Art - Philosophy - Psychotherapy

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Painting as a contact exercise.

This should be no revelation to a therapist with an artistic bent, or to the many excellent art therapists out there. Painting, the act of creating an image from paint on a canvas, board or paper, wall, choose your favourite substrate, is like making contact with the self and other simultaneously. Creativity comes, for me, from my authentic self. When my authentic self is in contact with the world, good things happen, I experience joy, compassion, contact, love, as I meet the other. Painting is no exception to the rule. Except there is often a tenderness which I can express through a brush, which I rarely have opportunity to express through human contact.

I am often tender toward people, as psychotherapist, as a parent, as a husband; just being human, allowing my authentic self allows connection through tenderness; yet painting is different, there is a brush between me and the paper (usually… fingers not withstanding) the brush responds to my touch, becomes and extension of me, I express the thoughts and feelings thought the paint, the brush, I experience tenderness as I apply the paint. In these moments I can become lost in the process of creation, expression. My boundaries merge with the environment and I enter a regressive state. The parts of me that would seek attention and affirmation began the process, they drove my perfectionism. Until I assigned them new tasks and told them the criticism doesn’t help. Now instead of criticism there is encouragement to express, the critic has become a nurturing self which enables regression to state in which expression is freedom. Tenderness toward the 5 year old me who used to need the affirmation of being good at, is released into the work, and its disappointment to others is allowed and accepted with a shrug.

I am not here to meet your expectations, I never was, I am here to be me, and that is all.

self from possession

The concept of possession has crept into our culture and our language has changed to accommodate it. It is a challenging form of delusion which is I think, robbing us of contentment. Everything is framed in terms of possession. I have a car, Okay, so that works if I have a car, but it becomes an issue if I try to make a self from it. Then I only have this car, and I want that car, that newer better car. It ceased to be a vehicle to get me from A to B, and became a vehicle for a delusional self, as though this better car is going to make me a better person.

What about “I have a good job.” Here we see possession. I can’t possess a job, I can do a job, it is a process, a function. In saying I have a good job I miss out the deeper truth, I experience contentment when engaged in my work. It is not a possession then, but rather an experience. There is a place for doing of course, just as there is a place for possession, but it can not replace experience and the expression of experience, it can not be used to build a self.

I could say I have a happy marriage? Well I might well experience joy in my marriage, but I cannot own or possess my marriage in the have sense. It sounds like a semantic twist I am sure and yet there is here a split between owning/having and being. The word being denotes the essential essence of a thing, a person, a being. We have stopped looking at that and started looking to people as objects. Explained by exterior decorative factors rather than experienced by their essence.

Do I have a wife? No, I am married. I am in relationship with someone and experience a connection to their essence, their being, what we might call their ontological presence. But there is and can be no possession. This is a choice to be and experience being, where there is a need for possession it is not love, it is dependency. We have grown so used to using this terminology that we have lost sight of what we are really implying, and we have lost sight of our experience of being. Which we have not even begun to explore or explain in the sentence “I have a wife”. In short we have given the deeper experience away with our need to possess.

I had a conversation with a friend about this, who was rather indignant about my accusation that we are all trying to possess others to make ourselves something; but when it came to me asking how he would describe his relationship without talking of doing or having, he was stumped. Really, couldn’t think of anything which was about being. Its not that they have a poor relationship, its that our vocabulary has become so attuned to possession or doing that we have lost the ability to conceptualise and relate experience of being.

There is an old saying, “we are human beings not human doings” and this is true, but it might be wise to extend this truth further; “we are neither human doings nor human havings, we are human beings”. In a culture which derives self from having, consumption or doing, there is little space for being, and therefore little space for us. This is how someone can see there is a housing crisis and still own two or more properties to make money (possession to build a self) whilst knowing that this restricts housing to those who need it. The people without property are objectified, reduced to animals, mere commodities to be used to build a self from.

This is my note from my mornings meditation:

There is self,

And there is no self.

Where self exists I have created it from memories and interactions with the world and other beings.

Where no self exists there is only love, nothing else.

That place of no self is hard to find because the ego doesn’t want to die, it wants to have, it wants to do, to be seen having and doing. But it must die if there is to be no self. So, fear arises and I step back into ego and self.

But the place of no self is, paradoxically, where I feel most me. It feels like coming home.

Gender identity and the field of experience

What if gender only seems to be an identity? We co create self within our extant developmental field, a field which told us that gender was both important and part of our identity. But this field also told me that people with dyslexia are thick, that being gay was evil and they deserved AIDS, that being disabled made you in-valid. If we can remove these introjected norms and see them for what they are, they quickly fall away. So, what happens if we remove gender identity from the field and see it separate from its binary narrative? If we allow this removal to take place we can clearly see, our identity has nothing to do with gender. And, gender itself ceases to require the binary polarity we have been sold. It can assume its dynamic complexity of which it was stripped; The need to assign gender ceases to be a requirement for identity. Self then is free to develop as it naturally would, without the constraints of this introjected norm. This in turn gives us the opportunity to see the self as not fixed but rather, renewed or recreated every day by our awareness and exploration of the phenomenological field we exist within. From this perspective we can understand all things are impermanent.

Perhaps self only feels like it exists because of the illusion of permanence.


It is impossible to be intimate with another, until you have become intimate with yourself.

In many ways Mindful awareness is key to this intimacy. To spend time absorbed in your own experience, to watch your thoughts come and go, to see your feelings come and watch them fall away, to experience your reactions to all these, and to be with your mental process, to see it clearly. Learning all this is impermanent, transitory, this is the key to true intimacy with the self. And from here we can meet others with mindful awareness, and intimacy between us can truly develop, without the veil of expectations. Just the ever present awareness of what is rather than what we think should be.

Shedding our own should’s, the expectations of others and for others is at the heart of meeting, one authentic self to another. After all, if you live your life by another’s should, you will live no life at all.


In a society that cares only for possession
where greed has become the mainstay
and monetarism the idol replacing spiritual connection,
the wealth of humanity is discarded.

We have lost sight of what is important in this world
eclipsed it with a false idol so beguiling,
almost all have fallen under its sway.
We exist to work,
we are told we work for a living,
yet we give our lives so cheaply,
spend our limited time so frivolously that few of us manage to live at all;
Except as slaves to monetarism and possession,
to the ideal of individuation.

And yet we fail to see
that those with mountains of wealth,
are the most impoverished among us.

Authentic being

I have written a good number of articles on authenticity. It is a constant theme for my clients, many of whom do not know what to be, what they should be or even have much sense of who they are. It is hard to be authentically us, if the parts of us we hide from the world are perceived as wrong. Even finding those parts of us can be challenging, as playing roles has become so embedded in our society we can no longer see what we are beyond that role playing behaviour.

Often our dis ease and unhappiness is a result of not being who we are; not being our authentic self. Playing a role, playing the game has taken over. Today in this society in which I live, it is even difficult to rest. With so much pressure to be successful, to be extraordinary, to be productive, with every minute of every day. As a result we feel guilty for resting. In some circles exhaustion has taken on a status symbol, and we are praised for our fortitude even as our vitality is spent. That guilt we may feel for resting is actually retroflected resentment, but that’s a theme for another day.

Our authentic selves have been lost to other peoples should’s, to norms handed down from our ancestors, our parents, our forbearers or our society. As a result we have hidden parts of ourselves away, placed these parts in dark recesses and lost all but the slimmest contact with them. These parts were disrespected or unwanted by others, so in order to fit in we sublimated ourselves to others ideas of what we should be. Perhaps it is time to look in the shadow and find them again.

You will find that some are not pleasant to experience, you may find your anger, your rage, and still if you have suppressed these, both need an outlet, both must be assimilated and expressed. We must find a path which does not hurt others, but allows us to express the full extent of our being.

Look carefully and you may find your creativity and all its explosive force, you may find your sexual desire, your passion, your compassion, even your ability to love and be vulnerable… The shadowy places we have hidden ourselves, do not contain all horror. You will find joy, you will find expression, spontaneity, intelligence.

We imagine we have only done away with aspects people thought negative, but you will be mistaken. A child that danced with joy, who was told to sit still and stop embarrassing himself, will have learned to hideaway the dancing self that takes joy in movement. He will be stilted and lack grace in movement as a result. But, perhaps it is time to shake of others ideas of what we are, and allow ourselves to find those parts again.

Live your life by another’s should’s
and you will live no life at all.

The Existential itch

The Existential itch

Welcome to the discussion page for “The Existential itch”. I wrote this book between 2020 and 2022. It is due to be published later in 2023 by Gestalt Journal Press.

I am all too aware there may be some contentious issues raised in its pages, and there is possibility of misunderstanding; With this in mind, I have created this post to carry on debate, in the comments section about issues raised within the book.

If you have a question about anything raised in my book please ask them below and I will answer as best I can. Given my limited time I may not get to answer them all, but I will do my utmost.

When posting a question if you are referencing a comment I made within the book please give page reference or a direct (accurate) quote with page number. This will help me and others find the relevant article.

On my part there will be no censorship. If it is a legitimate question or comment about the book and its contents I will post it. This thread gets a lot of spam, so bear with me as I have to sift the chaff from the wheat.


Here is a lovely quote from Kahlil Gibran: “Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.” soo so close. I thought as it has been a theme in my office this week, Clients with anxiety as well as my own anxiety about uncertainty, that It might useful to discuss.

Firstly, people often come to therapy because they want to get rid of anxiety because it is negative. So I wish to remove that stigma first. Anxiety feels difficult and it is a strong reaction, but to call it negative is to lose sight of its benefits. So, let’s start there. Natural anxiety is all bout staying safe, it is about experiencing novelty, and having enough energy and alertness until we know we are safe. If you come to see me, then during your first appointment you are likely to feel some anxiety. Partly that is about not knowing me, not knowing where my office is, not knowing if there is a toilet and where that is, not knowing where to park etc. Once you know me and the environment the novelty is gone, and so is your anxiety. Anxiety is clearly about understanding and being understood.

On to neurotic anxiety. If I have another emotion and I do not express it, invariably that emotion, or rather the energy I created to express it will become anxiety. It has to go somewhere, and as it is not being expressed it swirls around and around… we have all been there. So for this one, breathe into the anxiety and ask it what it is, the original feeling must be expressed, and then it will clear.  Presumably, there was an issue with the original feeling, or it would have been expressed at the moment, so perhaps there is a rule underpinning why you couldn’t express it. Do some exercise, then book an appointment with a good therapist to look at how you prevented yourself from being (insert emotion here) in the first place.

Thirdly. If I think about the future, I create energy to deal with whatever I fantasise about. So let’s imagine I have to confront my partner about something when I get home. If I imagine a row, I will create energy to deal with the row. But the row is imagined, it hasn’t happened, that energy I created to have a fight has to go somewhere, so it’s likely to be transformed into anxiety. Alternatively, it may come out sideways and I may pick a fight with someone else. In this instance I have to tell myself, “this is all fantasy, come back to now, right now there is no fight.” in doing so I come back to the here and now, where there is no neurotic anxiety. But now I created energy for a fight, I’m going to have to walk it off…

Lastly, in my experience, there is another anxiety, which is also about the future. Existential anxiety. But I’m not going to begin talking about that now. Far too big for the time remaining.


The thing we call contentment is really harmony between man and his environment. Harmony between elements of the psyche. We might call it organismic balance. To love and be loved, to be self-directing, to understand and be understood. All these create contentment. And, their counterparts, once expressed, bring you back to balance. Love – sadness, self directing – frustration, understanding – anxiety. Each has its place, and in expression, without abuse toward others, each will cycle back in time to its counterpart. When I express my sadness I will find love when the sadness turns full circle, it is after all just an expression of love…

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