The Pursuit of 'Mineness.'
This image, by my photographer husband Simon Roberts, is a composite of old Italian postcards that were sent to relatives in the UK by British holidaymakers, Simon’s own holiday shots and photographs that he found online.
We find ourselves looking at an oddly surreal, multi-layered scene that is both recognizable and strange. Scale, location, perspective, context, are all distorted; different realities forced to inhabit the same space. We may find ourselves thinking, “I’ve been there… it’s St Mark’s Square, isn’t it? … but it wasn’t quite like that.”
This is equally true when a client brings their ‘stuff’ to therapy. Suppose a client is recently bereaved. I may think I know how they feel, but I do not. No matter how universal the experience of loss is, I can only know how Ifelt when someone close to me died. That is why no counsellor should ever say, however sympathetically, “I know how you feel.”
Such is our paradoxical human predicament. Our experiencing of the universalities of life: love, death, sex, friendship, family, and so on, can only ever be singular. They are both shared and separate phenomena.
So what are we to do with this, that the philosopher Martin Heidegger calls ‘mineness?’ If our lives can only ever be our own, then surely it follows that we must take responsibility for them? Counselling is one way of rising to this daunting challenge. It can help us to identify our uniqueness, own our potentialities and discover our ‘mineness.’ When a counsellor offers a congruent presence in the face of her client’s dilemmas, the client is empowered to take responsibility for finding her own meaning. The therapist can see what the client cannot: the repeated behaviour patterns, the outdated perceptions about self and others, the unchallenged assumptions about how life is or should be. This means that together, in the crucible of the therapeutic relationship, a new narrative can be created, and the client can move forward with fresh purpose.
Simon’s images aim, among other things, to question the enduring aesthetic cliché of what constitutes an Italian landscape. Therapy is similar. It asks: is this who I really am?