmosphere of a new kind is trying to ‘set’. That setting is always going to be uncertain, uncertain as the weather. It is apprehensive. We have to allow for the shiver of apprehension. It is how suspicion is brought into play. It is what talking with our public is always going-to be like: prickly, ticklish, nervous.

As so many have said, spirit is like breath and fire. It is free to blow like the wind. It takes hold like fire. (It can also fan flames. That is a danger which these notes do not address.) In talking with our public about making and being made we have to allow for both, the freedom and the taking hold. To entertain the possibility that we and the world are made, we have to be able to allow for the freedom of the maker and the seizure (arrest) of the made. Talk of spirit allows us to do so. Spirit is there when we allow for the difference between maker and made.

Or perhaps it is more exact to say that spirit is there when we can allow for the difference between maker and made.

This is why it seems so important to insist that the crossed axes in my diagrams must not to be collapsed into each other. Drawn like this they remind us that cross examination, which is what some of our patients want to be able to do with (or is it to?) us, turns between making, acting, judging, witnessing. In allowing for the difference between maker and made we are rightly suspicious of Author. We suspect it of presuming too much, of being too sure of her powers. But that suspicion has its own unease. The question niggles: why not let Author have his say? Spirit as I understand it allows both for suspicion and for its scrutiny. It allows questioning to be effective but is always alert to question the questioner.

Questioning the questioner: is that a regression without end?

No. Spirit, like breath again, knows both inspiration and exhaustion. There is filling and emptying, giving and taking away. Between us and our public there is room for both.

This is what I have in mind when I write of a circulation of energy and attention, of movement between active and passive verbs, of staking and being staked: the breathing of the body. Spirit alternates like breath. It is by allowing for alternation that it is constant in questioning the questioner. The in and the out make way for each other. We gasp, and we catch our breath. Spirit is in both. It allows for a texture to experience in which we can get caught and still find ourselves free to gasp: in wonder, or in protest, or perhaps simply because it is just too ticklish.

I wrote of an open textured state of mind which recognises consistencies that include both cause and chance. Our throwness into time calls up our responsibility to get a hold on time.

When chance and cause are permeable to each other, surprise and habit can play on and across each other. If the public are to participate in regulating our profession that play is going to have to create its own atmosphere. We must have air that we can breathe in common. But we disagree on important issues. To join in argument (‘join’ rather than ‘fallout’) we are going to have to allow those disagreements to set their own weather.

Here I think a fourth model may prove helpful. The culture we have to create together must have more “we” mixed in with the “I”. We need a picture of how problems that are private, personal, individual, are also, essentially, public.

Fourth diagram: Morality Play, or, Discovering Responsibility

Let us play with the word responsibility. Let us agree that it can sound more open than it usually does. more like response ability.

This model has developed from my reading of Barry Unsworth’s novel Morality Play.

Unsworth tells a story set in late fourteenth century England. a time of war and plague. A group of travelling players arrives in a town intending to perform one of their stock of traditional plays. But the town is engrossed in a drama of its own. A young woman is to be hanged for the murder of a twelve year old boy. Partly in order to increase their takings, the players get drawn into making a new play, to enact the murder of the boy. But as they rehearse, they find themselves caught in the plot of a story that has still to work itself out. As it does so. it is as if the presence of the players enables the town to resolve its own mystery.

Morality Play is a good read in its own right, a gripping detective story. It is also a description of how what we think of today as theatre emerged out of other kinds of social thrown togetherness. As I read it, I found myself thinking again and again of my dramatic model. and I began to experiment with rearranging its various positions. I was trying to picture how a community (Audience) such as the town in Unsworth’s novel, burdened by some terrible plot, might generate such an atmosphere that it, the atmosphere, could call up Players, and behind the players an Author, so as to allow a Performance that would free them of their burden. Instead of the play originating with an Author, here it originates with the Audience.

Author is commissioned by Players on behalf of Audience to find words for the plot in which all are caught. But as I worked on it, I realised that what was happening was a much more radical revisioning of my whole dramatic enterprise. It was as if my model was reworking itself so as to emphasise “We” rather than “I”.

What I have come up with is this.

At its centre, we are the problem. Think of this as the dawning of a vague inarticulate sense, or as a sudden clarification. It occurs in the growing child. or in the remoteness of our evolutionary past. It seizes on the adult in the moment of religious or political or vocational commitment. Whenever, the problem is us. Not just with us, or about us, or in us. The problem is us. We are the problem.

Then I want to picture a throwing and a catching.

The centre explodes in recognition that we are indeed the problem. The exploding throws (projects) us into Time. Body, Language, Society. Between them we are caught. Being caught, we are able to respond.

The space within the diagram is not empty. It is charged. If we and our public are to talk together we need an atmosphere, a culture, that is charged with recognition that it is we who are the problem, and it is we who are able to respond. I am trying to picture this response-able, charged-with-weness, atmosphere as energised by a throwing and a catching.

Approach it through feeling. Ask yourself what it is going to feel like in the room when we try to talk together about what was once confidential. We are trying to find words that can research privacy in public, recall events that have broken hearts, frozen minds. so as to present them to the We in which I find myself. This is the move from protection to participation. It is a big move, a radical adaptation to a changing climate. But it is an adaptation that we have to make. And to make it we are going to have to combine the feeling that we are all caught up in something hugely bigger than ourselves with willingness to experiment. to submit to lest by trial and error.

This model is an attempt to picture such a combination.

When a patient wants to challenge the work we have done the rules about confidentiality change. A new kind of confidence (and this is no facile play on words) has to be assumed. If I am to respond I have to be able to assume that he or she is claiming, rightly, a certain self confidence. What was secret is being given a new importance, a new respect, a new reference. What was private is now to be treated as typical. It refers to Us. In an extreme case, it can be said, either by patient or by professional: “Because of what was private. I am taking you to court”.

How do we incorporate this new assumption of confidence into the regulation of our profession? The climate has to change. There has to be more of “We” mixed in with the “I”. The atmosphere, the air We breathe in common which determines what can be said and what can not be said, is made up of We-ness.

As we are learning in the group therapy movement, what goes on in groups is not just an extension of what goes on in one to one therapy. It is much, much. more. radical in its implications than that. It is a reminder that We Comes before I, and that to understand what happens to me I have to first accept that there is an Us problem.

Thinking of the various patients who. in different ways, have intimated to me over the years that they Want to challenge what we did together, whether to complain of confusion over authorship, of missed Opportunity, of indigestion, or to speak their conviction that they can help me rather than I them, I believe that the atmosphere, the culture, they are wanting to create will be charged with a new agenda.

The words I have placed round the circle, facing inwards, are to suggest what that agenda may be.

Alternation and Story are both about what I have said may be our biggest and most difficult task: how to relate our new understanding of evolutionary inheritance with here and now experiment with what life is about.

Alternation: a shared commitment to time’s continuous discontinuity. How do we embody, here and now, our evolutionary calling? I am thinking of our breathing, our heart beat, of the fact that women’s bodies give birth to men’s bodies. I am thinking of the alternation of day and night, the phases of the moon and the seasons of the sun. I am thinking also of what evolutionists have done with the word ‘adaptive’, of our given overness to an agenda that is ours and not ours, an agenda that commits us to constant experiment with alternatives.

Story. The point I am wanting to make is that there has to be story. It is a point which I think the evolutionists can easily lose in conflating history with evolution. Story is how we both cost and tell time. There is a gap between inheritance and what is now to come which is both costly and telling. Our personal memories are caught in that costly telling. I cannot understand what my memory makes of my life unless I allow for our response ability for story. Story is what keeps society going, and it is in that keeping going that we have to find our place.

Voice. If our patients are to find their voices, and we a voice with which to answer, it must be agreed that voice sounds out of body, and that words, the language we share, is made out of voice. Research into my own voice production, following a mild stroke, convinces me that there is an agenda here which I for one have largely, and mistakenly, neglected.

Through breathing voice is resonant with alternation. It is, I believe, that alternation which ‘confidentiality’ is seeking. Voice is ever mindful of body. Behind the distinction between what is said and what is not said, between what can be said and what cannot be said, between what should be said and what should not be said, voice sounds the body. In finding voice together, we enter that sounding. We need meeting places in which this sounding can be heard.

This paper is about how to make this interest more explicit.

Representation. I chose this word to remind us of the theatricality of language. Language is more than description, more than communication. It does things. It changes things. Speech acts. It performs. It re-presents. Our sense of creation, of being both maker and made, is carried on this performative power of language to make present again.

There is an agenda here which needs a more public forum than the consulting room or the professional body. We talk a lot about language, about word association, symbol, metaphor. ‘When to make an interpretation’ is a key moment in our technique. But there are other questions that cry out to be aired. Interpretation can indeed change the world, but worlds can also get lost in translation. Speech acts can bind, as when parliament enacts law. Our work needs a forum that can call language itself, not just our use of it, to account. For instance, with respect to confidentiality. As we move from a protective to a participatory professional culture, anxiety about confidentiality is taken up into a more inclusive sense of shared responsibility. There are matters that are private, matters that are public. Language has to account for all. What do we have to do to make that accounting possible?

Alternation, voice, story, representation. An example may help bring the whole model to life. An elderly Christian, talking about the state of his church, suddenly says: “If I had told the truth about my sex I would never have had children”. Make a play out of that, bearing in mind that for the speaker his church is supposed to be the body of Christ.

I have chosen the words for this model (as for the others) to be user friendly. Other words can I am sure be found, and may well be preferable. Their purpose is to suggest how a charged-with-weness atmosphere can become something we can breathe, move about in, sound.

What is important is to stay with theatre. Note what has happened to the Author of my first model in this revised morality play. It is recast as representative of Us. We commission Author to find words for the plot that We are. That special ‘otherness’ of Author now serves to remind Us that response ability is there to be discovered. There is a matrix out of which individual and society, I and We, call each other into being. We are projected into, and caught by, plot. Theatre re-members, and re-presents, that plot. That is what could happen between us and our public. I say ‘could’, but it is indeed already happening. Audience is taking a fresh interest in its responsibility for Plot.

This paper is about how to make this interest more explicit


How does all this bear on the regulation of our profession, on how we account for ourselves as solicitors of transference?

If we remember our breathing, if we allow ourselves time in which to breathe, I think we will find that spirit regulates. There is a spirit moving between us and our public. There is suspicion to be voiced. Our public need to find their own voice in response to the risky work they do with us, and for that they need us to answer for the risks we take.

There is much talk of protecting the patient. There is less talk but perhaps more anxiety about protecting ourselves. Perhaps we are afraid of our patients. (It would make sense for us to be afraid if we are indeed up to something more than we own.) If what I am saying about risk is true, how does it go with all this talk of protection? Over the last fifteen years or so professional anxiety has mushroomed. It has generated a climate of opinion in which insurance could become an overriding concern. (I have heard of a case in which the insurer threatened to remove insurance cover if an attempt were made at mediated reassessment of work done.) Our need to be on the safe side could so influence our approach to human nature as to become self confirming.

There is another way of using fear. We can risk it being responsible. We can invite more active participation in sussing out what is at stake in creation.

I believe that a new regulatory climate is already in the making, a climate in which feedback from our clients and their families becomes part of wider public participation in our work. The complaints and satisfactions of the individual client belong with a wider public scepticism and appreciation of what we are doing. There is an argument to be joined which is about human nature and its place in creation, not about professional competence important though that is. That is the argument in which we can answer for what we are doing when we solicit transference.

What we need now is to hear from our clients and their families as to how they experience our solicitation. Work being done by the professional bodies is part of wider social assessment. The spirit is moving for dialogue that is more heartfelt, apprehensive of creation and exacting of belief. That is where the ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’, the ‘charisma of uncertainty’, have to prove themselves: in testing belief and creation against each other.

2 Re-Minding, Letting Be, Showdoing


In this paper I want to air my scepticism about analytical psychology as a profession.

So that my argument can stand on its own feet, let me begin by saying where it comes from.

First, from my interest in theatre, which began with my Diploma thesis in Zurich in 1965-6, on Persona and Actor. Theatre has given me an interest in performance which I don’t find catered for within analytical psychology. Second, from my experience at the Westminster Pastoral Foundation between 1971 and 1982. The seemingly irresistible takeover of the pastoral by the analytic started me wondering what kind of historical moment and sociological process I was caught in. Third, work with people employed by the National Health Service. There is a problem about the relation between physical and behavioural approaches to psychotherapy, and transference centred interpersonal approaches, with which it seems to be impossible to get to grips. There are times when the ex newspaper man in me finds this a public scandal. Untended, this problem can become institutionalised in ways which prevent dialogue. I want the freedom and energy to address myself to this.

Experience within the Jungian community in England has certainly contributed to my present position. I have talked about this at the Jung Club (Holt, 1986). But I don’t think I am denying its importance when I say that it has been secondary to more general pressures on me, pressures deriving from times in my life, both past and future, which aren’t in any particular way Jungian.


Thinking about how l would like to see psychotherapy organised and taught I have come to identify three movements or modalities. I think of these as movements of the mind and heart and intellect which are both spiritual and technical. I call them the re-minding, the letting be, and the showdoing. I believe that psychotherapy should be so organised and taught as to allow for the fullest possible exchange between these three modalities.

Re-minding is of two kinds. One is about memory, the recall of times past. The other is associative, it makes comparisons, it employs our human sense for likeness. How these two kinds of re-minding are related is a question about which we are very confused. The psychology of the unconscious has led us to experiment with the therapeutic effects of combining them, so that memory is enriched by metaphor, and our powers of mental comparison and association are energised by story. Much remains to be done to clarify what happens when we encourage combination of this kind.

Letting be is about enjoyment and suffering. It can be active as well as passive. It can sound with the deep affirmation of a religious Amen, and with the bitter note of querulous self-pity. Letting be takes things as they are. It draws on connections between habit and spontaneity, freedom and inevitability. It accommodates boredom. It is about courage, staying power, endurance. But such endurance can allow us to re-cognize, for the first time, that things are indeed as they are. This links it to re-minding.

Showdoing moves, as its awkward name implies, between two verbs, to show and to do. Show me what to do. Show me how to do it. Here, let me show you. Showdoing is bringing up children, education, apprenticeship. It thrives on demonstration. It is the properly human power that energises the behavioural sciences.

In trying to spell out the connections between these three movements of technique and spirit and what I have learned from Jung, the first step has to be to drop the term analytical psychology. In its place I shall use the expression (psycho)analysis.

The name analytical psychology had its historical purpose, clearly to differentiate Jung’s work from that of Freud, while allowing resonance with their community of interest. But if the organisation and teaching of psychotherapy is to encourage the fullest possible exchange between re-minding, letting be and showdoing, we need to be able to talk easily of the Freudian and Jungian traditions together, while continuing to own their historical differences and their abiding need on occasion to bracket each other out.

Jungians have tried to use the words analyst and analysis on their own to carry their sense of professional identity. There are times when I use them of myself. Perhaps we are now stuck with them. If so, it is a pity. Because they are wrong. They obscure those influences in his work which led Jung to prefer the term Komplexe Psychologie. They evade the question of what it is that we analyse. And in doing so, they cut corners and suggest too easy an accommodation between shamanism and accuracy.

The expression (psycho)analysis is awkward. But in being so it re-minds of awkward facts, and might make it both easier and more profitable for us ‘to wash our dirty linen in public’. (Psycho)analysis re-minds us constantly of the Freud-Jung split. We need this re-minder if we are to profit from the energies released by their quarrel. Freud and Jung are finding their respective places in history. Ignorance of Jung in the Freudian tradition continues to be surprising if not scandalous. We need places where the study of Jung is encouraged and furthered. (I am struck by the way I have returned to the close study of Jung’s books since publicly distancing myself from his profession.) But in teaching psychotherapy, in training psychotherapists, we have to be reaching out for a language that can comprehend both traditions without denying the reasons for their falling apart and the many ways in which ‘we have benefited from the consequences of that parting.

(I don’t think I am saying anything particularly new here. My Zurich training in 1961-6 included extensive study of Freud. Most contemporary practice and writing in analytical psychology assumes the need for sustained interest in the work of Freud and his successors. What I am saying is that it would stimulate more searching study of Jung’s books, and more fruitful debate with other traditions, if what we called ourselves made it clear that this is what we are up to.)


We use re-minding constantly. ‘Does it re-mind you of anything?’ ‘What does it re-mind you of?’ Re-minding is how we explore, probe, cast about for a scent, amplify, call up a context. What is peculiar to (psycho)analysis is the emphasis placed on the concept of the unconscious in trying to explain what happens when we are re-minded of. Although there are different theories of the unconscious, they all have in common an extensive use of vocabularies of knowing and awareness, unknowing and unawareness. If we submit to them we become immersed in a language world in which mind is assumed to be about knowing and unknowing, awareness and unawareness. Other views of mind are blanketed out.

There is a perhaps rather old fashioned English expression: ‘that puts me in mind of’. People do sometimes use it instead of ‘that re-minds me of’. It is worth thinking about: the verb to put, me as object of an action, and mind as both a place and an attribute, the ‘what’ in which I am put is ‘of’ something else. We have here the intentional or object-relatedness character of our mindedness.

Is this kind of mindedness best thought of in terms of consciousness and unconsciousness, or is it better thought of in terms of being and doing? How does mind as a ‘knowing or relate to mind as a ‘showing up’, an ‘acting on’, a ‘doing to’?

We can approach the question through ‘interpretation’. Problems of interpretation figure prominently in the history and current state of (psycho)analysis. They move between what I am calling the three modes of re-minding, letting be, showdoing.

(Psycho)analytic interpretations make extensive use of sign, symbol, metaphor. Some of our most deeply felt and enduring separations have been occasioned and sustained by differences in understanding of how one thing can be ‘like’ another. There seems to be a need for fairly small groups sharing agreed assumptions as to the nature of metaphor, who can work intimately with each other in scrutinising the use of likeness, and in developing a teachable approach to how to use similarity, resemblance, representation, to effect psychological change. There is also need for these groups to be able to converse together. When this is successful, it is because we are able to suspend belief in our acquired metaphoric habitat and to entertain the possibility of other ways of experiencing and applying likeness. We move from a first degree intimacy with the uses and abuses of symbol to a more suspended state of metaphoric animation within which it may be possible to compare what works for us with what works for others without agreeing with them. (It sometimes seems as if it is impossible to sustain such a state of suspension without losing our ability to make metaphor work in our clinical practice. There are case discussions which can be physiologically deeply disturbing (as well as perhaps in some unacknowledged way exciting) but which can make it very difficult to go back into our practice the next day.)

But (psycho)analysis also uses interpretation in situations of what we call transference and countertransference. I think the organisation of psychotherapy would be improved if we learned to study transference and countertransference in terms of what I am calling showdoing. This is already happening through the influence of group work and family systems work on (psycho)analytic satisfaction with traditional approaches to one to one work. Listening to some of the more relaxed, off the record, exchanges between (psycho)analysts when they meet in a shared interest in ,theatre I hear talk of transference and countertransference which seems to me to herald a root and branch revisioning of (psycho)analysis as we know it.

The distinction between showdoing and re-minding in our approach to transference can be approached through secret. For re-minding, secret is something to be got at. If I am ‘to be put in mind of’ a secret there are codes to be broken, clues to be solved, pretences to be seen through, riddles to be guessed, censors to be outwitted. Working with a secret is a progression from the known to the unknown, so that what is unseen becomes seen, what is unspoken is said.

Within the showdoing modality, secret is in play between the two verbs. We apprentice ourselves to learn the secrets (or mystery) of a craft or trade. We apply for the master class to learn the secrets of performance. We are accepted for the class if we are judged to have what it takes, to be able to use what is going to be shown to us. The secret is ‘for showing’. What makes it inaccessible is the way it is lodged between a showing and a doing. There is a ‘show me what to do’ and there is a ‘show me how to do it’ to which all education is a response. The secrets of adaptation, of learning, of skill, of culture, are lodged between the show me what and the show me how. That lodgement is got at in doing.

What (psycho)analysis sometimes seems to be trying to do is to persuade us that this showing and this doing can, and indeed should, be defined in terms of knowing. The power of (psycho)analytic discourse, its attraction, its fascination, its outreach and its inscape, its ability to convert and to make what began as a method into a way of life, these are all generated between words of knowing and unknowing. A language of consciousness and unconsciousness turns with missionary and colonising zeal on all human life as its domain. Showing and doing are translated into problems of knowing and unknowing, and secrets which could be dealt with simply if showdoing were allowed its proper function become the stuff out of which strange, expensive and sometimes exhausting tapestries are spun. As a cultural phenomenon it is amazing. I doubt if from within it we can even begin to imagine the aberration we may be caught in.

Or perhaps we are beginning to. Take the last two paragraphs of the Laplanche-Pontalis discussion of ‘Acting out’.

One of the outstanding tasks of psycho-analysis is to ground the distinction between transference and acting out on criteria other than purely technical ones _ or even mere consideration of locale (does something happen within the consulting room or not?). This task presupposes a reformulation of the concepts of action and actualisation and a fresh definition of the different modalities of communication.

Only when the relations between acting out and the analytic transference have been theoretically clarified will it be possible to see whether the Structures thus exposed can be extrapolated from the frame of reference of the treatment – to decide, in other words, whether light can be shed on the impulsive acts of everyday life by linking them to relationships of the transference type.

To clarify the relations between acting out and the analytic transference we are going to have to demote our words of knowing and unknowing and allow the verbs to show and to do more power and more room. What we expect of interpretation has to be able to allow for the different modalities of imaginal likeness and physical representation. Criteria on which the distinction between transference and acting out can be grounded will have to take into account what theorists of the theatre call ‘deixis’, the energy released when persons and objects on a stage point at themselves. Deixis is what energises theatrical presentation. But it also energises all behaviour-in-a-context. It is not something to be got at by interpretation of an imaginative, reflective kind. The interpretation it calls for is, quite simply, performance. (Holt, 1987).

Sometimes it seems as if (psycho)analysis just forgot this. It is as if somewhere along the way . we met with someone who persuaded us that the secret of the performance was to be found in knowing what to do and we could dispense with any showing. So for many years we went in search of that secret in lands where the only performance of interest took place between our knowing and Our unknowing. Then we remembered something called object relations, and suddenly counter-transference was as, if not more, interesting than transference. Showing is become important again. Behaviour can point to secrets more economically than reflection, meditation or exegesis. How to energise that pointing is an important question for psychotherapy. We’d learn more about it if transference work and behavioural studies could find ways of talking to each other.

The energy of such pointing is close to what I mean by letting be. Performance is active, demonstrative, interpretive. Its interpretations – in the theatre, in the concert hall, in the workshop – are always open to another go. There is always room for another try. But they are nevertheless complete in themselves. They stand or fall on what is shown in the doing, done in the showing. There is a concentration of effort that is content to let its case rest.

This ability of performance to let its case rest is something we are going to have to think about if the behavioural and interpretive sciences are to learn from each other. What does it tell us about the relation between action, interpretation, and being-minded-of? The answers I work with have to do with letting be.

Like showdoing, letting be moves between two verbs, to let and to be. It is about permission, both in the sense of making possible and of leaving alone. And it is about what there is simply no other word for than Being. Aristotle called it ‘that which is’, Wittgenstein pointed to it with his remark ‘Not how the world is, is the mystical, but that the world is’. Being. The given presence of what is. The verb that sustains all nouns and adjectives that we can think of.

How ‘to let’ and ‘to be’ are related is a constant question in living. It is one to which psychotherapists have to address themselves in every consultation. The course I started at the Westminster Pastoral Foundation on ‘counselling and ontology’ was an attempt to work out how this could be taught. I abandoned it, faint of heart, in the face of the seemingly irresistible attractions of the (psycho)analytic alternative.

Teaching how to let be brings us into conflict with re-minding. The crucial point is that while being-minded-of can often assist at the recognition of Being, it can also work against it. Experience with counselling and ontology has convinced me that feeling is at stake here of a kind which the (psycho)analytic schools simply do not comprehend, (though perhaps what divides them does). We must try and get this feeling into the organisation of psychotherapy.

If we give ourselves over too much to re-minding we can find ourselves possessed by a spirit which knows no rest. The cultivation of memory, symbol, metaphor, imagination, becomes an addiction which cannot let be. At its best, re-minding is a call to explore all available likeness. But if we follow that call we must realise that likeness has no reason to let being rest. Likeness is restless to translate, to transform, to compare. It is impatient of the givenness of what is. It finds something defeatist in ‘that is how things are. So be it’. It knows there has to be a behind and a beyond and a besides. There must be a way through or round. How things are is always open to conversion.

(Psycho)analysis has appropriated this restlessness in the presence of Being, and intends to make of it a profession. The strategy is in two stages. First, to harness this restlessness to our unknowing. This can lead in very different directions. depending on how unknowing is defined. If, with Jung, there is a tendency to identify our unknowing with the ground of Being, it can lead towards an enlargement of symbolism at the expense of Being. If, with Freud, our interest is in unknowing as denial and privation, then it leads towards what Paul Ricoeur has called a ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’. All attribution of meaning is suspect. Being is left alone. Its grounding is not presumed on. (Which may come closer to true recognition of Being than the Jungian way, which sometimes seems perilously close to a collapse of ontology into symbolism.) But though the directions are different, the essential strategy is the same. Unknowing, as a kind of resourceful absence awaiting cultivation, is harnessed to our restlessness in the presence of Being. Our unknowing, our unawareness, is what carries the theoretical and practical weight. Doing and showing are of interest only in relation to states of mind, so that re-minding becomes an activity in its own right.

The second stage is to apply this activity to our own life story. A special kind of telling-about-ourselves is generated. Our ability to re-mind, and to be re-minded, is brought to bear on our partial knowledge of our story. The fact that we are ignorant of most of our story is taken as a resource. Inexhaustible ignorance of our infancy and childhood is played off against ignorance of a future which is still to be revealed. A two way dynamic, like a pulse, is set going. In drawing on ignorance-as-resource we exercise our ability to be re-minded of. And in exercising that ability we confirm the resourcefulness of unknowing. We begin to feel that we are getting inside the generation of our own story, becoming pregnant of our own cause. It is as if we get in between cause and effect in our lived story, and in gradually discovering what they have in common begin to feel the beat of a secret pulse, the pulse which causes my life to be as it is.

The result can be fascinating. It has created an absorbing profession, albeit a profession which can be quite extraordinarily rude. It can appeal to the same sense of discipline and self sacrifice as has inspired great spiritual and ethical movements. It has an effect far beyond its own borders, not least among other hermeneutic disciplines concerned with the discovering and keeping of secrets. But what does it do to our ability to let be?

Letting be can be mute resignation. It can be world weary cynicism. It can be resentment; resentment that eats into the soul, hardens the heart, exhausts the spirit and paralyses the imagination. Yet it can move from that to a position where ‘making do’ is possible. Make do and mend. There can be a moment of relaxation in which amendment and compromise become possible. We say, ‘Oh, let it go’, and a hopeless argument in which we are stuck moves into conversation and exchange. We say, ‘Well, yes, I can live with that’, and signify a willingness to take what is given as making a fresh start. How is such movement possible? How is it helped and hindered by re-minding?


We have to think about time (always remembering that to think about time truly requires that we tread tenderly, for we are stepping on the wings of butterflies). Ontological tradition teaches us that respect for Being goes together with puzzlement about time. To understand what (psycho)analysis does to our ability to let be we have to ask how (psycho)analytic causality relates to what I have called the consistency of time (Holt 1982, 1987). Are the causes which (psycho)analysis searches out and recapitulates to be found in time, or are they also, or alternatively, of time?

I have spent much effort in the last twenty years trying to air questions about time in Jungian circles, with little response. I confess to being surprised at my failure. I would have expected a community interested in a concept like Jung’s synchronicity to be more.. eager to enter into debate about time. I begin to suspect that (psycho)analysis as a whole may depend for its existence on a collapse of metaphysical time-questioning. Which would be a pity. Because (psycho)analytic research into sexuality, and particularly into the relation between sexuality and death, is itself calling urgently for a re-awakening of just such questioning.

The causing of time is all round us. We celebrate it in worship and prayer and festival. We drawn on it in hope. We invoke it in promise. We struggle with it between the generations, as we measure up to each others’ vitality. It permeates social intercourse. It is like the sap in what sociologists call ‘the social construction of reality’.

(Psycho)analytic theory is very weak on the social construction of reality. (Psycho)analytic practice is constantly trying to make good that weakness. Work in groups and families reaches out towards recognising how persons are socially constituted. Many (psycho)analysts realise that here lies the challenge, if not the crisis, of their future (see, for instance, the urgency of Isabel Menzies Lyth in her interview for Free Associations, No. 13, 1988).

Work of this kind would receive a great impetus if it were to allow for the social causation of time. This is indeed meta-physical, but not in some pejorative sense of inaccessible rumination. It is, as I have said, all around us. In 1985, Channel 4 Television in England carried an excellent series of programmes on its ‘all around us’-ness. The Series Consultant, John Berger, wrote of the intention behind the programme:

It wasn’t that we thought we knew what ought to be said. We have all discovered the trap which St Augustine described so succinctly: ‘What then is time? If no one asks me, I know; but if I wish to explain it to he who asks. I know not!’

No. it wasn’t that we knew what ought to be said. It was simply that, through our different experiences and lives, we had come to the conclusion that the notions about time which are embodied today in formal education, the current assumptions of news bulletins, political promises and moral sermons, are patently inadequate. What we wanted to do was to clear a space that could be given over to other, more intimate, less rhetorical and more far seeing intuitions and questions which cluster, for the most part unacknowledged, around everyone’s experience of time, and then to let these intuitions talk with science and history.

To clear a space…. The organisation of psychotherapy as a profession needs such space. If we are to understand what (psycho)analysis does to our ability to let be, how it can undermine it with the concept of the unconscious and then dedicate itself scrupulously to its rediscovery, we must set it within an organisational context which does justice to the intimate and far seeing intuitions and questions which cluster around our everyday experience of time.

It helps to imagine what such a context would be like if we think of our problem with ‘how many times a week?’ Will it ever be possible for five times a week and once a week (psycho)analysts, and all the positions between, to talk to each other truly?

One of my most marked experiences of (psycho)analysis has been of the peculiar unease when any attempt at such talk is made. There is a strange feeling of discomfort. It is as if what we are trying to talk about is in bad taste. Value systems are being compared in a way that threatens dishonour.

I used to explain this to myself in terms of money. If people had committed themselves and others over years to a course of five times a week analysis they would have no choice but to regard once a week analysis as of inferior value. While once-a-weekers would similarly need to regard five times as wasteful. Less acutely perhaps the same would apply to the four timers and two timers. The three timers might seem to have got it just right: except that it is still a bit second best, or unnecessarily expensive, seen from other positions.

But explanations of that kind leave a lot out. They don’t really seem to touch the feeling of dishonour, nor do they help in identifying the effective differences (because differences there certainly are). There are many spiritual and moral disciplines and techniques which require a seven day week commitment, and which recognise various degrees of initiation. Presumably (psycho)analysis merits comparison with these. And it is against such comparison that the various timings have to test their position.

The statutory organisation of psychotherapy will require a time-questioning context in which these various positions can prove themselves. That is one of the tasks which the Standing Conference should set itself: how to develop such a context. The social constitution of time will have to be on the agenda. So, for Jungians, would the timing of the collective unconscious. (I would want to argue that the collective unconscious is contemporary long before it gets old)

But above all, if psychotherapy is to honour our ability to let be as well as to re- mind, the agenda will have to include argument about givenness. Our understanding of causality has to take into account our experience of gift. Causation binds us to ‘keep in time’. Causation is also the gift of time ‘into our keeping’. We have to be able to talk about the difference between the binding and the giving.

This difference may escape us, but it is pivotal. Letting be is hinged upon it.

The meaning of causation and the givenness of time go hand in hand. The cultivation of causality is an attempt to get hold of givenness, to make givenness work for us. But as soon as we do that, givenness is lost. That is what makes it so difficult to let be. There is a sense in which the givenness of Being repudiates causality. (I think Jung recognises that in much that he has written on synchronicity.) In searching for causes we forget givenness. We are thrown into time, and grasp after cause to keep afloat, to secure the connections by which we live. When the connections fail us we forget that it is the grasping that may be at fault. But that might also be the moment in which we are re-minded that what binds us to keep in time may be the givenness of time itself, that what is required of us is not only the search for causes but the ability to let causation be.

How can such re-minding coexist with the excitement of the (psycho)analytic chase, a chase in which the pursuit of causality into the heart of pain can be productive of so much meaning?

I don’t believe it can if we assume that what is given is necessarily meaningful. (And here Jung’s influence can mislead in ways that Freud’s does not.)

(Psycho)analysis is in danger of claiming too much for meaning. Over against (psycho)analysis we need a reassertion of givenness as a category which may be meaningful or not.

Givenness has great spread. There is the givenness of religious experience in which meaning bursts upon us from the most unlikely quarters. And there is givenness of the kind we associate with the Latin words datum, data: the given facts, things as they are, discrete, separate, items to be gathered and accumulated, open perhaps to the attribution of meaning but open also to be discarded as irrelevant, as void of meaning, as just so much noise. The reassertion of givenness as against the power of meaning needs the whole spread between epiphany and data. The whole point about givenness is that it doesn’t have to mean anything at all. It may, but that is neither a plus nor a minus. In terms of givenness, meaning is simply-beside the point.

Many (psycho)analysts recognise the need for some such category as this. But for (psycho)analysis it remains a limit, an horizon, a privation. If we are to profess the ability to let be, to teach it, to include it within our training programmes, givenness – in all its spread from epiphany to data – has to be much more than that. It has to emerge as a field of study in its own right, a field in which performance can tell us all that needs to be told.


This is where our third modality comes in. Showdoing is how givenness reveals itself as indifferent to the attribution of meaning. It is an altogether different movement both of spirit and technique to the search for meaning which informs (psycho)analysis.

The most obvious characteristic of showdoing is that it gives precedence to body over mind.

What is to be meant is pointed at. Demonstration precedes cognition. The example is what matters.

(Psycho)analysis has pushed all this into transference and counter-transference. If (psycho)analytic imagination and (psycho)analytic ability to get in touch with the generation of plot are to talk productively to the behavioural sciences we are going to have to unpack transference theory into a more comprehensive study of showdoing. (This may already be happening in psychotherapeutic work with groups and families.)

This unpacking can be helped if we grasp two aspects of showdoing as experienced in the theatre. One is about appearance, the other about character.

For showdoing appearance is to be made, not seen through. We make an appearance. We all know how. But that kind of know how gets forgotten in the excitement of the chase after some reality behind appearance. Object relations theory in (psycho)analysis is trying to recover the know how. But as Jung taught us long ago in his work on extraversion and introversion, the contrast between appearance as made and appearance as to be seen through takes us into the great traditional problems of ontology. Appearance is how Being both invites and resists our participation. Theatre has always been necessary, and is today particularly urgent for Psychotherapy, because it enables us to exercise and to play and to celebrate both the invitation and the resistance. Theatre has much to contribute to the coming dialogue between (psycho)analysis and the behavioural sciences.

Our understanding of character is also affected by theatrical showdoing. In the theatre, character is to be performed. It is shown in the doing. It is made in the showing. Any inwardness it may have belongs with the audience not with the actor.

This has implications both for plots and contexts.

In performance, character is the vehicle of plot. Characters don’t come first, and plots after. Plots call on character. The more familiar we are with this theatrical commonplace the easier it will be to develop connections and exchange between (psycho)analytic transference work and Psychotherapy with marital and family systems.

Similarly with context. If we stay as observers, characters move within a context. But if we participate in showdoing, it is more as if context ‘gives off’ character. The givenness of the scene is not inert. It energises. It gives rise to. It calls forth. There is a meeting place here for (psycho)analytic object relations theory and the work on the genesis of personality being done by social constructionists like Rom Harre and John Shotter. (Holt, 1989.)

Showdoing affects us most intimately when we ‘try’. Psychologists of earlier generations talked much about conation. Conation is the Latin word for trying: the familiar ‘give it a try’, ‘can’t you try harder?’, ‘all right, I’ll have a try’. Conation is defined as ‘the exertion of willing that desire or aversion shall issue in action’. We talk a lot about desire and aversion. But where are such exertion, such willing, such issuing in action, to be found in the organisation and teaching of psychotherapy?

I offer two suggestions as to where to look. First, wherever we talk of mind in terms of performance, of doing. For instance, when we say: I need time to make up my mind. Before decision can issue in action, there is a familiar process we describe as a making up. How does this compare with re-minding? There is some connection, but the modality differs. Re-minding is contemplative, reflective, associative, it scans horizons, searches in comers, returns on itself. Making up mind gathers to a point, it is intent towards conclusion. We practice it in counselling, social work, education. The tendency for (psycho)analysis to belittle counselling as a kind of watered down version of what would be better done by itself is mistaken. Work is being done in _ counselling, and in other fields where ‘guidance’ is not a dirty word, which shows us the mind in action. Work of this kind is what interests the cognitive psychologists, the social constructionists, the ethologists. My interest in theatre has convinced me that it is possible to relate this work on mind in action to problems of (psycho)analytic transference (compare what I wrote above in commenting on the Laplanche-Pontalis quotation).

Second, sexuality. Certainly there is plenty of desire and aversion around here. Could showdoing help us more than it is with ‘the exertion of willing’ that issues in sexual action?

Again, I would recommend the idea of performance. Sexual performance in a biological sense is closely related to sexual performance in ritual and social contexts. (Psycho)analytic discovery of infantile sexuality is an essential element in its fascination. It leaves us with the problem of connecting very different kinds of performance. Infantile and adult sexual performance are not all that alike.

Many of us have broken, and have perhaps broken others, in trying to make this connection. We are helped by anything which enlarges, dilates, amplifies, our experience of performance. Certainly there is a pejorative sense in which we can say of sex: ‘oh, what a performance’. More emphasis on the value of showdoing in general helps to offset such occasions with others in which the need for performance is not only privately recognised but publicly willed. Behaviour that is ridiculous, obscene, compulsive, can be transformed by performance into the kind of showing (theatrical deixis) which charges our animal skin with social significance. There can even be strange hints of religious epiphany, carrying with them the risk of divine disfigurement. Such hints are the stuff of madness when left in the mind. Performed, they are social re-minders of the power of alien cosmologies.

I would hope that (psycho)analytic interest in sexuality is now well on the way to being taken up into a wider cultural awareness of the crucial role which sexuality can play in the social construction of reality. Behavioural work being done in the field of sexual guidance seems often to be to the point in a way that personal and archetypal mythologies are not Like mind, sex is an act. It calls for enactment. People need help in moving between rehearsal and live performance. More psychotherapeutic interest in showdoing would make it easier for us to offer that help.


The application of Jung’s work

The published emphasis of Jung’s contribution to psychotherapy lies between the re-minding and the letting be. There is also a not to be underestimated contribution to the showdoing modality, for which we rely on anecdotal evidence and the tradition which has been handed on by those who worked with him.

Jung’s published work emphasises questions of meaning and its articulation in the course of a person’s life. This interest has been taken up into the teaching of analytical psychology. It leads us into exploring the relationship between re-minding and letting be. The relationship is one of mutual stimulation and reciprocal limit-setting.

Jung’s contribution here is important, and has had an influence far beyond the bounds of Psychotherapy. Some of us believe that it may mark a turning point in the history of Western culture. I don’t believe we have yet assessed it properly. There is still a lot of unpacking to be done. For that it needs careful study within its historical context.

Two lines of study interest me in particular. The first is about our confusion between the two kinds of re-minding. How are the ‘that re-minds me of’ of memory, and the ‘that re-minds me of’ of symbolic activity, related? The field of argument which has opened up between developmental and archetypal approaches to Jung’s work can be expected to enlarge our understanding of possible answers.

The second is perhaps more difficult. Certainly it is not so widely recognised in Jungian circles. It Concerns the feeling tone of research into Being (ontology, metaphysics).

Metaphysics tends to be a dirty word for analytical psychology. Its place is taken by what at times seems to be an idolisation of psyche. Yet as Jung’s work finds its place in history we shall come to recognise that it is as much about ontology as about psychology.

Clinically, this will mean study of the interdependence of empirical observation and metaphysical curiosity (curiosity which is always ticklish and often as disconcerting as the questions of children). Many of our most strongly felt disagreements belong here. To take that feeling on we will have to learn how to ask metaphysical questions. With respect to Jung, the fact that such questions do not allow of answers is no reason why they should not be asked. On the contrary it is their asking which sustains what we call scientific curiosity, a curiosity with which Jung was richly endowed.

For study of this kind it makes sense for those interested in Jung to organise themselves. But let us be clear as to what we can expect of such organisation. We have to work with the grain of the wood. Jung has not founded a self contained self sufficient, profession. In his own life he risked mixing Psyche with Being. He survived. And he left behind him a great corpus of work describing how it can be done.

This work needs to be read, researched, taught. It has more, possibly much more, to tell us about the relationship between minds and being than we have yet realised. Jung has introduced ontology and imagination to each other in many new contexts. He has familiarised us with ways of imagining that are as fragile as the wings of butterflies yet reach into the matrices of our biochemistry. His work on individuation makes it possible to relate the events of our personal lives to what used to be called The Great Chain of Being. Possibly epochal reassessments of the relationship between history and evolution will follow.

But the kind of personal and clinical difficulties We come up against in our work between reminding and letting be, difficulties with which we need each others’ help and criticism, have to be approached within a context which includes other (psycho)analytic schools. I have every sympathy with the formation of Freud-Jung groups. I enjoy the kind of interchange with Kleinians possible at the Oxford Psychotherapy Society. I have found Bion’s work on groups helpful in understanding psychotic family splitting processes in Jungian groups (Holt, 1986). From all directions experience is pushing and jostling us towards closer association with other streams within the (psycho)analytic movement. And rightly so.

But what are the longer term goals of such closer association? Are they to develop a more powerful and cohesive (psycho)analytic profession? Or are they to allow the essential differences between Jung and Freud and others to open the (psycho)analytic enterprise into a wider field of endeavour, a field within which it would be possible for the various schools, and for (psycho)analysis as a whole, to confess their aberrations, and to seek help with our failings from outside the circle of ‘those who have been analysed’?

If our intention is the former, then I agree with those Jungians who suspect that Freud-Jung groups and all that sort of thing will lead to a watering down and evasion of the difficult truths of Jung’s work. (I think of Esther Harding’s magisterial reply to one of the papers at the 1962 Congress of the IAAP in Zurich.) But if our intention is the latter, then I believe there is enough experience among us of living with the opposites, of tolerating the paranoid-schizoid position, of putting our wounded narcissism to work, for us to be able to take our quarrels and our deeply felt differences with us into the wider world in which re-minding and letting be are trying to accommodate each other better.

For instance, the (psycho)analytic critique of religion is not something which can be taken further from within a primarily Jungian or Freudian tradition. Study of Answer to Job requires study of books like Rene Girard’s Violence and the Sacred. The deeply felt (and let it be said that the feeling involves much, much more than envy and gratitude: it involves worship and what happens when worship fails) differences within (psycho)analysis require to be exposed, in all their painfulness, to the tolerance and scepticism of religions that have lived and suffered for centuries with schism, confession, martyrdom. In the last fifty years more work has probably been done in this country within the Guild of Pastoral Psychology to further a true engagement between (psycho)analysis and religion than in any body of analytical psychology. The Guild knows about the risks of such engagement. There is a wealth of thought and feeling in its publications. Work of this kind can help us all in a more sustained reassessment of (psycho)analytic success and failure when confronted with ‘the unbearable lightness of being’.

But reciprocal limit setting between re-minding and letting be must include showdoing. The work of remembering and of amplification finds rest in the presence of being when it allows for translation into action. When Being knows itself to be shown in deed the mind can be still. Distortion and failure in doing and showing are what drive us to seek help in never-ending processes of re-minding. Confidence in showing and doing has to be taught alongside the researching of memory and symbol.

I guess that in Jung’s own practice showdoing played a much greater part than would appear from his published works. Here the memories of those who worked with him are precious. They help us to read between the lines. How did the short term therapy he practised ‘work’? Was his attitude to the transference grounded in confidence of a kind we have lost? I suspect he was at home between letting be and showdoing in a way that is more difficult for us today. Doctors of earlier times did have confidence in their hands, in what could be done and shown by touch. In reading Jung in German I have found the word Behandlung suggestive. Somewhere between management and treatment, it carries much of what I mean by the showdoing modality. How is it translated in the English edition? (At least twice – I have not been able to find the reference – by ‘analysis’. Thus do key words acquire their semantic halo.)

But the obvious example of showdoing in Jung’s work was in his interest in painting, spreading out later to include music and dance, theatre and sandplay. Many have long recognised a natural affinity between Jung’s psychology and the various body therapies.

Organisations like the Champemowne Trust are working well within Jungian tradition in furthering interest of this kind. All this I see as showdoing. There can be no re-minding without embodiment. The body remains, till death do us part, our most familiar acquaintance with Being.

What I hope will happen is that as we come to speak more easily of the ontological dimension to Jung’s work we shall be able to contribute to new links between the body therapies and the behavioural sciences, by introducing between them a sense of imagination as act. Patients of all kinds are being encouraged to monitor the performance of their bodies, to participate more imaginatively in treatment programmes. We can enlarge the context within which this is happening by re-minding showdoing what it is like to let be.

Here I speak from my experience with theatre. There is a kind of interpretation which disables performance by claiming to see through it. This is what many of the physical therapists suspect psychotherapy of. And in many cases I think they are right. There is something in what (psycho)analysis has done to psychotherapy which is chronically envious of the deictic energy of live performance. It prefers to keep us rehearsing.

In the theatre, when we have to go on, there is another kind of interpretation waiting for us. This introduces behaviour and context to each other. It gives performance priority over anything we can say about it. The aim of interpretation of this kind is not to milk performance of its meaning but to renew its confidence in itself. It does this by marking out horizon and ground, energising density. It draws breath. It introduces what is actual to what could be, what could be to what is.

The difference between these two kinds of interpretation is crucial in the organisation of psychotherapy. Research into it should be high on the agenda of the Standing Conference.

One contribution Jungians can make to such research will be a renewed interest in Psychological Types. Studying interpretation in the theatre has given me a new kind of enthusiasm for Jung’s distinction between extraversion and introversion. I believe it carries the potential for new research into how showdoing, re-minding and letting be, are relatable. (Indeed, at times while writing this paper I have felt that all I am trying to say is already to be found in Psychological Types, especially in the early editions with the Translator’s Preface by H. G. Baynes. The book also needs reading in conjunction with the letters Jung exchanged with Hans Schmid-Guisan in 1915-16, unfortunately not yet published in English. These show to what extent extraversion and introversion were difficult for Jung to manage. We should not expect them to be easier for us.)

Think simply of the words subject and object as Jung uses them in Psychological Types. Think also of the word object as it is used in ‘object relations’ theory (for instance, in Winnicott’s essay on The Use of an Object and Relating through Identifications). The words have a special valency. They are familiar, yet their very familiarity seems to interfere between us and what Jung is getting at. I t is as if the contrast between them is being used to set up an oscillation or disturbance about what being in the world is like. A state of uncertainty is being created as to where subject and object are located, and as to which owes its being to which.

Ontology is grounded in that state of uncertainty. The questions about Being which make some kind of metaphysical reflection urgent arise within that state of uncertainty. Jung knew it well. It was his habitat. Others are determined that it does not exist, or that if it does, it is pathological, evidence of cultural immaturity or clinical inexperience.

There is a problem of ‘organisation’ here which is not going to go away. Feelings are at stake which cannot even be entertained without entering into lived metaphysical argument. What we make of Jung’s typology depends on how far we are ourselves prepared to go in owning to connections between character or temperament and the being not only of ourselves but of the world too. If it were merely a matter of psychology, then it could perhaps be dealt with in tests and plotted on scales. But it is much more than that. It disturbs us where we are at our most edgy, shudderingly uncertain as to whether subject and object can ever be relied on to make sense together.

If analytical psychology were the whole world then it might be able to contain such uncertainty. But surely it is crazy to imagine it so. Jung’s typology does not merely describe. It is closer to the I Ching than to the kind of testing done in psychological laboratories.. It appeals to a ground behind the subject-object distinction. The appeal is like a launch. It launches us into Being. Or we can think of the verb to throw. Our type is how we are thrown into Being.

We can’t use Jung’s typology as a container. The difference between extraversion and introversion is too hazardous. We should allow it to be so. It is a way of putting ourselves at risk in the presence of (before) Being. The risk is what introduces us to givenness.

The typology is about the complexity of givenness (how much better if we had stayed with the term Komplexe Psychologie, still used in the German in many places, for instance in the opening sentence of Psychology and Alchemy). Metaphysics used to refer to it as the problem of The One and the Many. How do I remain myself in being so variable. My argument is that it helps to manage this complexity if we allow that givenness asks not only that we be mindful, but that we claim our performance rights as well.


The organisation of psychotherapy has to take account of the tension between private practice and public service. There is an extensive field of anxiety and embarrassment, a sense of unequal opportunity. Freedom of choice, clinical authority, and the needs of administration come into conflict. There is suspicion of what farmers call ‘luxury uptake’ (the excessive use of fertiliser), and of professionals who prefer prescription to negotiation. Questions of what is affordable cut across personal and clinical judgment on constantly changing frontiers between risk and security. Unpacking all that is at issue here into a workable agenda is a task for more than one generation.

More exchange between our three modalities will help get us started. To summarise my argument, here are various ways in which developments already in train could be taken further.

1. Work with transference and counter-transference can be exposed to the demonstrative energies of performance. At first this may seem to threaten entrenched positions at the heart of (psycho)analysis in a way that is unacceptable. But there may be more willingness to negotiate than seemed likely a few years ago. The mooted re-translation of Freud will help. There is more demonstrative pointing in the German words ‘deuten’ and ‘Deutung’ than in the English ‘interpretation’.

2. Group therapy could experiment more with movement

3. Body therapies could experiment with more talk about what they do. Between movement and talk we need to be working towards more understanding of how communication and communion differ from each other while also presupposing each other. How do silence and breathing mediate between movement and word?

4. Dream interpretation should embrace the study of hermeneutics as it has developed since Freud and Jung.

5. We should continue to scan horizons and till ground common to ontology and imagination. But we must stop expecting to arrive at conclusions. To expect finality in questions of Being is . to invite foreclosures of feeling. Instead, we should

6. Research our time-keeping. We have a major problem with our incongruent theories of causation. We have to open them to scrutiny from outside our profession. This will involve us in philosophical argument about time, and the feelings that go with it.

For instance, limiting ourselves to the (psycho)analytic field: feelings have been touched in our arguments about causation which have led generous men and women to despair of ever being able to talk to each other. We must not deny this. In psychotherapy, argument about causation will always overlap disturbingly with argument about absolution or forgiveness (Holt, 1988).

To open feeling of this kind to public debate we have to relate it to metaphysical argument about time. What is the order of causation between adult and child? Which comes first, and how does one affect the other? We are familiar with the hard-to-believe-in feelings of omnipotence lodged in that question. We need a frame of reference in which feelings of this kind can engage with linear, circular or alternating, random/statistical, and field, theories of causation. At present we lack such a frame of reference.

Research into the social constitution of time will help create one. Our experience of cause presupposes the social constitution of time. (Psycho)analysis has to take this into account, even if it means the disintegration of the profession. Between child and adult the social constitution of time is up for testing. Between the generations: is it a passing or is it a gap? Whichever it is, our social grounds for going on are at stake. (Oedipus and Jocasta know how they are related. But their marriage is required for the going on of the city, and that going on is given into their keeping. )

There is talk of regulating psychotherapy by Act of Parliament. If such regulation is to be helpful, it is urgent that we find ways of getting our stake in time-keeping, and the feelings that go with it, onto the agenda of our own ‘parlement’, the Standing Conference. The enactment of time and the enactment of law go together. That is what cause is about.

7. So we need to bring into the mainstream of our teaching programmes work which is at present widely recognized, but peripheral. For instance, there is work which touches on what Milan Kundera has named ‘the unbearable lightness of being’. Over thirty years l have heard (psycho)analysts of various persuasions invoke lyric poetry in describing their methods. Lyric poetry is a familiar instance of the lightness of touch with which Being claims our attention. To teach the recognition of Being, we have to get that lightness into our training programmes (compare Cox and Theilgaard, 1987).

8. But, as Kundera reminds us in the title of his novel, that lightness can be unbearable. It belongs together with an unbearable gravity. If the feelings of absolution touched by (Psycho)analytic argument about causation are to be taken up into wider political debate about time-keeping, we will have to put worship and prayer high on our agenda.

How do we bear the cost of time? In witnessing to each other what it is like to be both apprehensive of, and grateful for, its creation. Between that apprehension and that gratitude there is a whole world of feeling, ontological feeling, calling for recognition and research.

We can’t bracket out religion. Religion, with all its failures, has an essential contribution to make to the organisation of psychotherapy. If we leave it out, we can busy ourselves as professionals with various strategies of displacement. But as patients our ability to let be is marginalised, uprooted from its feeling context as the time we live by is drained of our witness to its creation.

9. There is an important sense in which recognition of givenness and professional zeal are at odds. We should allow for this. It would help if we paid more attention to connections between psychotherapy and the D.IY. (‘do it yourself) factor in health care in general. I am thinking of the self motivated behaviour modification programmes of diet and exercise, of political interest in environmental health, medical initiatives to involve patients in the monitoring and management of their own treatment, of the way we and our friends and neighbours learn to live with the chronicity of illness, disablement, ageing. This is where we can study how patients can, and do, become agents in making something of what is given, irrespective of whether it means anything or not. More awareness of how people respond to disease as irreversible datum is at least as important for the organisation of psychotherapy as the cultivation of meaning.


Cox and Theilgaard, 1987. Mutative Metaphors in Psychotherapy. Tavistock Press.

Holt, 1982. Mood, Plot and Parabolic Imagination.

Holt, 1986. On Being Wobbly.

Holt, 1987. Narrative and Performance.

(These three papers are included in Holt, The Psychology of Carl Jung, Edwin Mellen Press, 1992)

Holt, 1988. Review of Hogenson: Jung’s Struggle with Freud, Harvest (journal of the C G Jung Analytical Psychology Club, London).

Holt, 1989. In Shotter and Gergen: Texts of Identity. Sage Publications.

Laplanche-Pontalis, 1980. The Language of Psycho-Analysis. Hogarth Press

3 Enactment, therapy and behaviour

This paper describes how theatre has moved me to incorporate a ‘behavioural’ attitude into my ‘analytic’ approach to psychotherapy. It has two parts. First, the opening out of my training in Jung’s psychology into theatre. Second, what I have learned from working with Pat Watts and the Sesame tradition.


I am uneasy with the terms dramatherapy and psychodrama. They leave out too much. When I hear them I want to add the words theatre and behaviour.

Drama emphasises doing. It is about ‘the thing done’. I like this emphasis. I am sure we need it to offset the altogether excessive influence of ‘the talking cure’. But drama isn’t only about doing. It takes place. The thing done is presented as spectacle talcing place before an audience. This is where I want to include the word theatre. Theatre reminds us of the where and how of drama. It emphasises the placement of performance in the presence of others. In my work I want to be able to invoke these emphases in order to release energies which are both behavioural and imaginative.

What excites me about drama and therapy together is that they translate us out of an enclosed therapeutic world, with its implied raison d’être in illness and its focus on people called patients, into a world of agents, of actors and authors and directors. I want to assist that translation by giving back to the good old word ‘behaviour’ meaning which has been drained from it by the behaviourists. Behaviour is not only about adapting to an environment. It makes scenes, and in doing so constitutes environment. It participates in the creation of what is favourable to character. It is invested in context. Therapy in the service of behaviour is not only concerned with the healing of illness. It is also about drawing out (education) our investment in our own scene-setting, so that characters can go critically in search of authors.

So in Writing about dramatherapy I write also, and, I believe, more inclusively, about theatre and behaviour. To make the connection between dramatherapy and theatre and behaviour, I bring in the word ‘enactment’. If we could understand better how all behaviour aspires to the kind of enactment we meet in the theatre, and incorporate that understanding into how we bring each other up and out, there would be less need for therapy.

From Jung to theatre

My approach to theatre and behaviour has been through two of Jung’s concepts: persona and projection.

I chose Jung’s concept of the persona as a subject for my thesis at the Jung Institute in Zurich when I was completing my studies there in 1965-6. It seemed to me that in his earlier writings Jung had a more comprehensive attitude to the persona than in his later work, where the persona becomes nothing but a defensive or evasive mask behind which we hide (from) our true identity. In contrast to this, I became interested in how masks can carry more power and meaning than the natural face. It seemed to me that there was a sense in which when actors wear masks they are inviting us to invest with them in a reality which cannot appear without a mask. I wondered whether the same might also be true of what Jung called the persona.

So my thesis on ‘Persona and Actor’ started me thinking about appearances. There is a pejorative way in which we speak of ‘keeping up’ appearances as if to do so shows fear of what is real. But what is wrong with being afraid of reality? Perhaps what is real is more fearful than we like to imagine.

There is another tradition which teaches that appearances have to be ‘saved’. They have to be saved because the world we inhabit is a made world, and we both know and don’t know about its making. Masks witness to this knowing unknowing. They say: we realise it’s made up, but that’s what the world is like. Make-believe gets us under the skin and into the constitution of what we call reality. So we are right to be fearful of reality, lest our act come apart and we are left with nothing. Our investiture in what is real is such that we do well to wear masks. (For three very different approaches to this madeness of the world, see Barfield, 1957, Gombrich, 1960 and Nagel, 1986. Also with reference to therapy, Holt, 1968.)

The persona can be dismissively equated with saving face. But if appearances have to be saved, then perhaps faces need saving also. They need looking after, both in the sense of caring for and following with attention.. There are times when we have to be able to ‘keep a straight face’. Behaviour of this kind shows awareness of our investiture in reality (under the skin of, behind the appearances of, reality). It bears witness to that investiture by owning a responsibility. Think of words like manners, habit, style, also behaviour as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. They are about our responsibility for appearances, the appearance not only of ourselves, but also of the world in which we find ourselves. How we behave says something about the makeup of that world. It says that it cannot do without appearances.

An example can be found in ‘melodrama’. This word was used at a workshop in 1985, in a crucial moment in rehearsal for Measure for Measure. The group was at that stage when it seems as if nothing is going to happen, as if we are never going to be able to get it together. We were unsure of each other, and were not at an clear what we were supposed to be doing. Possibly what we were doing was very silly indeed. Then someone said: ‘Come on, this is just good old Victorian melodrama’. The group eased. It was as if we had been given permission to behave in a way we knew how. Words and movement began to interact. We had more confidence with each other, putting each other into roles and positions which were no longer silly, because somehow we were now sharing in traditional human exaggeration.

I thought much about the exaggeration of melodrama after that workshop. It sent me back to read again one of my favourite books on the theatre, Styan’s (1975) Drama, Stage and Audience. He has helped me realise how much there is that we could be doing, between theatre and our lives and practices elsewhere, with that exaggerated awkwardness we feel when our investiture in reality is caught between an urgent expectation – the need to ‘go on’ – and distrust in ourselves.

Styan sees melodrama as one way of moving between tragedy and farce. (And how much we need such movement in exploring and managing, for instance, our sexuality.) He has this to say about the exchange between them:

The farther drama leans towards farce and tragedy, the more the actor assumes the mask. It lends impersonality to the experience, frees the spectator from the need to sympathise, frees him to laugh, all without the tiresome restrictions of everyday life. A play needs only a germ of probability to begin, but once begun it can soar with the madness of hysteria or race faster than nightmare. Since at the extreme the movements of either tragedy or farce border on dance and its tones on song, the language of colloquial prose dialogue can barely satisfy the needs of its stage. Yet, either in tragedy or in farce the actor immersed in its spirit stands outside his role while seeming to believe utterly in its reality: both are the drama of the straight face.

The drama of the straight face. Putting our best face on it Losing face. These are the kind of familiar experiences in which Jung’s understanding of the persona opens into a more comprehensive view of an behaviour as necessarily theatrical: necessarily, because theatre is how we are invested in reality.

The ‘how’ of this investiture can be explored further when we consider what we mean by projection.

Jung’s understanding of projection causes people much difficulty. To get at it we need to recognise two different usages. One is three-dimensional, the other four-dimensional.

The three-dimensional usage is spatial. It assumes a space in which person and world are already distinguished from each other. On this assumption it makes sense to talk of a person projecting some internal or psychic content on to the world, or of the introjection of the world into the personal. We think of projections as a kind of network, a network that is constantly being made and unmade. But we take the field within which that making and unmaking goes on as a given. Projections take place between positions within a field that already exists. The status of that field is not questioned. (Or we could say that the ‘standing’ of that field is not understood.)

The four-dimensional usage does question that field. It does so in being aware of time as a factor in our experience that cannot be reduced to space. It aims to include purpose, intention, hope, expectation, remorse, memory, promise, in our understanding of projection. The ‘why’ of projection has to include a ‘when’ as well as a ‘where’, and we do not try to reduce that when to a where.

This is not easy because we live in a culture that lives off the reduction of time to space. To do justice to time in its own right we have to recover a metaphysical naivete that can seem very primitive, very childish. There is a ‘throwness’ and a ‘caughtness’. We are thrown into time, and caught by time. Being alive is both a catch and a release. Between the throw and the catch we cannot take time for granted. We live as it were ‘tensed’ between the two.

Jung talks about this ‘throwness’ and ‘caughtness’ in his work on the collective unconscious, archetypes, synchronicity, and participation mystique, a term he took from the French anthropologist Levy-Bruhl. He recognised the three-dimensional mode of projection. But he was also aware that projection can involve feelings of a kind which have no purchase on reality if we take time for granted. There are feelings of surprise, uncertainty, intrusion, wonder, epiphany, which we can make nothing of without a sense of being called to save time as well as to spend time. Jung’s understanding of projection allows for awe, puzzlement, fear, which can never settle down in a world already made. They implicate us in time-creation. Becoming aware of the field within which projection takes place between ourselves and others involves us in restlessness, dis-ease, interruption, hazard, which only get their true purchase on reality when we no longer take time for granted.

How we manage connections between the three- and four- dimensional usages of projection is a recurring difficulty in Jung’s psychology. It helps to appreciate what the problem is if we think of discovery and invention, and how they differ.

Within the three-dimensional mode, projection constitutes a network of relations between persons and objects. Becoming aware of this network is a process of discovery. We discover a field within which this network is extended. Sometimes we speak of this field as a ‘system’.

But is it enough to speak of projection as taking place ‘within’ a field? How do we picture this taking place of projection in a family? Projections have a throwness to them. They are also caught. But they aren’t innocent in their caughtness. They are themselves ‘catching’, in the way we speak of illness, mood or excitement as catching. Nor is the recipient of projection innocent. Projections are attracted as well as attractive.

This is why we have to allow for time as well as space in understanding them. What is it in the space between us which makes projection ‘catchy’? It is the catchiness of time, our tensedness between the saving and spending of time. Which is why we cannot get at the cause of projection from within our family system. We need a position outside. To do justice to the thrown-, caught-, catching-, attracted-, attractive-ness of projection, we need to picture it as not only taking place within a system but also as the cause of that system.

Here we think of invention rather than discovery. This involves us with time as well as with space. To understand projection as causing the space within which it takes place (for instance, our investment in the make-up of the family system in which we are also separate and discrete parts), we have to be able to think of a project that is of time as well as in space. We are invested in invention as well as in discovering. The reality of which we are becoming aware is also being made, and we are as much involved in the making as in the becoming aware.

Projection is of time as well as in space. It doesn’t only take place. It creates tense. This tensedness of projection is essential to an understanding of the throwness and the caughtness of being alive. Between being thrown and being caught, the tensedness of time-creation is what sets us going.

How do we work with both the three- and four- dimensional modes of projection? The question is a practical one. Are the projections which sustain and bedevil marriage, family, society, caused by their context, by their setting, by the ‘place’ in which they ‘take’? Or are they also the cause of their own context, ‘sprung’ with tense, both heavy and ‘light with ‘once upon a time’, busy inventing the contexts within which their discovery may then follow on? There is a question here to which we have to have an answer if we are to intervene responsibly in other peoples’ lives. Theatre helps define the kind of answer we are looking for.

The moment which launched me irrevocably into the world of theatre concerned that special case of projection which we call transference and counter-transference: between therapist and patient.

It was in 1968, some five years after I had seen my first patient. The difficulties and possibilities of transference/counter-transference both in my professional practice and also between practice and private life were pressing me to take stock of this peculiar world into which I had been drawn. I was watching a performance of Tom Stoppard’s play about a play, The Real Inspector Hound. There is a moment when the gap between stage and audience is crossed, or collapsed. The phone rings on an empty stage. A player from an on-stage audience (an actor to us, the ‘true’ audience, but audience to what up to this moment has been the stage action) cannot stand the unanswered insistence of the bell, and crosses on to stage to answer it.

In doing so, he steps into the plot.

A theatrical trick, from a master of the wiles of theatre. Perhaps. But it settled the direction of my professional life.

I knew in that moment that transference and counter-transference are about theatre. There is a gap between stage and audience which makes projection possible. In making projection possible it guarantees our investment in the reality of what is happening. It both invites and sustains a certain suspension of belief. If that gap is crossed, that suspension collapses. Yet, in that collapse, our understanding of plot is changed radically. It becomes participatory. It is energised by action rather than by observation.

Some four years later I first drew out the diagram which I called ‘the dramatic model’. This was intended to be a model both of the dramatic structure of everyday life, and also of how therapeutic intervention in another person’s life works or goes wrong. It plots narrative and performance across each other, marks out four dramatic ‘positions’, and allows for circulation of energy between them.

(One of the virtues of this model is that it enables us to think of therapeutic intervention as directed to a life as well as a person. Often it does seem that what we are engaged with in therapy is more an awkwardly lived life than a person.)

In this model projection can take place between any of the positions. Most obviously perhaps between actor and audience, but also between author and plot Many of the lives brought to therapy are stuck in the lower triangle, between actor, audience, plot What is wrong is that the person concerned expects to be able to manage, or endure, the plot without taking into account the author position.

The vertical line between author and plot represents the given text of our lives, its ‘fatedness’, the data, the way it is laid down that things have to go. We can think of it as genetic inheritance, as astrological ‘chartedness’, as the will of God, as blind fate, as ‘how the cookie crumbles’. If we are stuck in either the left or right hand triangle, with no sense of the horizontal axis between actor and audience, this given ‘fatedness’ is at best cause for benign resignation, at worst the imprisonment of a script in which we have no say.

In developing an orthogonal sense of the two axes at right angles to each other, it often helps to consider the author’s need of actor/audience exchanges in order to realise his own creation. We can think of authors other than writers. Painters, sculptors, musicians: is their creation complete in itself, or does it require to be exposed, to be put at risk, to be judged by a public who may see in it something which was not the author’s intention? When the author is playwright or musician there is the added element of the work being exposed both to the performance as well as the judgment of others. Creation is not enough. It has to be made to appear.

The model allows for indefinite adaptation to widely differing situations. The place of the director can be crucial. The distinction between rehearsal and live performance can help open up an experimental freedom which allows for movement between the various positions. But here I want to use it to amplify what I have said about invention and discovery.

On our model, invention and discovery are ‘in play’ between the vertical and the horizontal. We enter the play in asking: which comes first, author, plot, audience, actor? If we think only of modem commercial theatre we can make the mistake of assuming that of course the author with his plot has to be there first. We go to the theatre to see a play which is already written. Casting cannot begin without a script. But if we extend our vision into anthropology and history the order of priority changes. The occasion is what calls forth the performance. The audience already knows the plot. More, the audience is invested in the plot, is already seized of the plot, knows it as participant, participant not only of the performance but also of the conception. (Think how Sophocles’ chorus mediates not only between actor and audience, but also between audience, author, and plot.)

This sense of the audience originating the performance by virtue of its own expectancy can then move us to question more closely the order of priority between author and plot. From outside, the act of creation seems to begin with the creator and result in the artefact. But is it as simple as that between author and plot, potter and clay? ‘The plot of my book came to me as I was…’ ‘I have to get back to my clay. There are all sorts of shapes waiting to be made’. Many creative people speak of being under compulsion. They know what it is like to be on the receiving end of imagination. They speak with dread of the coming on of the realisation that there is work waiting on them, demanding of them that they take it on so that what is already there in potentia be made actual.

All important in using the model is the circulation of energy between the various ‘positions’. As a picture of the state of play between invention and discovery the dramatic model comes to life when we bring together, and get something moving between, the idea of audience as originating performance and our experience of authorial creation. It is then that questions of time take on their full problematic, investing behaviour with the tense of performance.

As between Author and Plot, what is invention and what is discovery? We need to be aware of the limitations on our inventiveness. The raw material sets limits on what the Author can do. But can that limit-setting also be thought of as an invitation – an invitation to discover what the resistance of the raw material makes possible? As plots thicken, many an author finds that he has no choice but to join with what resists his creative intent, in order to discover where it is leading, what it is getting at.

How does this creative resistance of the raw material compare with the limit-setting/invitation of the audience? Understanding (human) audience as both cause and critic of performance can help us appreciate how the (non-human) raw material both solicits and resists the power which intends work on it. We learn through the circulation of energy around and across our model. Both Author and Plot are limited by their public. Without some kind of public recognition, what goes on between them has no standing. A play is discovered to an audience. Assisted by that audience, its invention is secured. If the audience walks out, the very act of invention is called into question. The author’s need of audience-recognition and the audience’s need of actors to realise the author’s intention, contribute to the same circulation of energy which drives actors to go in search of an author and plots to resist their authors and to insist on performance. Therapy may be needed to get that circulation going. But theatre is needed to recognise what it is for: the sharing of our investiture in reality.

To do justice to my experience of the dramatic model, I need to define myself as a ‘behaviourist’ as well as an ‘analyst’ in my approach to psychotherapy. Analytic insights and interpretation are not sufficient for our understanding of theatrical presentation, of what happens when we present action on stage. Nor are they sufficient for the presentations of everyday life. An adequate psychotherapy has to make room for what theorists of the theatre refer to as deixis and ostension.

When I step on to a stage, I draw attention to myself. I do do in a way that includes the stage.

Appearing before an audience on a stage, I point to myself as being on-stage. A stage appearance points at itself as being presented, shown, put forward.

This applies not only to persons, but also to things. If, before the play begins, a stage-hand walks on with a chair and sets the chair down on the empty stage, the chair points at itself. It stands out as significant. Not only the chair itself: the angle at which it is set, its whereabouts on the stage, they all point. A stage appearance points at itself as being presented.

Theorists of the theatre talk about this pointing as ‘deixis’, from a Greek word meaning to bring to light, to point out. They relate it to ‘ostension’, the showing, displaying, which is essential to theatre. They emphasise that together deixis and ostension have a quite crucial and fundamental function in drama. They are what distinguishes dramatic performance from narrative. The stage displays what is on it, what is within its space. Persons and objects on-stage point at themselves. Together, ostension and deixis energise theatrical presentation. They create an energy field that is both a showing forth and a drawing of attention towards, through, beyond and behind, what is being shown (Elam,1980).

I believe that psychotherapeutic interest in theatre is leading us to recognise that this extraverted, behavioural, appeal of deixis and ostension is essential to a proper balance in our work. I would like to see that recognition made more explicit in our teaching and training. For this to happen, our various trainings in dramatherapy need to claim a more ambitious place for themselves. They are exploring a middle ground between behavioural and analytic positions which too often assume they have nothing to say to each other. The importance of this ground, the languages being generated within it and their relevance for the social organisation of psychotherapy, need assertion. (For the connection with social behaviourism, see my contribution to Shotter and Gergen, 1989. For an attempt to apply theatre to the understanding of certain kinds of sexual performance, see Holt, 1989. For theatre and the social organisation of psychotherapy, see Holt, 1988-9.)

Working with Sesame (see note at end)

I have learned much about this middle ground from working with Pat Watts and the Sesame tradition. It can be summed up in three words: movement, story, stage.

I am continually surprised, caught unawares, by what happens when in enacting a story we say: let’s stop talking about it, and move it. For someone like myself, over-exposed to the psychoanalytic ‘talking cure’, that moment has lifted me out of one world and placed me in another. What is it that happens?

The appeal to muscular and nervous energy, the craft of gesture, the transition from shyness and embarrassment to unexpected apprehensions of creation: these I can identify. But there is more to it than that I am being taught to exercise an ability which is of my body, and of my mind, and of my belonging with others. It is physical, mental, sociable. This ability which I share with others comforts and invigorates in ways I do not understand. Yet again and again performance proves it to be an ability I can trust. What is it that I am learning to trust?

That I can participate in both story and staging. I am learning that I can stage story and storify stage. ‘Moving it’ demands that we begin an action which has its own ending in mind. It makes a stage of what would otherwise be an empty space. And it invests the two in each other, story in stage, stage in story.

The connections between story and therapy have been much written about in the last twenty years. To give someone a sense of their personal story as belonging to a story which is larger, more comprehensive, and above all ‘other’, can convert a patient into an agent. In working with myth and fairy tale rather than with the scripts of patients’ own lives, Pat allows us to invest stories which are lastingly and publicly ‘other’ with our projections, and so to explore how it is possible to be both active and passive in the presence of plot.

This exploration works in a kind of pulse between discovery and invention. Investing a story like Grimm’s Handless Maiden with our experience of fathers and daughters, enables us to discover an inventiveness which is both mine and other. What we do is our own invention. Yet it depends on our discovering how others can make use of us for their own inventive purposes. The experience of this pulse is what we take from the workshop into our daily lives.

In applying it, our dramatic model is helpful. To work from just one of the ‘positions’ on the model, consider for instance four familiar ways into the ‘plottedness’ of living. Plots are spun. Plots are pieced together. Plots are shuffled. Plots are hatched.

The spinning of plots is what gives stories their thread. Instead of a confused and shapeless mass of raw material, we have the flexible line which we can take between our fingers and follow. We all know the sense of having ‘got’ the thread of a story. Or we can lose it. The thread is what the one-thing-after-another aspect of story is arranged on. The problem of where to begin is like the first teasing out of the wool to give us the start of the thread. And if the story is in danger of ending too soon, it may be possible to spin it out a little. We talk also of weaving, ravelling and unravelling.

Plots are also pieced together, like a jigsaw. The raw material is in bits. What we have to do with it is to unpack, sort out, fit together. As compared to spinning and threading, space is more important than time. Ideas like ‘frame’ and ‘fit’ are more relevant than ‘sequence’. What matters is not so much what comes next, as what goes with what. Ending is experienced as a filling-out of a picture, rather than as a gathering together of threads.

How does the plottedness of life combine thread and jigsaw? Temporarily, one thing flows into another, stringing the events of a day in sequence. But events also take up space. They jostle each other, pressing against each other like persons in a crowd. Sometimes they fit neatly into each other. Sometimes they are left out, they don’t belong. To combine flow and fit, we need another process.

Here I have found it useful to think of card games. For instance, the games of patience one plays alone. In patience, if we can’t ‘get it out’, we shuffle the pack and start again. The shuffling is as much part of the game as the setting out. Patience combines a threading process of one thing after another, with the piecing together of a jigsaw, and it is shuffling that makes the combination possible.

Shuffling is essential to plottedness. To intervene in the plots of other peoples’ lives, ideas of order and arrangement are not enough. We have to be able to shuffle the pack. Talk of innovation and creative originality can simply add to an existing despair unless we understand how it can be possible to start afresh by just shuffling the same old cards. Without shuffling, the plottedness of life tends remorselessly to entropy. For plots to be interesting, there has to be something random about their make-up.

Talk of shuffling and randomness reminds us of genetics, and of the part played by sexual attraction in the plottedness of life. How biology and personal story are related is a question that is never far away. Psychoanalytic exploration of sexuality and death is contributing much to our understanding of how that relationship is made up. But psychoanalysis is too much of a talking cure. It is the whole body, not just language, that has to carry the congruence of sex and death. I hope that within one or two generations we shall see psychoanalysis taken up into work of a kind that allows our bodies to playa much bigger part in researching how biology and story are related.

Towards that end it may be helpful to consider the hatching of plots. Hatching is a word that calls to mind biological events of various kinds. But is also reminds us of the secret and conspiratorial in human affairs. It speaks of darkness, warmth, turning, waiting. It recognises that incubation has to come before the kind of results that can be shown. It looks for radical changes of state, it is accepting of fracture, splitting, falling apart. It knows that where one lives, another may die. Above all it emphasises the need for a right time. Time for hatching is always tensed, sprung. We have to catch it, and wait for it to be upon us.

Threading, piecing together, shuffling, hatching – they are all present when we move from telling to staging a story. Pat’s workshops have taught me to pay attention to staging in ways that I have never bothered with before. In rehearsal we set our scene. This setting works from inside out and from outside in, simultaneously. Action places itself in a setting of its own, even as it looks around for its prop. Invention and discovery go hand in hand. The acting of inanimate objects – walls, trees, rivers, tombs, boats, doors, thorn bushes – makes this particularly apparent There is an alternation of energy between the subjectivity of the player and the objectivity of the setting.

This alternation is what I mean by staging. I believe it can contribute to useful exchange between the behavioural-and interpretative therapies. The scene of our actions does not exist separately from what takes place within it. The taking place constitutes scene. Scene, setting, environment, context, are energetic rather than static. They make a stage.

The implications of staging become clearer if we consider the idea of conditioning. Many people feel that to be conditioned by our environment implies a diminishment of choice and freedom. But whether this is so or not depends on our own attitude or stance towards the ‘whereness’ in which we find ourselves. It the ‘where’ of life is a stage, then the conditions It sets are always sprung with inventiveness. Conditioning has a ‘why here?’ built into it which, if we are willing to take it up and make it our own, can enhance the choices open to us. Taking responsibility for our whereness involves us inventively in our own conditioning.

This is how theatre can encourage exchange between the behavioural and interpretative therapies, and involve our bodies in researching how biology and story are related. Theatre reminds us that the ‘why here?’ of life is charged with an invitation to make that ‘here’ a stage. Every rehearsal brings this home. In rehearsing our scenes we energise place. The whereness of action is charged with the energies of placement. That is what ‘taking place’ means. As someone said after a powerful enactment of the castle at Elsinore, the outside of the walls was inside, the inside attentive to what was going on. Between that outside and inside, our bodies are learning what it is like to be invested in stage-making. Our skin and the nervous tension in our muscles quicken as we realise that though our environment may close in on us, it is also open to enactment.

That is what we do to story when we stand up to ‘move it’. Our bodies mobilise space. In making a scene, energies of a kind we never ‘get at’ by talking are brought into play. We produce place. What began as a ‘setting’ becomes a staging. Staging, as energised placement, allows us not only to explore our ‘where’ as framework and context, but also to make it the ground for action.

Embodied scene, staging as-energetic with the grounds of action: ideas such as these allow bodies to explore the plottedness of living. They also allow us to understand projection that is four-dimensional as well as three-dimensional. Just as staging is a condition of action taking place, so projection of the four-dimensional kind is a condition of there being a ‘where’, within which projection of the simpler kind can take place.

In the theatre there are projections between person and person, person and thing, taking place constantly on the stage and between stage and audience. But the theatre itself is a project. It is called into being by energy which is never at home in an environment that is timeless, which can never settle down in a ready-made world, which remains constantly restless with beginnings and endings. To become aware of Projection of this kind in our daily lives is to recognise that we are being invited to convert our conditioning into a staging.

As with projection, so also with the mask. Experience of staging gets behind the splitting of appearance from reality which makes the mask merely something to hide behind. For reality to appear, there has to be staging. Our faces need masks to look after them because we have parts to play in staging the world. Manners, habit, style, good and bad behaviour, matter because they are how we take our place, and that ‘how’ is necessary for the staging of reality. The mask personifies that necessity, and in doing so contributes to the saving of appearances.

To work with experience in this way we need the concept of enactment. We are used to the idea of laws being enacted in parliament. The enactment of law is how we participate socially in our conditioning. We call it the political process. However unsatisfactory and imperfect such participation may be, it shows that we do know something about what I have called staging, the processes by which we can and do constitute our own scene. This same experience of enactment has to be carried over into our study of everyday behaviour. As in politics, there can be no single perspective. Enactment is never straightforward. To realise its possibilities we have to be able to circulate between different positions within a dramatic field.

This is what we learn in the theatre. Harriet Walter has described playing Helena in All’s Well that Ends Well under the direction of Trevor Nunn:

Trevor’s great skill as a director is to pick up what every actor is doing and use it. He gives you the physical framework, the space, in which your performance can enact the emotion that is being released by the text. He puts in your hands what you need to objectify the feelings or the ideas the text is throwing out – he gives you a handkerchief to knot when your character needs one.

What Trevor did for me was to ‘place’ Helena’s tentativeness. He gave me a way of demonstrating that idea. In II.i, for example. Helena appears at Court to cure the King. My first instincts in early rehearsals told me she wasn’t at all confident, she didn’t think it was going to work, and I showed that by how hesitantly she entered. Trevor picked up that hesitancy and extended it: he had me leave the scene. I had to be summoned back. (Rutter, 1988).

That describes well what I mean by the circulation of energy between different positions. And it is a good example of how enactment gives us a frame of reference in which both behavioural and interpretative approached to therapy can be judged. To be able to ‘place’ tentativeness so that it is demonstrable: that is an achievement against which we might well test our various attempts at intervention in the lives of others.


Jung has helped me understand how world and personality inhabit each other. The world is clothed in appearance, and its clothing is a human project. Faces conceal as much as they reveal because appearance is always ‘of’ something else.

The theatre helps me move into that ‘of‘. It helps me share that ‘of’ effectively with others. It shows me how the timing of projection can bind story to performance, performance to story. However much we think we know about human nature, there is always something else again: a something more that is both new and (deadly?) repetitious. Theatre reaches into that ‘something else again’, making of it an act, a thing that can be done, a performance that can bear witness. I hope the growing influence of theatre on psychotherapy will give us all more of that reach.


The Sesame Institute UK is a registered charity. It researches and promotes the use of movement and drama as therapy, and trains therapists in a non-confrontational method which stresses the importance of image and symbol in story. Sesame full-time training is held at the Central School of Speech and Drama, London NW3.


Barfield, O. (1957) Saving the Appearances, Faber. London

Elam, K. (1980) The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama, Methuen. London

Gombrich, E. (1960) Art and illusion, Phaidon, London

Holt, D. (1968) Hypokrites and Analyst

(1988-9) Reminding, Letting Be, Showdoing: the Organisation of Psychotherapy

(1989) Sado-Masochism and Society – all to be found in

Holt D. (1992) The Psychology of Carl Jung; essays in application and deconstruction, Edwin Mellen Press

Nagel. T. (1986) The view from Nowhere, Oxford University Press

Rutter, C. (ed.)(I988) Clamorous Voices. Women’s Press, London

Shotter, J and Gergen, K,J.(eds)(1989) Texts of Identity, Sage Publications. London

Styan, J.L. (1975) Drama, Stage & Audience. Cambridge University Press

4 The Public Organisation of Psychotherapy

Valuable work has been done during the last fifteen years towards a national register of psychotherapists. But there is more difficult work still to be done. The public have to get involved in the regulation of the profession. These notes are about that next stage.

We talk of learning from our patients. But our patients and their families are rightly demanding more. They are demanding a say in the definition and assessment of the work we do. Such negotiation between professionals and public will require agreement on the field to be covered. If we are aiming for some kind of statutory regulation, requiring the passing of a Bill through Parliament, we need to think of what Government departments would be involved. This makes one problem immediately clear. Government as we have it is not organised to regulate all the activities covered by psychotherapy.

The field we have to cover includes medicine, law, religion, education and aesthetics. If Parliament is to take a look at the practice of psychotherapy it will help if professionals and public prepare the ground by talking together about those five areas of experience.

I Medicine

In March 1993, when I wrote to my MP at the suggestion of the UKCP about my position as a psychotherapist, he took the matter up with the Department of Health. For him it went without saying that that was the Government department responsible. Thirty years of practice as a lay therapist leaves me in no doubt that psychotherapy and medicine overlap. We can’t consider one without the other. But my MP should have known better. Psychotherapy involves considerably more than that overlap.

How to manage that overlap is of course constantly debated within the profession. I suggest that it will help the public join in the debate if we look at what psychotherapy tells us about medicine, as well as what medicine tells us about psychotherapy.

Medicine is about health as well as about medical science. Questions about health arise regularly in psychotherapy, chiefly in terms of expectation. I list these to myself under headings such as health and suffering, health and staying power, health and gift, health and giving up, health and communion, health and direction.

If we listen to the questions the public are asking about psychotherapy we will find that many of them are about issues such as these. Opening them up more widely would help set a more useful agenda for debate about what we expect of our health services, and about what doctors should demand of their patients (how do doctors get to grips with ‘conversion hysteria’ these days?).

2 Law

Psychotherapy involves us in questions about the difference between right and wrong. And in what lies between, the conditional world: what is allowed yet should not be allowed, what is forbidden yet should be doable.

We talk rightly about these questions as political. Raising them, responding to them, involves us necessarily in the making of law. There are laws that we keep, and laws that we break. Our ability to do both is carried by the making of law. Unless we experience law as in some sense of our own making we do not feel answerable for our law breaking, nor can we learn from the not so secret liaisons between law enforcement and crime.

I think a lot of inside-the-profession talk about ethics avoids the difficulty of what is at stake here. The debate which the public want to join is not only about the difference between right and wrong. It is also about who decides the difference. How is that debate to happen, and how is it to be made effective?

3 Religion

With due respect to the heir to the throne, whether the C of E remains established or not Parliament will be unable to legislate on the religious implications of psychotherapy. That should be admitted. And if the admission is refused, proclaimed. But more open religious debate between profession and public there can and should be.

The debate is in process. Evidence is being submitted. Witnesses are being called. Here in Oxford we can think of Beau Stevenson’s talk to the OPS in June. But how can this process be brought to bear on the workings of a body like the UKCP, and its communication with Government?

I suspect that the split between the UKCP and the BFP may be a pointer. As l understand it, this was a result of psychoanalytic claims to some kind of hegemony and resistance to those claims.

With public scrutiny becoming more informed argument of this kind about psychoanalysis will spread. As it does so I believe it will be found to involve public attitudes to religion.

We cannot evade the psychoanalytic critique of religion. But that critique is effective because psychoanalysis is itself a spiritual discipline (I am thinking of Paul Ricoeur’s book on Freud.

But I appeal also to a more general perception of psychoanalysis. Watch for how the words rigour and rigorous occur in talk of their work. There is a combination of athleticism, exactitude and discomfort which is surely reminiscent of the doctors of spiritual direction).

Psychoanalysis confronts us with a cultural problem of a peculiar kind. It is a spiritual discipline that makes a virtue of refusing the language of the spirit. This refusal, this abjuration, this contra-diction, defines the place of psychoanalysis in our century. And it affects the whole culture of psychotherapy. We have seen it at work in the history of the UK Standing Conference. It may well be affecting the life of a body like the OPS. But, as Ricoeur argues so powerfully, refusal, abjuration, contra-diction of this kind is not unique to psychoanalysis. It is endemic to the times in which we live. It is one face of our contemporary approach to God. As public debate about psychoanalyis becomes more informed questions of God’s presence or absence will certainly be in the air. It is up to us to give them body.

4 Education

The rearing and bringing up of children, adaptation to an environment, the exercise of curiosity, learning, apprenticeship, initiation into social responsibility. Psychotherapy includes education with medicine, law, religion.

Which is one urgent reason why we need to integrate the theory and practice of psychotherapy and counselling. Most of the colleagues with whom I work would agree with this. But have we realised what it implies for our public organisation? Why did my MP, who happened to be the Secretary of State for Education, refer my question to his cabinet colleague at the Department of Health rather than answering it himself, or at least taking some part in framing the answer? Parliamentary argument about psychotherapy will draw on the same passions and convictions as parliamentary argument about education; not only the place of religion and sex in schools, but also the exercise of imagination, the teaching of grammar, the scope of experiment, how to test story and history against each other.

On the whole our profession seems to shy away from thinking of itself as educational. Yet that is where counselling skills and cognitive and behavioural therapies can find common ground. New methods of intervention in the lives of others are in the making and as the public get more involved the educational side of our work will move more into the centre of argument.

5 Aesthetics

I leave to last what for some will be the most dubious of my five categories. The word itself can put people off. But we need a word that can move between taste and art, as well as remind us that there is an opposite to anaesthesia.

Psychotherapy raises questions of taste that are recognisable in public debate, and also those which are urgent, perhaps even a matter of life and death, precisely because they are not publicly allowed for. It also deals in art, the ways in which art improves on nature, the ways in which the natural is preferred to the artificial. The word aesthetics covers the whole field, while also reminding us that to engage with such questions may be the reverse of painless.

Again many, perhaps most, of us would agree. But what are the implications if our profession seeks public recognition? Questions of taste and art disturb medical, legal, religious, educational assumptions. How would this disturbance be allowed for in the statutory regulation of psychotherapy? If my conduct is under examination before a professional inquiry or a court of law, how do I raise questions of taste and of artistic obligation? I doubt if I could. Yet thinking of the patients who have subsequently challenged the way I treated them it seems that what they are trying to raise between us, what they are trying to bring to judgment as it were, are questions of just this kind. I feel they are right to want to do so, but to meet their demand requires more than willingness on my part. (Watch for the word ‘inappropriate’, and observe the tone of voice, the expression round the eyes and mouth and nose as it is spoken. What sort of question is being raised? What kind of doubt is being aired? What kind of argument, or fight, is being asked for?)

The public are going to have to get involved in the regulation of psychotherapy. What our patients and their families want is to be able to contribute to debate of a kind that will not be closed, either in the sense of ‘in closed court’ or in the sense of finished. It has to go on, and to be seen and heard to go on. And it has to have an effect on the teaching and practice of psychotherapy. For that to happen we need an agenda that includes everything we do. Medicine, law, religion, education, aesthetics overlap, but are not to be confused with each other.

5 Psychoanalysis and Religion

1 The psychoanalytic critique of religion

I’ve come to see this as inspired by a special kind of suspicion. I take the word suspicion from Paul Ricoeur’s study of “the hermeneutics of suspicion” as compared to “the hermeneutics of faith” in his great book on Freud (Freud and Philosophy: an essay in interpretation, 1970).

Psychoanalytic suspicion has a spiritual quality to it. It seems to me to be akin to the kind of doubt in which Christians sometimes speak of faith as being grounded, doubt which is itself a movement of the spirit. Suspicion of this kind is more than scepticism as that has been spoken of in our European tradition. It is both mystical and methodical. I find the suggestion of some scholars that Freud was consciously or unconsciously influenced by the Jewish mystical tradition persuasive. But Freud was also methodical, and has bequeathed a method. Psychoanalysis combines mystique and method. Counselling and psychotherapy are heavily indebted to psychoanalysis, and there is no way in which they can escape from the influence of its combination of method and mystery.

Psychoanalysis does something of its own with the “hermeneutics of suspicion”. It allies it with sexuality. It is this alliance which gives psychoanalysis its historical dynamic. Suspicion and sexuality have as it were joined hands in order to work together. This joining may be, as some psychoanalysts seem to believe, unprecedented. I’m not sure. It has certainly been a formative influence on the 20th century. We don’t know what its further consequences will be, but we can expect that they will be as disturbing as anything this century has seen.

A personal example may help to show how this is relevant to the kind of OPCS I can get enthusiastic about

When I first began with psychoanalysis in 1948 my dreams immediately confused my own family of origin with three variations on Christian family life: the family of Mary and Joseph and Jesus which we celebrate at Christmas; the marriage of Christ with his Church, involving also his mother in some rather confusing way; and the strange threesome of Father, Son and Holy Ghost (as It called Itself in those days). So for all my adult life thinking and feeling about central moments of the Christian faith have been suffused and saturated with psychoanalytic suspicion of what goes on in the daily and nightly business of family sexuality. With the result that a phrase like “begotten not made” can mean more for me in my consulting room than it does in church.

2 The religious critique of psychoanalysis

(I am of course not a psychoanalyst. I have recently described myself to a colleague as a psychoanalytic outsider, which I think does to be going on with.)

There are all sorts of things wrong with psychoanalysis. For a religious critique we can start with two, time and body. Psychoanalysis is wrong about time, and it is wrong about body.

Many psychoanalysts are aware of this and recognise the need for their profession to change. But I think Freud started them off without enough room. Psychoanalysis is like an egg waiting to be broken. Whether for hatching or cooking we’ll see in due course.

Religious experience is familiar with questions about time. We know how much difference it makes to promise, hope, contrition, forgiveness, if they are grounded in experience of time as created. Various Christian traditions have been trying to define this difference, and to draw out its implications for private and public endeavour, for centuries.

I don’t think it is unfair to say that psychoanalysis is lazy about time. I speak with some animus, as I’ve been trying to “raise” questions about time within my own tradition, the Jungian, for twenty five years, with virtually no response. Religious experience of time as created is something psychoanalysis just doesn’t seem to want to know about

But there is a public who are hungry for an opportunity to test psychoanalytic and religious experience of time against each other. We’ve met some of them in our workshops.

As with time, so with body: Freud started psychoanalysis off without enough room. There are problems about body and word, body and community, body and food, body and death, which are with us from generation to generation. Psychoanalytic suspicion is coming up with fresh (or perhaps forgotten) ways of approaching them. For instance, on the violence involved when (biological) incarnation and (social) incorporation get across each other. But it doesn’t give itself enough room. There’s a history to these problems which gets left out.

Our religious traditions are full of that history. They have been wrestling with problems of incarnation and incorporation from older testaments, from long before the advent of psychoanalysis. Take for example what seems to be a main concern of mine at present: the Christian Eucharist. Its history constitutes a critique of all that we mean by body which psychoanalysis has yet to take on board. (And when it does – I hope I may be forgiven for saying this – the Eucharist will never be the same again.)

3 The responsibility of fear

What I have in mind is a two way critique, and I don’t want to give precedence to either direction. The dialogue which I am looking for can begin either from a religious or a psychoanalytic position. What I am calling psychoanalytic suspicion affects me religiously, and if the Eucharist gives me ground for criticising psychoanalytic understanding of the body, then I have to remember that I came to the Eucharist through psychoanalysis.

But a two way critique of this kind is dangerous.

When I stand back from all I have learned and suffered through “pastoral counselling” since I chaired the Guild of Pastoral Psychology in 1969-1970, and Bill Kyle invited me to join him at the Westminster Pastoral Foundation in 1971, two words present themselves: holiness and madness.

Religious experience owns the holy. It makes holiness its business. Psychoanalysis does not. Psychoanalysis makes madness its business. Not only the florid and exotic forms of madness immediately recognised as such, but all those partial manifestations of our crazedness which we speak of as splitting, displacement, denial, dissociation of feeling, encapsulated depression, delusional transference, windows of psychosis, schizogenic families, double binds…

I think what draws many of us to pastoral counselling is an interest in the overlap of holiness and madness.

Which is very much more dangerous than I once thought. Indeed I am beginning to wonder if I shall ever learn just how dangerous it is. What we feel and know in the presence of the holy, and what we feel and know in the presence of the mad, are not the same. But they are sometimes uncannily alike. They do overlap, and the overlap can be fascinating, exhausting, wasteful. If that is what draws me to pastoral counselling I still have much to learn.

What I have tried to do over the years is to teach myself and others a certain tact, tact of a special kind. I prefer to speak of “tact” rather than the more traditional “discernment” because it keeps us in the body. Tact is interested in behaviour, manners, gesture, intonation, touch.

I also like the word tact because it sounds just like the German word Takt, meaning musical time, beat, measure. Working in the overlap between holiness and madness we are introduced to times with a truly terrible beat. To stay with that beat, to recognize its urgency, to be measured in our response, we need Takt.

But we have to recognise also that there are things we can’t touch. Some things are too hot to handle. And there are times to pick up the receiver and times to leave the message unacknowledged on the answerphone. There are times when if we wish to be in touch apprehension is a better guide than comprehension.

Because we deal in danger. Let us be in no doubt about that. Mixing psychoanalysis and religion is very dangerous indeed. Feelings are invoked which are both infantile and cosmic. Violence is sacred. It goes without saying. Violator and victim change places. The creation of time entails an absolute terror of disappointment. The crossing of incarnation with incorporation calls for circumcision as well as baptism, and though there may be all kinds of anaesthetic available the fact of pain remains.

Danger of this kind has to be taken seriously. We must be careful not to dare too much. There is always a bridge too far. Our limitations need valuing rather than overcoming. Pastoral counselling has to allow for fear. Fear is how we respond to danger. It is not something to be ashamed of. Fear is responsible. If we are to work together responsibly we need each others help in owning fear.

[This paper drew on ideas I developed more fully in a lecture on Psychoanalysis and Witness, given for the Jung Club at the Royal Society of Medicine in London in 1985. This is included in my collected papers published by the Edwin Mellen Press in 1992, under the rather misleading title The Psychology of Carl Jung: essays in application and deconstruction.]

An Explanation

I have prepared this explanation at the suggestion of the Secretary of State for Health, made in her letter to my Member of Parliament on May 5, 1993.

Its purpose is to explain to students, patients, clients, colleagues, perhaps civil servants, the reasons why my name is not included in the Register of Psychotherapists published by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy.

These reasons can be summarised as:

1. My conviction that religious experience, both as avowal and critique, should have more influence in the organisation of psychotherapy than is at present allowed.

2. My refusal to accept the distinction between psychotherapy and counselling as this is being institutionalised. I think of myself as a psychologist who offers counselling and psychotherapy.

3. Persistent doubts about psychoanalysis and its influence. While there is much to be learned from it, the special genius of psychoanalysis is for investigation. It has been, and is, wrong to try and turn it into a prescriptive discipline.

To give detail and context to that bare summary, I have selected two of my recent papers which are available to anyone interested.

First, a paper I wrote in 1989 on the organisation of psychotherapy. Titled “Reminding, Showdoing, Letting Be” this was first published in Harvest, the Journal of the C.G.Jung Analytical Psychology Club. This outlines a unified theory and practice in which religious, social, analytic and behavioural approaches can draw on, and learn from, each other.

Second, a lecture I gave in Bristol in October 1992, under the title “45 Years in and out of the Psychology of lung”. This was published in the Bulletin of the Oxford Psychotherapy Society in March 1993. It describes how I have moved from the tradition in which I trained thirty years ago and where the emphasis of my teaching now lies.

As to the future.

The aim of making psychotherapy an accountable profession is a good one. I support it, and hope in due course to have a recognised place within such a profession.

At the age of 67 I see my contribution as now lying along these lines:

1. If what the Secretary of State describes as ‘self regulation’ is to be comprehensive those of us who still have to find our place need to know more about the history of the United Kingdom Standing Conference on Psychotherapy. We need to know why there are to be two Registers: one published by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy, and one by the British Confederation of Psychotherapists. I am pressing for publication of the relevant papers and records.

2. I shall continue to work for a unified view of psychotherapy and counselling. Much of the work done under the name of counselling is therapy. Much of the work done under the name of psychotherapy would be better done if it were called, and thought of itself as, counselling. We need a theory and practice which can do justice to the whole field.

3. Clients and patients (and their families) need to be heard. Some are already demanding it Others have still to find their voice. It is in the public interest that they should. What they experience has to be articulated and argued so that it can affect future training and qualification. If the experience of clients and patients is to count, our profession has to be open to continuous reconstitution on the basis of what they, as well as we, make of it. I shall be doing what I can to encourage this.

4. I shall continue to work with others to associate religious experience more cloSely with the teaching and practice of psychotherapy.

Notes for meeting at the Department of Health, September 25, 1995

The Regulation of Psychotherapy and Counselling – need for a further Government initiative

These notes are developed from those prepared for a meeting with our M.P., John Patten, on June 16, 1995.

At Mr Patten’s suggestion, we want to elaborate the point made there that the public should be more involved in the definition and regulation of psychotherapy (with which we include counselling) as a profession.

Present Position

The Government is not in favour of statutory regulation. Instead there seems to be fairly general agreement that the way ahead is in three stages:

1) self regulation by the profession

2) with some kind of Government oversight

3) leading to public trust.

If this is to work Government is going to have to take a fresh look at the whole question of “protection”.

From protection to participation

Psychotherapy and counselling are interactive disciplines. Some patients are indeed what the word implies, passive, and have to be treated and protected as such. But many are not, which is why we speak of clients as well as patients. To use the modern term, they are proactive. They are actively trying to help themselves, often in matters that are private, intimate, confidential. They are not going to trust self regulation of the profession unless it is seen to be working as an interactive discipline, willing and able to learn from their experience, the experience of its own clients and patients.

An interactive discipline: on the one hand, the human energies associated with self help, on the other, the need for professional experience and expertise. How do we bring them together in a way which allows for public scrutiny as well as for the protection of privacy?

There is much public concern about the need to protect patients and clients from incompetent or unscrupulous professionals. Rightly so. There is less public talk about professional need for protection from patients, though within the profession this is a frequently expressed anxiety. But this also needs addressing. ‘Otherwise there is the danger that self regulation becomes self protection. Criticism, experiment, the admission of error and the acceptance of change, get bogged down in anxiety about litigation.

What is now needed, following on from the valuable work done in opening up the profession in the last twenty years, is to include the need for protection within a wider field of cooperative endeavour, in which complaint, criticism, repudiation, suggestion, appreciation, apology, comparison, can all be brought to bear on each other. As we said in our notes for Mr Patten, “regulation should be designed to educate choice, and revise expectation, both inside and outside the profession, as well as to monitor what is on offer”. Considering the wide range of practices on offer under the name of psychotherapy, education and revision of this kind should be high on Government’s agenda.

An example of the wish for public participation

In our notes for Mr Patten we referred to public interest in family life. We wrote:

“within the profession there are arguments, doubts, unease, about how we approach family life. Is regulation designed to insulate the public from these arguments, or to enable them to take an effective part in them? (Compare BFMS with Family Therapy on TV).”

The bracketed reference is to the British False Memory Society, and to a television documentary on Family Therapy which was shown in the spring of 1995.

The BFMS was set up in the summer of 1993 by parents whose adult children had accused them of sexual abuse, the memory of such abuse having been recovered during psychotherapy, and such abuse being denied by the parents (the first name of the BFMS was Adult Children Accusing Parents). This Society represents a particular public concern about possible effects of psychotherapy. By November, 1994, over five hundred families had contacted it for support. It has a distinguished Advisory Board, organises conferences and publishes a Newsletter.

The quality of discussion generated by the BFMS can be judged from the Comments on the Report of the Working Party of the British Psychological Society on ‘Recovered Memories’ by Professor L. Weiskrantz F.R.S., Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of Oxford, in their May 1995 Newsletter.

The television documentary showed a whole family, parents and adolescent children together, receiving therapy over a period of some months. At the start, the problems seemed to be located with the children. At the close the parents were recognising that they might have problems of their own which were causing difficulties for the children. To judge by newspaper reports, the series aroused considerable public interest.

If we compare the concerns of the BFMS with the work shown in Family Therapy we are introduced to a wide area of professional psychotherapeutic doubt, argument, and changing views, concerning for instance the pros and cons of one to one therapy, and of group or family therapy, when compared to each other; and the problem of memory, its making, its exercise, its control.

The point we want to make is that if the public are to trust in self regulation of the profession, then “lay” interest of the kind shown on the one hand by the BFMS and on the other by the reception given to Family Therapy must be able to participate in the arguments going on inside the profession. There is searching, and very angry, criticism of the profession. There is a persuasive presentation of the profession at work. We need a climate of regulation which brings them together, so that they can learn from each other.

Creating a more participatory climate of regulation

First, let us note that something along these lines is already starting to happen.

Since our meeting with Mr Patten we were encouraged to read that The National Commission of Inquiry into the Prevention of Child Abuse, launched last autumn under the chairmanship of Lord Williams of Mostyn QC, is asking “to hear from individual counsellors and therapists and their clients about how they think child abuse can be prevented and families effectively supported (our italics)” (The Journal of the British Association for Counselling, May 1995).

We need more consultation of this kind. The process of regulation can be thought of as three cornered: the profession, Government, the public. At present there is a lot going on between profession and Government. Very little goes on between profession and public, or between Government and public.

This needs to change. If Government is not in favour of statutory regulation it should say so and then spell out how it can help the public participate in a two way process of self regulation.

Here are two proposals as to how this could be done, one strategic, one tactical.


In our notes for Mr Patten, we suggested, with the 1971 Foster Report in mind, that Government might set up a one person Royal Commission “to report on the present practice and organisation of counselling and psychotherapy, and to make recommendations for their public supervision”.

Following our talk with Mr Patten, we would alter those proposed terms of reference to read “…and to make recommendations as to how the public can participate in their regulation”.

With that alteration, a Royal Commission remains our preferred way towards a more participatory climate of regulation. It would recognise that what We have here is an historic opportunity, and not just an awkward problem. It would signal that Government wants, and needs, to hear from the public. It would provide a forum in which religious questions not at present being addressed could get a proper hearing.

But if a more piecemeal approach is preferred here is another proposal.


Government could encourage the emergence of local bodies to watch over and assist the development of psychotherapy and counselling in their neighbourhoods.

We already have more public participation on our local Health Councils. We are learning from the Community Care programme how necessary, and how difficult, it is to develop channels of communication, appraisal, and regulation between statutory and voluntary bodies. Local counselling services, some of them church based, are wanting to take over the “caring” role that the social services are relinquishing in favour of “management”.

If Government oversight of psychotherapy and counselling were put under the same remit as developments of this kind:

1) we would have many local centres of initiative, of controlled experiment (working as kind of “social laboratories”), up and down the country, in which the three cornered relationship of profession, Government, and public could be developed; and

2) we would contribute to what the Institute for Public Policy Research called, in a report published earlier this year, “the building of social capital” (Building Social Capital: self help in a twenty-first century welfare state, by Mai Wann, 1995). Self help can fund professional activity. People invest a lot of money in psychotherapy and counselling, both as clients and for training (does Government have any idea what this adds up to nationally?).

Investment on this scale rightly demands a say in the regulation of the profession. Local efforts to improve our social and health services could be used as an opportunity to bring investors and regulators together, so that the public can help in defining need, expectation, and treatment, in relation to the cost of professional time.