“Be careful where you step….” here and there

By Dan Bloom

I heard those words the last time I was in the Britain in 2008, right after AAGT’s Biennial Conference in Manchester. Peter Philippson was showing me around the Manchester environs. One of the must-see sights for any American familiar with Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, or more to the gruesome point, the series of murders that made headlines overseas, was the infamously boggy Saddleworth Moor. Peter led my way over what to me was a narrow walkway across the marshy peat. “Be careful where you step.” “What?” I asked just as I stepped at least knee deep into the endless black muck the tug of which tried to wrestle with me downward as I reclaimed my limb. Of course that is not my only memory or even my best memory of the last time I set my foot in the UK, but the somatic memory etched an indelible trace of a particular time and place. Those days in Manchester were the last time I set foot in Britain, but not the last time I was in Britain.

Time and place. This brings me to the covid-disruptive fractures of time and place that have been affecting all of us for the past year and a half and, thanks to the collapse of physical distance into the techno-proximity of telepresence, have brought us together in unprecedented ways. As Harry Potter happily put it, I’ve been “apparating,” appearing, in one another’s homes and offices at the click of a key. Into living rooms, bedrooms, parked cars, parlors…where else?

Wherever I am, I am “here,” in this place. You find me suddenly apparating on a computer screen just as instantaneously as Hermione or Harry popped into presence at will. Click and here I am, at the contact-boundary in a burst of light. Technopresence is an actuality of an immediate here/there whose phenomenality comprises pixels of light and dark, shapes and forms, movements, hisses, sounds, words: sensations, emotions, action, understanding. The flickering and sometimes uncertain technopresence calls forth a novel challenge to
relationality.

We psychotherapists must question this in new ways; we must constantly reassess supports for contacting as they show themselves from a new, novel, technohorizon or background. Let me push this further: the “apparitions,” appearances, of telepresence ask us for a secular transubstantiation, in which contacting via pixels becomes the flesh and blood of contacting -fulfilled in all its dimensions. Creative-adjusting has unconstrained potentials. So, yes, I have been in Britain many times since Manchester – if you grant me this license. And some of you have been here with me, wherever I’ve been.

That said, you and I still have to sit somewhere. After all, there is no presence, techno-, phenomenal-, or what-have-you without a place for our feet to stand and for a butt to sit on.

I’ve practiced gestalt therapy from my office in Manhattan for almost 4 decades.

I want to give you some sense of my location, place, and time over this past year and a half, over this covid-time. And my office-in-exile.

I left my home in Greenwich Village and office in Chelsea, Manhattan as an exile from New York City. The pandemic was hitting my city very hard. There was a temporary morgue parked a block away from my office. For the first months, I felt as if one by one the stars of New York City darkened in the sky. NY went into shelter-at-home in March. This is the empty street near my home.

I transitioned to online therapy from my home office in the Village and then, from my country home 170 km east in April.

One day in February, 2020, my WIFI signal was interrupted and I had to drive to the nearest location to connect to the internet. My car became the “here” of my office.

So, when I am “here,” “there” is where I am likely to be. And this is an existential given as basic and true for me as it is basic and true for you. This here/there is the location of the contact-boundary as the nexus, as the potentiality or, better, the well-spring from which everything relational about contacting is possible.

This is the here/there on which basis technopresence can be a medium for our gathering together, stepping into each other’s worlds, and for our psychotherapy.

Confidence notwithstanding, I am not overlooking significant reservations implicit in techno- mediated interactions. Two-dimensional planes and compressed video and sound qualities obscure the shadings, shadows, perspectives, harmonics, rhythm, clarity, tone, music, and harmonies that fill-out the embodied aesthetic of contacting. The kind of kinetic/kinaesthetic dance of the emergent figures in technopresence is different from that in full-volume three- dimensional space. It goes without saying that there are more differences to account for; and they will be.

The covid-catastrophe has made techno-mediated relationships figural. It has forced new attention to telepresence. It is clear then when the all-clear sirens are sounded and we can all return to renewed life with confidence, there will still be significant roles for techno-mediated relationships. We will still maintain our connections to friends, colleagues, and patients with whom we found a world, in which we apparated to one another at the click of a key. Creative-adjusting, we gestalt therapists know, is the power of contacting to form the fullest and most complete figures possible under the opportunities and constraints of the situation. We adjust creatively by whatever means necessary and with whatever supports available.

And so, I, in my car searched for a signal at the beach with my iPhone so I could hold my sessions during that cold February day in that Covid winter.

“Be careful where you step” is not a bad thing to keep in mind. Yet, I’ve been more or less knee deep in the soil of Britain for a long since I pulled my leg from the clutches of the Saddleworth moor. And, to tell the truth, I am rarely careful where I step. But I surely do not wish actually to step into that bog again and hear that awful sound of all hell trying to suck me down through pits of pitch.

Hugs to all,

Dan


Dan Bloom JD, LCSW (www.danbloomnyc.com) is a psychotherapist, supervisor, and clinical trainer in New York City. He studied with Laura Perls, Isadore From and Richard Kitzler. Dan teaches at the New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy, is guest and adjunct faculty at gestalt therapy institutes worldwide. He leads webinars in gestalt therapy and phenomenology. He is past president and Fellow of NYIGT and past president of AAGT. He is a member of EAGT. Dan is co-founder of the International Study Group on Field-Emergent Self and Therapy, (www.Ig-fest.com). He is an associate editor of the Gestalt Review, book review editor of Quaderni di Gestalt and a member of the Scientific Board of the Gestalt therapy Book Series. Dan is widely published.

UKAGP Newsletter, Summer 2021
Subscribe | Home | Contribute

previous pagenext page