STEVE BENSON             05 19 15

A N N E X    P R E S S    2 0 1 5


Steve Benson                                                              05 17 2015  midday

To a colloquium discussion on-line in an international psychotherapy organization

I find my feed in this colloquium appearing out of sequence, as I read several days worth of posts in one day and wonder when and how I dare respond. But I will jump upon the weave of the threads on touch to respond, clumsily enough. While my analytically informed psychotherapy practice doesn’t assume any involvement of direct touch, I will, often enough shake hands at the start or end of a session, sometimes with an intention of my own, sometimes in compliance with a patient’s evident need for confirmation of . . . something unspoken, usually. I rarely will hug, unless pressed appropriately toward it by the patient’s direct action at the instant.

But the attention here to the diverse dynamics of voicing and of sharing a dialogical interplay of voicings invokes a multitude of factors I often notice, while seldom tracking carefully or labeling as they transpire. I love to share them. I look forward to more persistent or occasional attention to voices’ touch against one another’s bodies, voices, and times, as I continue to learn with my patients.

 What I want to remark most now, however, is how much use of my body and attention to the patient’s inevitably informs my sessions. I do not obscure my body’s visibility from the patient (as an analytic couch might be expected to). Some clients choose to sit facing me, others at a 90 degree angle, and I try to stay open to potential underlying uses or meanings of that, opportunities and foreclosures, for the patient and for myself. I will hop up at times to look for something or turn off a noise, open a window, or fetch a glass of water (for myself or my patient): profound body-oriented interventions with diverse potential significances and reverberations. Just how I inflect and turn my body, its rhythms and durations, its efficiency, grace, or dithering, reverberate with my patient in her or his relative stasis.

Meanwhile, aside from how I sit or move while sitting inflecting the action and sense of time within the session, demonstrating my capacity to mirror, to hold the moment, to attune or not, there is my conduct when with a child patient . . . floor time. Where is my body while the child is on the floor, inviting my companionship or avoiding recognition to it? Do I crouch, sit, lie, extend my legs? How fast am I moving? Will I creep around the room with a stick in my hand as a deadly weapon, on demand? Will I spin the child on the desk chair? How do I respond to the child who engages me physically, when that occurs? What is the tone of my holding her safely, deflecting closer contact while accepting her physicality and recognition? There are more than enough questions to wonder at, to fail to answer, to scarcely observe and recall, in a child therapy session, even when we are hunched over a board game the whole time.

Steve Benson

Steve Benson                                                05 17 2015  evening

To a colloquium discussion on-line in an international psychotherapy organization

I wish to follow K.’s crucial note on bodily presence, somatic responses, and breath, and others on touch, including the post I sent before, on bodily contact and motion within my/our sessions, to note that any manifestation of my own physical body’s action and manner must have resonances in and for my patient, through the physical body itself as well as the left and right brains’ syncopated dance of signification, symbolic, presymbolic, unconscious, or otherwise.

Primarily, by this, I refer to an inner resonance with how I move. My body is always in motion (even if I often appear rather still), as is yours as you read this, as is my patient’s while with me and when not. We know that neurologically we do sense, feel, and enact responsively to one another’s sounds, gazes, propioceptive dynamics, and so on – we know our sense perceptions, skin surfaces, intuition and motoric tensility are all caught up in this neurologically evidenced intersubjective dance. With some patients, I find myself acutely sensitized myself, apparently in response to their tenderness and vulnerability, to how I handle my own occupation of our shared space.

I posit that (my/his/her/our) disgust and desire function within these spaces – however crowded or desolate they may appear – relentlessly, flourishingly, desperately, and confusedly, more or less, to the degree they are developmentally capable, all the time. If a sense of the erotic is at once an actual and potential parameter or reality of the dynamics of such an implicit, unspoken choreography, experienced as at once ephemeral and abiding, so is disgust, repulsion, othering, distantiation, and the rest of it. These only appear to be two poles to a potential realization or failure of connectivity. I suggest, on the contrary, they are interactive dynamics in a play within a field of inconceivably dynamic and multivalent connectivity – a field of intersubjective mutual attention too ripe and raw, full and mystifying, dense and intangible to be named.

I might call this field, as in effect a living entity, “love,” naming it thus on faith, assuming an underlying necessary and willing interdependency of all vital elements of human functioning and going-on-being, but it may not be readily experienced as such in every instance. The charge in sessions may or may not feel particularly charged with desire or disgust, which seem to me as much mental as physical responses to the stimuli of interpersonal contact – but I believe they are always charged with such inherent love.

The vitality of our discussion here of the nonverbal and largely unverbalizable (at least in its multiplicity of experiential dynamism within any one instant) intersubjective co-operation through sensate bodies ongoing through all our therapies, even when Skyped, must direct our attention to its inevitable admission into psychoanalytic theory, training, and practice. It won’t go away. However inept and avoidant we may be, often enough, in articulating a description of such activity, we all are working it through constantly in all our clinical contacts, even when still and silent.

Steve Benson

Steve Benson                                                            05 18 2015  10:22 PM 

 To a colloquium discussion on-line in an international psychotherapy organization

I appreciate here your invitation, S., to reflect on our sharing in the dance of limited functioning, acknowledging disabilities in ourselves and our clinical partners in the therapeutic dyads we form in our sessions and courses of treatment. 

With a familiar 65-year-old male patient today who remarks on his physical aging and his seeming lack of efficacy in generating what his culture has taught him can represent success, I chime in as to my own profile of age and achievement as in some ways like his own. I might be seen as left behind, by the standards of my college class; I may like him feel myself still 17 inside, dismayed by the image in a photograph or mirror--without pretending to share the depression or biological pathology he contends with, without the solace he's found in the love of his life sharing its decline with him. At the risk of seeming to demonstrate myself again "better than" him, I struggle to join him in admissions, my differences tacit and yet marked: e.g., at our session's beginning, as usual, I am present, he is late; at session's end, I rise faster, though he precedes me by an instant in initiating his corresponding but unspoken, bodily expressive gesture of conclusion. 

Similarly, legato, he repeats laments his dominant self-state, one beleaguered by compulsive negativity of judgment, through disconsolate self-assessments he's rehearsed with me before; rather moderato, I share an idea that occurs afresh to me, remarking his arrival at a confluence of the steadiest and most truly nurturing and connective veins of his life to constitute a richly unpretentious meaningfulness in his current modestly active life, stabilized and underpinned by a humility totally wanting in the stereotypies of achievement he posits as surrounding him, among persons I posit for the moment as likely far less secure in a sense of a meaning to life and their integration thereof. Have I buoyed him up? Have I seen him embark on any distinct course? Haven't I simply resonated with him a moment out of the key he's used to hearing himself respond in, in his own idiosyncratic monologue of implicit inner dialogue that Augusto refers to? I don't need to know. This encounter, like one of ships passing across a harbor, doesn't require the resolution of a fixed meaning or final interpretation but rather that allowance for ungovernable difference and inherent similarity that human beings may justly own.

I realize silently that I pose myself, with him, where I do believe myself to be, relatively, as a "third" rather than "middle" option, triangulating between his "failure" and his ostensible norm's alleged "success," from which position I can appreciate his arrival at a furthering meaning in taking stock of a life in slow but vital flow. 

So this vignette, confusing as it is, recalls our discussions of the implicit sense in the timing in a dialogue, as well as in a sense of our time of life's implicit sense. 

Steve Benson, Blue Hill, ME


Steve Benson                                                               05 19 2015  9:42 PM

to (listserv of a regional association of psychologists)

Given the traditions in recent decades of holding increasing amounts of information classified, top secret, and un-knowable, I can't see how Hoffman's report can really be comprehensive or a final word. I do hope that more shall be revealed therein. To wait upon it, however, doesn't discount the information that already is available, some of which I have made an effort to share with those concerned MePA listserv members who care to be informed. 

While I assume that all the information I share here will be clearly restated in Hoffman's report and put into an organized perspectival analysis of the entire history of the APA's relationship to any possible undermining of human rights among detainees in the CIA's and Defense Department's various black sites and Guantanamo, I can't really drop my learning over time that no one and nothing turns out perfect, and history is always an account of what happened, organized within ideological constraints (whether constrictive or loose).

I am not able, therefore, to maintain a firm position on anyone's historical account, left right or center, highly respected or ignominiously corrupt (or both), but I do feel it is vital for psychologists to take firm positions on honesty and justice and ethical standards in the conduct of our profession's officially representative organization, and when convincing accounts of failures in this regard are alleged without effective rebuttal, positions may realistically and compassionately be assumed. And overthrown, of course, in response to information that clarifies the organization's abiding adherence after all to honesty, justice, and ethical standards.

By the way, D., I don't think the prominent charges at this time are that the APA as an organization was involved in torturing anyone nor that it was responsible for a cover-up of torture: these roles were amply taken on by our nation's military and intelligence services. The key concerns raised regarding APA misconduct relate, as I understand it these days, to its willingness to revise its code of ethical conduct to allow for psychologists to participate in infringements on human rights, including torture, while also sanctioning (against the principles well established by psychological research) the participation of psychologists as agents of ensuring humane treatment of illegally detained aliens during and between episodes of interrogation in order to enhance and strengthen its alliance with the military and intelligence services of our country.

Like President Bush, the APA has consistently insisted it does not torture and does not sanction torture.