I am writing this at my neat and tidy desk, in my neat and tidy office, in my neat and tidy house.
There’s a place for everything and everything is in its place. Mess is my nemesis! Writing helps me to tidy up my thoughts, either for personal processing or publication; while editing involves tidying up other people’s words and making them look neat on the page. Making things neat and tidy is a responsibility I take very seriously. As a psychotherapist, on the other hand, I’m all about the mess, literal and symbolic. I see mess-making, like all behaviour, as a communication. Mess-avoidance is too. Neither is better or worse than the other, and we need spaces where we feel safe enough to express both.
In September’s featured article, When is a mess not (just) a mess?, Sarah Haywood helps us to make sense of mess in therapy and invites us to examine our own relationship with mess. In reflecting, she says, ‘I feel comfortable being with messes that “belong” to others, but I find it much more difficult to sit with mess in my own life.’ That resonates with me, and perhaps with you, too. I think we must be prepared to get messy with our clients, while also containing the mess, so that the mess-making feels bearable and safe, for both of us. Children and young people are messy and confusing. Working with them frequently involves moments of uncertainty, inadequacy and fear of messing up. I have written about my own messy work and process in Stop F*cking Nodding and Other Things 16 Year Olds Say in Therapy. Read a review of this and other new books in Reviews.
What could be messier than blowing the heads off zombies in a post-apocalyptic world, as Chris Pickard did (virtually) with a young man who found it difficult to engage in talking therapy? Chris explores this, and other innovative ways that technology can aid counselling, in the fabulously absorbing Me, myself and my avatar. Mental health services are experiencing ‘unprecedented demand’ for scant resources. Anthony Kessel questions the reality behind headlines such as these and suggests It’s time to get creative, using children’s fiction. For many counsellors, music paves the way to creativity, as illustrated in the beautifully poignant piece Music begins where words fail, by Peter Rawling, who identifies as a Sheffield-based therapist with a keen interest in the music of Kate Bush. In a neat coincidence, this Sheffield-born editor remembers listening (and dancing) to Wuthering Heights1 as a six-year-old, and it remains a firm favourite.
How serendipitous (neat?) that this summer another Kate Bush ballad2 became the most streamed song in the world, 37 years after its first release, thanks to the power of a certain Netflix drama series.3
For four seasons, a group of adolescents has witnessed supernatural forces and secret government exploits as they search for answers to extraordinary mysteries. There are depictions of trauma, depression, social isolation and survivor’s guilt following the death of a sibling. The genre is science fiction, but the themes feel very real (except for the telekinetic deaths), and the appeal to young people is obvious. In another neat coincidence, Jennifer Pitt discusses the impact on the remaining sibling(s) when their sibling dies, leaves home or has an illness, in Forgotten mourners.
It’s tricky, with a quarterly journal, to keep ahead of the zeitgeist; but in this issue, I think we’ve nailed it. Maybe listen to some Kate Bush while you read your copy, and I’ll see you in December.
Jeanine Connor, Editor