Saturday, November 27, 2010

Going Beyond Fragmentation 5 - Towards Integration

The Healing Power of the Imagination

Sundown, Phoenix Park 2008
There is an old saying which runs:  "A picture is worth a thousand words."  This statement is a truism that can be verified in our experience on a daily basis, or as the great Romantic poet John Keats put it, it is an axiom that can "proved upon the pulses."  This opening saying above is certainly true in the case of visualization which I have used successfully on occasions myself to lift my drooping spirit.  Visualization, a form of self-hypnosis, is a tool anyone can use to help foster healing. By providing positive pictures (creative imagery) and self-suggestion, visualization can change emotions that subsequently have a physical effect on the body.

Our belief system is based upon the accumulation of verbal and non-verbal suggestions that have been gathered throughout our life experience. Through patterns of repetition and its associated rewards and punishment we learn to create our own perception of reality. In essence, we therefore become what we think. In healing, repetitive use of positive visualization allows access to the mind-body connection. This lets the mind and body work together to foster the healing process of the body on a physical level.

This is one type of Arts Therapy - namely Visualization Therapy.  There are many other kinds as well, obviously, viz., Drama Therapy, Art Therapy, Music Therapy, Writing Therapy, Dance Therapy to name the most common forms.  Returning to Professor Levine's words, we read:

The arts are pathways or methods that take us deeper into ourselves and into our experience.  As we enter unreservedly into the depth of ourselves, we encounter healing energies and experience the hope of integration.  Though the ultimate wholeness is never given to us, it remains a vision that animates our work upon ourselves. (Poiesis, p. 24)
What Levine is arguing here is that all forms of Expressive Arts Therapy are healing or integrative by nature.  They work in such a way as to lead us further and further on the road to wholeness or integration.  However, we really never get there, indeed, and this should surprise no one.  There is never an end to self-development - quite obviously.  However, Levine points out that there is something in the human spirit that almost prefers the comfort of its brittleness and fragmentation and hides away in fear from being swallowed up in the whole.  People like to cling onto their old identities, even getting security in old mental fears and pains.  There is a comfort in the known and discomfort in the unknown.

Now this all too human flaw is also mirrored in the way the various practitioners in these various fields of Expressive Arts Therapy seek to standardize, certify and legitimize their own particular biases without acknowledging their interdepandence on a more holistic and integrative approach which could bind the whole Expressive Arts approach together.  To this extent, Levine argues that "the arts run the risk of becoming techniques, to be utilized according to standard operating procedures."  (Ibid., p. 24)  Consequently, our author calls for a common integrative approach to all forms of Arts Therapy.

The Ambivalence of Freud towards the Arts

I am "ad idem" with Levine here in his contention that Freud was deeply ambivalent towards the Arts.  Indeed, I have stated quite often in these pages that the founder of Psychoanalysis was a genius of vast learning.  He was a deeply cultured man who, while he was widely read in the classics and in ancient literature as well as in the Arts in general, considered himself to be primarily a scientist.  He also considered his therapeutic approach to be a scientific one, not an artistic one.  After all Freud was a medical Doctor and reseacher who had studied under the great Dr Charcot, a leading neurologist in Paris.  Indeed, artists, while wonderful creators, make their creative works without any real awareness of what they are doing.  The deeper meaning of their work, Levine argues, is only available to the scientific observer.  Freud, after all, was a child of the Enlightenment who wanted to find a rational explanation for mental life.  Levine's words are insightful here:

This ambivalaence in Freud has been noted before.  Paul Ricouer, in particular, has pointed out the tension in Freud's work between "archaeological" and "teleological" explanations, between reductive and expansive approaches to the psyche, between what Ricouer calls a hermeneutic of suspicion and a hermeneutic of generosity.  The source of this ambivalence, on a theoretical level stems from the peculiuar nature of Freud's discoveries...

On the other hand, Freud, as a medical doctor and a natural scientist, identified himself a sa child of the Enlightenment.  He wanted to find a rational explanation for mental life.  His task was to order the chaos of experience and discover the basic principles which render it comprehensible.  Such knowledge can lead to practiocal efficacy.  Only if we find a science of the psyche can we have an effective means of treating its dysfunctions.  (Ibid., p. 29)
There was, then, a fundamental contradiction in Freud's thought, namely that while he never ceased to search for an underlying scientific understanding of the mind, at the same time he held unto the irrational nature of the psyche.  Once again, Levine uses the term "irrational" and never enters the important distinction of how it differs from the non-rational.  OInce again, returning to Levine's interesting words by way of conclusion, we read:

He [Freud] was thus able to keep the tension bewteen Enlightenment and Romantic tendencies of knowing.  This is in part why disparate interpretations of Freud are possible and why psychoanalysis itself has been able to split into contrary directions. (Ibid., p. 30)

To be continued.




Going beyond Fragmentation 4 - The Tension between Homogeneity and Heterogeneity

Introduction

Fish boxes stacked on the pier at Rush Harbour, October 2010
I found the chapter "The Idea of Integration in the Expressive Arts Therapies" in Levine's Poiesis rather disappointing.  I find him very poor as a philosopher, with a style of arguing that flits all over the place.  Admittedly, I have been spoiled by reading such brilliantly clear philosophers and thinkers like Bertrand Russell and Bryan Magee who write with a singularly clear precision where one can follow the steps logically.  Levine is not a clear and precise thinker.  However, I will forgive him for that because he is a Professor of Social Sciences and philosophy is not his area.  However, it is hard to forgive anyone for lack of clarity of thought and exposition.  Nevertheless, I gleaned a few bits from this chapter which to this reader at least was lacking in cohesion and in logical and clear development of thought.

Homogeneity and Heterogeneity

Flagstones, Howth Harbour, October, 2010
Homogeneity refers to cultural, social, biological, or other similarities within a group.  Heterogeneity is its polar opposite - it refers is the state of being heterogeneous.  It is essentially the nature of opposition; contrariety or dissimilitude of qualities. Pertaining to the sciences, it is a substance that is diverse in kind or nature; composed of diverse parts.  There is an obvious pressure on all human beings within any society to tread the beaten path, to follow common customs, to do what society either demands or recommends - the societal pressure is towards uniformity and heterogeneity; in short towards conformity. It is singularly unclear to this reader whether Levine is in favour of homogeneity over heterogeneity or the contrary or indeed whether he is arguing for a healthy tension between both.  Personally I would go for this third option. Let us read for a few moments the words of Professor Levine here:

The homogenization of the world, the disappearance of local customs and ethnic differences, is mirrored by a homogenization of the self, a flattening of our "infinite variety" into the persona of normality.  "One world" usually means that the dominant culture becomes a model for development.  Similarly, "identity" most commonly means adjustment to the dominant reality.  (Poiesis, p. 19)
However, he also believes that we must have an over-riding vision of the whole, which, he appears to be arguing, is the tendency towards homogeneity.  Here again, I am singularly disappointed with Levine as his thinking is not clear, exhaustive or indeed accurate.  The preceding logic would seem to suggest that unity (wholeness) is equal, or at least similar, to homogeniety (sameness) and that, therefore unity = uniformity which in any clear thinker's mind is certainly not the case.  For this sloppiness of thought and for this lack of rigour I am afraid this reader cannot forgive this so-called expert in his field.

I also find his critism of James Hillman singularly unclear to my mind.  Having read a considerable amount of the latter's writings, I have found him extremely clear, bright, talented and logical.  Perhaps some of Hillman's ideas may stretch our minds, but never our incredulity. 

However, Levine does offer us some good insights into the imagination and into its healing role.

From the Ashes of Disintegration rises the Phoenix of the Renewed Self:

Levine asks the question about where do the issues raised in his philosophical prolegomenon bear in on the healing work of Arts Therapy in its many incarnations.  He might well ask, as to this reader at least his so-called introductory philosophical remarks were so scattered as to make no impact on him - perhaps, I am singularly obtuse or Levine is a singularly bad philosopher.  Maybe both contentions are accurate.  Also, I must avoid the temptation of pride or hubris!

Integration implies a previous state of dis-integration.  Often what brings a person into therapy is the experience of falling apart, of splitting into discordant fragments, of losing a central self around which the personality coheres.  This break-down is a necessary stage in the development of the self: it represents the brealing down of the false unity of narcissistic self-identification.  A crisis has occurred which cannot be met by the old persona.  The person is plunged into disarray; he or she loses the certainty of their former stable identity.  There is an experience of the void, of a loss of meaning and purpose... Dabrowski calls this "positive dis-integration"; it is the necessary prelude to growth. (Poiesis, pp. 21-22)
Levine is correct where he argues that the good and caring therapist will not jump in and try to prevent the client from experiencing personal disintegration of the old self as this would be singularly wrong and indeed regressive, or as they say in psychotherapeutic circles such intervention would herald the "regressive restoration of the persona."  Such "authentic care" (Heidegger) of letting the disintegration proceed will in the end, despite the suffering, be healing. Our creative therapist is also correct where he states that the therapeutic act consists in "being-with" clients as they go through this experience of disintegration, pain and mental suffering.  "Empathy" and "Unconditional Positive Regard" are other terms that are used to describe this kind of care.

In describing the process of healing, Levine outlines its phases as (i) narcissistic self-identification, (ii) crisis and breakdown, (iii) recovery and restoration of self. (See op. cit., p. 23)  Now, where do the various kinds of Arts Therapy come into this healing process.  Once again let us return to the words of Levine:

... arts therapists use the disciplines of art to help a person go through his or her process.  Art gives a voice to suffering.  It expresses the pain and confusion of the disintegration of the self, and, in so doing, enables clients to face themselves without reservation.  To dance suffering, to paint it or to put it into poetic form is to confront it directly and to give oneself up to it.  In this expressive moment, one lets go of attachment to the former security and is willing to face the void.  At such stages, images of wholeness may arise, symbols which express the possible resolution of the crisis..  By enabling the person to express his or her suffering, the arts therapist gives them the possibility of transcending it.  Art then can be both a cry of despair in the night as well as a triumphant hosanna of joy.  (Levine, op.cit., pp. 23-24)
Now this is Levine at his best.  What a pity he went into what he deemed the philosophical roots of his theory of Arts Therapy and got lost among the tangled undergrowth of the complex thoughts and arguments of Hume and Hegel and many others.  He just convinced this reader that he had no grasp of that philosophical terrain, simply could not cut his way through the thickets, while on the other hand his insights into psychotherapy are excellent.  Forget the philosophy, Mr Levine.  Stick to the territory you know best, is my plea at least.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Going beyond Fragmentation 3 - The Rationalist Presumption

My 93 year old demented mother.
Questioning our Presumptions

The sure sign of good philosophy is a questioning spirit, and a universal questioning spirit at that.  In this regard, philosophy is more a method of questioning than a sequence of views on any particular subject.  A good philosopher will question his or her own presuppositions.  Arguably, philosophy could be seen more as a method of questioning than as a subject with millions of books with written content.  To this extent, one does philosophy as well as studying it.  To my mind, then, this is the single most important aspect of philosophy -  it seeks to identify and get beyond even its own biases.

An Old Presumption

One of the presumptions we had in the West for many hundreds of years is the pre-eminence of the rational, and its pride of place over the non-rational, that is the spiritual and emotional in the human make-up.  This preoccupation with the rational has been with us for hundreds of years and it was strengthened considerably by the Enlightenment.  Years ago psychology's essential presumption, then, was that the human mind was primarily rational.  Reason was, therefore, characterised by its liking for order, clarity, coherence of thought and its capacity to see reality as it is, that is reality in itself (whatever that may be, you might quip!) without being shrouded by delusions. Nietzsche has called this the Apollonian element (Apollo was the god of Reason and Order amongst other things) in the human make-up.

As far as I recall Nietzsche made his famous distinction between the Apollonian element  (the rational)and the Dionysian element (The Non-rational) in humankind's make-up in his famous classical book The Birth of Tragedy.  Now the opposite to reasoning would be the disordered mind which would be chaotic, obscure, subject to fantasies and wild imaginings of all types.  This is the Dionysian element in the human psyche, that element which is primarily non-rational and has to do with our desires, our passions and our lusts. 

Needless to say, this element is easily given to intoxication.  Indeed, that's where this part of our psyche gets its name - Dionysus or Dionysos was the ancient Greek god of the grape harvest, of winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy, and was also the driving force behind the ancient Greek theatre. He was the god who inspired joyful worship and ecstasy and was essentially at the heart of all festivals and partying.  Celebration is a major figure of Greek mythology and the religion of ancient Greece. Dionysus was also known as Bacchus, the name adopted by the Romans and the frenzy he induces is known as bakkheia.

Now I would like to make a clear distinction between the the non-rational and the irrational in humankind.  There is an essential non-rational side to all of us and this is our emotional, affective and creative side to our personalities.  However, the irrational, to my mind, refers to more unacceptable or "off the wall" behaviours. Irrational behaviors of individuals include taking offense or becoming angry about a situation that has not yet occurred, expressing emotions exaggeratedly (such as crying hysterically), maintaining unrealistic expectations, engaging in irresponsible conduct such as problem intoxication, disorganization, or extravagance, and falling victim to confidence tricks. People with a mental illness like schizophrenia may exhibit irrational paranoia. These more contemporary 'normative' conceptions of what constitutes a manifestation of irrationality are difficult to demonstrate empirically because it is not clear by whose standards we are to judge the behavior rational or irrational.  However, undoubtedly, Dionysus could also be argued to be god of the irrational as well as the non-rational.  But, it is crucially important to be aware of the distinction between non-rational and irrational.

Looking at the Irrational Mind - The Mind touched with Madness:


Old Pillar, Rush Pier, October 2010
 Levine sees this concept of mind as being the disordered mind, one that would be distinguished by being "chaotic, obscure, subject to fantasies which prevent the person from being in touch with or being able to 'test' reality." (Poiesis, Stephen K. Levine, p. 9)  Now Levine does not make any distinction between the non-rational and irrational as I have done here, and I find this a major flaw in an otherwise quite good and very thought-provoking little book.  However, he does eventually highlight the Apollonian/Dionysian distinction made by Nietzsche.

Now I am arguing here for the therapeutic effects of the imagination, of the creative more non-rational side of the mind.  Because Levine lumps non-rational and irrational together without making any distiction, the imagination and all modes of creativity are singularly suspect in his very limited definition.  We have to bear this important criticism in mind when we read the following in Poiesis:

In  this conception of the mind's functioning [mind as chaotic and disordered], the imagination is seen as suspect, an enemy to clear thinking and accurate perception.  Madness and psychological suffering are, then, diseases of the imagination.  The cure would be the replacement of fantasy by reality, of imagination by reason.  In this treatment of mental illness, therefore, it is thought to be essential to calm the patient's disordered mind, not to encourage his or her fantasy life, but to modify their behaviour to enable them to live in the world as it really is.  The treatment of choice would be psychotropic medication to calm the patient and verbal counseling (sic) to eliminate his or her unrealistic fantasies. (Levine, op.cit., p. 10)
Levine maintains, and there is no little truth in his contention, that such an approach to mental illness leaves patients like mere shells of their former selves.  He goes on to quote another hero of this present writer, the famous Jungian and archetype psychologist James Hillman, who underlines the fact that an overly rationalistic model of psychiatry is itself an "imaginal construction," a fantasy based on "the image of  a heroic ego whose task it is to conquer a resistant reality." (ibidem,  p. 10)

The argument, therefore, is that the rational in humankind, with ego being its foremost metaphor, reigns supreme.  Levine argues that this is the dominant fantasy of our culture, and that since psychiatry is part of that culture, it, too, shares this fantasy.  Once again, I agree that there is no little truth in this contention.

The Turn to the Imagination for Therapy

I must say I do not share Levine's belief that society/culture has shown great disdain for the arts.  Once again, I feel a main cause of his wrong belief here is his confounding the irrational with the non-rational, or at least his failure to make the clear distinction between both.  The irrational, for sure, was and is always treated with contempt and, indeed, fear, but such has never been the case with imagination and with all forms of creativity which are the very fruits of that imagination.  Levine maintains that psychiatrists and psychotherapists are now turning to the arts for therapeutic purposes because we have somehow reached the limits of "scientific psychology."  I cannot agree with this contention either, but I do believe he is right about the turn to the imaginative/creative arts in psychotherapeutic circles.

Levine argues that a good artist must be rooted in a living community, and that it is only in this connection with the community that his/her art can be healing.  The whole idea of the Dionysian festivals was indeed the feeling or rather state of unity of the reveller/party-goer/priest/celebrant/devotee with a sense of community or oneness with the community, that is, the revellers would experience the power of communitas and lose a sense of being a separate self.  Levine, then, bemoans, just as Nietzsche had done in the second half of the nineteenth century, that modern men and women have lost their connection with the Dionysian element in their make-up and consequently connection with their community.

Levine argues strongly for a rediscovery of the Dionysian, coupled with, and transformed by Apollonian clarity.  He also subscribes to the Nietzschean belief that when the "chaos" of the former is tempered, nay transformed, by the "cosmos" (order) of the latter, the "dancing star" of the imagination, with its various forms of creativity, is then released in a healing way.  Levine, like Nietzsche, subscribes to the healing power of all art, especially the healing power of drama, especially that of ancient Greek tragedy.  Let us listen to Levine before ending this short post:

Greek tragedy is merely one instance of the healing power of art based on its communal origins.  When Oedipus suffers, the community suffers through him.  He undertakes the painful journey into self-knowledge alone, but he does so for the relief of the city which is suffering from the pollution caused by the transgression of human limits, a pollution he himself is ultimately responsible for.  He is both wounded and healer; and in the end the tragic wisdom which his suffering has brought him confers a blessing on the land.  Freud was right to see the sin of Oedipus as present in all of us, but what he did not see was the healing ritual of the drama, which expiates the sin through suffering supported by the community.  It is ultimately the Athenian community that suffers and is healed through the catharsis that Oedipus undergoes.  (Ibid., p. 15)
Levine argues that the contemporary use of the arts in psychotherapy - drama therapy, art therapy, music therapy and others - are essentially a re-affirmation of the vision of Nietzsche.  The task of therapy can never be the elimination of suffering, because such a goal is humanly impossible, but rather to give voice to it, to express it in its many different shapes and forms.  Levine succinctly affirms that fact which I should like to underscore here that expression of suffering is in itself transformation, and that this is essentially the message that the arts bring to therapy: "The therapist, then, would be an artist of the soul, working with sufferers to enable them to find the proper container for their pain, the form in which ot would be embodied." (Ibid., p.15)

Going beyond Fragmentation 2 - Re-fashioning Humpty Dumpty

Old wooden post Portrane, Co. Dublin, October 2010
If mental ill-health is anything it is a slow descent into disintegration.  The mind loses its central focus and the personality/self or soul, call it what you will descends into chaos.  Contrariwise, if mental health is anything it is the slow ascent to integration.  Mental illness or mental breakdown is about fragmentation while mental health concerns the putting together again of those scattered fragments of self.  This latter task is a life-long one in many ways as perfect mental health simply does not exist - it is an on-going aim or goal of healthy life.  For those of us who have plumbed the depths of depression or despair the slow ascent back to mental health can be slow.  However, even if it is slow, there is much that we can do.  These few posts that I am at present writing here are about poiesis - that essentially creative act of putting the fragmented pieces of the self back together.  We are all very well aware of the line from the famous nursery rhyme that once Humpty Dumpty had fallen from the wall that "all the King's horses and all the King's men could not put Humpty together again."  There is some truth in that nursery rhyme, but often times the re-assembled pieces or fragments can make up a new, purified and strengthened self.  Again, there is a good piece of wisdom which states that what does not kill or destroy us makes us better.  There is no little truth in that aphorism.

Poiesis is the creative act or, indeed, the essential healing or therapeutic act of integration and re-integration.  While poiesis in its original Greek sense may refer to poetry, here in Levine's work as in the writings of other psychotherapists it is used metaphorically to refer to all artistic activity.  For Levine as for Hillman and many other psychologists and psychotherapists poetry in its restricted as well as its metaphorical sense is very much the language of the soul.

Crushed shells, Portrane, October 2010
Stephen Levine outlines the tasks facing the Artist/Therapist which he sees as essential to our very survival as a species, that is so that we won't end up wiping ourselves off the planet in a nuclear holocaust or in the ensuing nuclear winter.  Let us listen to his prophetic and deeply holistic words:

.... if, as we have said, art and therapy are essentially united then it may be most proper to think of the expressive arts therapist as an artist/therapist.  Artist/therapists need to be situated at the borderline of art and psychotherapy; ideally they will draw from both fields.  Their intention is to heal and to create: to heal by creating.  Artist/therapists have the dual task of understanding both the therapeutic and the creative processes....

In addition, artist/therapists must have undergone and be constantly undergoing the therapeutic process within themselves.  They must be familiar with their own pain and suffering and with the attempt to transform them through creative action.  Working as a therapist is itself a way of re-fashioning the personality.  Artist/therapists must be continually open to self-transformation if they are to be able to assist others in this task. (Poiesis: The Language of Psychology and the Speech of the Soul, Stephen K. Levine, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1997, p. 6)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Going beyond Fragmentation 1 - The Case of Suicide

Suicide:

Stone: Donabate Beach, October, 2010
One can only praise The Irish Times for its highlighting of mental health problems, amongst many other woes, that benight our small island country.  In the past week the editor brought us five well-researched articles on suicide, articles based on sensitively conducted interviews with family members left behind.  Once again, take a bow, Geraldine Kennedy.  You are a gifted and sensitive editor.  In Friday's article Fiona Giles, whose brother Stephen ended his own life spoke about the stigma which still surrounds this sad subject:

The stigma of suicide also impacted heavily on the family. Fiona remembers hearing stories from people that Stephen must have planned his death, or must have been suffering from depression, or that something was wrong within his family or among his friends.


“That was very hurtful, people making those kinds of assumptions or judgments. It might be the case with some people, but the truth is they didn’t know. As far as I can see, what he did was impulsive. There was no warning at all,” she says.“Some people stayed away and didn’t call to the house, people you’d expect to, because they felt it would be too weird. Or people would avoid you on the street or in the supermarket. It was like people were judging you. That attitude shows the kind of stigma there still is around this issue.”  See this link here: Suicide 5
In the Thursday article, a mother called Faith Morris spoke of her 13 year old son Joseph's suicide, and once again she hihlighted its impulsiveness:


Then, they found a note he had written.  On it, he listed off his family members and said he loved them all.  He mentioned that he was sick of being small, of being teased about his height and that he didn’t like what he saw when he looked in the mirror.  He was tired of being in trouble and he insisted that everyone else would be better off without him.  Small things. Typical teenage problems. The kind of issues which might have seemed enormous for a young teenager, but which would quickly fade with time. “After reading that, it seems like it was just a spur of the moment thing. We think it was something impulsive, that it just went too far,” says Faith.See this link here:  Suicide 4
The Wednesday article was an interview with a young man called Damian Martin who tried to take his own life by driving at top speed through Dublin city centre. Now recovered, he wants to help prevent other young people ending up in a similar crisis. Something inside Damian snapped. He’d just had a blazing row with a colleague at work. On top of that, he’d been arguing with his friends. He felt he couldn’t talk to his parents. His relationship with his girlfriend and mother to his child had broken down. His life, it seemed, was collapsing around him.
... [T]he following January, after he was arrested for dangerous driving in Dublin city centre. His parents suggested he talk to a former neighbour, John Quinn, who had lost his son to suicide a few years previously. In his sitting room, they sat down for an hour and a half; Quinn explained what he was going through, how he needed help, and that suicide was a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It all began to make sense. The next morning, he was assessed at Pieta House, a centre for the prevention of self-harm and suicide. And the following day, he started therapy. See this link: Suicide 2 
Monday's article was an interview with John Quinn who is named in the above quoted paragraph.  His interview recounts the sheer devastation left behind after the suicide of his son.  Yet, this strong man went on to found a local support group for other families bereaved by suicide and also to fund-raise for Pieta' House, also referred to above.

Caring for the Soul

A gull swoops to get the seal's food: Howth October 2010
There is obviously no easy solution to the problem, indeed mystery of suicide.  However, one thing is clear: the poor people who are driven to do it are deeply hurting and extremely vulnerable souls.  They can see absolutely no way out of their dreadful predicament, no way to switch off the pain of being alive; no way to switch off the taunting, frightening and painful thoughts which chase each other inexorably around their haunted minds.  "Lights out," would seem to be the only desperate cure.  However, as the experts so wisely say: "Suicide is a permanent answer to a temporary problem!"  How true this statement is!  How painfully so, indeed!

Learning the Language of the Soul:

I have entitled this paragraph "learning the language of the soul" as I firmly believe that there has been a rise in the number of suicides, especially among young men in Ireland, due to the soul-less pursuit of sheer materialism during the years of the Celtic Tiger which had the whole population practically "bowing the knee at the shrine" of this mythical feline.  Never before was care for the soul so much needed.  Let me here return to the great scholar and exponent of Expressive Arts Therapy, Professor Stephen Levine.  He advocates the efficacy of the arts and of poiesis for the healing of the Western soul, which has been sickened or rather poisoned by the toxins of rampant capitalism and impersonal consumerism.  I'll finish this post with a longish quotation from his introductory remarks to his wonderfully inspiring little book called Poiesis: The Language of Psychology and the Speech of the Soul (Jessica Kingsley, 1997):

It is essential to human being to fall apart, to fragment, disintegrate, and to experience the despair that comes with lack of wholeness.  To what can we turn, then, in this moment of crisis?  I believe that it is at this critical moment that the possibility of creative living arises.  If we can let go of our previous identities zand move into the experience of the void, then the possibility arises for new forms of existence to emerge.  Poiesis, the creative act, occurs as the death and rebirth of the soul.  The integration and affirmation of the psyche are one and the same.  But this new identity only lives in the actuality of the creative process.  We are called upon constantly to re-form ourselves, to engage in what James Hillman calls "soul-making."  Poiesis as soul-making; this vision is at the core of my thinking in this book. (Levine, op.cit., p. xvi)
Therefore, we must teach our youngsters, as well as the older amongst us, the language of the soul.  We must teach them to be in tune with their souls, to listen to them, to use their creative gifts, whether that be music, writing, painting, sculpting, composing, singing or many of the other myriad forms of artistic engagement, in fleshing out or embodying the spark of the human imagination.  If suicide is the supreme denial of life and in consequence the most destructive act possible, only an equal and opposite act, namely that of the sheer creativity of the imagination can have the power to obliterate it from the fragile mind.