Getting Through the Doldrums

I hope that the people who need face to face treatment have returned to treatment. Let me again emphasize that if you cannot find some way to create flexibility for remote sessions, the continuity of these treatments remains in doubt.

The Neve Campus has requested that all clients coming for treatment simply tell the guard at the front gate the name of their therapist. The guard will have a list handy. The Campus wants to be sure no one enters for random reasons. Please advise your clients of this.

Nothing much is new with corona, that is why I did not write last week. We are in the “doldrums” – neither here nor there, things are not improving, things are not dramatic, things are very, very foggy.

Time to reflect on “doldrums” – a term that Winnicott used in a famous essay on adolescence that you can find in Deprivation and Delinquency. There is nothing to do, nothing to solve, just something to live through. Development goes about its course. I think that many of our treatments may be regarded in this way at this time. We maintain contact, we hear out how our clients are struggling through, what they do, what they say, what they feel. It is just an expression of who they are, and we hear it and accept it. Not the time for dramatic interpretations of calls for change, nor a time for emergency measures. Life goes on, the relationship with the therapist goes on, sort of “in neutral,” – but it goes on. What is crucial in Winnicott’s essay is that if nothing seems to be happening, that should not be interpreted as resistance, but rather as an adjustment to reality. “In was as in war” is paraphrased: “ in doldrums as in doldrums.” And supervision may seem at a standstill. No drama, no excitement. Just living through.

We therapists have something to gain from this, because doldrums are always part of life, although not usually such a big part. In families there are times for dramatic change and times for adjustments. In Systems theory – as our new trainees will soon learn and our senior trainees have hopefully not forgotten – there are times for first order change, and times for second order change. These are ambiguous terms in and of themselves. In systems theory, first order change is superficial, second order to more substantial. The doldrums are a time for first order change – learning how to get along without increasing conflict or disruption. Small movements make things easier. Therapists may pay attention to small adjustments. Conversations may avoid conflict, crowded families make new boundary alterations. Couples may be avoiding conflict and even each other. And therapists are learning modesty, learning to learn and not only lead, learning their clients lives in a detail not possible in times of change.

And learning to live Koheles chapter 3 that we read not long ago: A time for everything…