PRESIDENT'S REMARKS: MELISSA HOLUB, PH.D.
"BATMAN SMELLS": THE RELEVANCE OF PLAYGROUND SONGS TO THE ANALYTIC ENDEAVOR
At its best, writing is a play space. From a pool of images and proto-ideas comes the experience of carving out something new, knowing it could be done in a million ways, knowing, too, that the end product is just one possibility. With a column like this, however, there is also a monthly deadline. That's a linear thing, a potential problem given that creativity can't be linearly produced.
This month, I found myself waiting for a creative spark for days. All was quiet on the internal front, until I was walking under green trees, in dense fog and crisp air, feeling spacious and at ease. As I walked, I found myself singing, "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells, ...", perhaps you know the rest. (I do have a 2nd grader.)
It became clear to me that, with pressure for creativity in the foreground, I was doomed; but, with myriad sensual pleasures and the autistic contiguous quality of a repeating simple song in my mind, creativity in the background could take hold. From this relaxed mental state, an almost physical sensation surprised me, as if I were suddenly tickled in a different sphere akin to Bion's dream-work alpha.
This is just the process we rely on in our analytic work. Winnicott, Ogden, Bion, Boyer and others have spoken to the importance of suspended attention, reverie and potential space as necessary components of analytic contact. We cannot produce much for our patients when we feel too pressing a demand, either from within or without. More than technical knowledge, this, perhaps, is the gift of ageing as a clinician. Pressures to produce or "know" anything in particular recede as an ability, and willingness to linger within an analytic sandbox increases. So, for us and for our work, thank goodness for the ability to play, and thank goodness Batman Smells.
Melissa Holub, Ph.D.