Borderline States, Counselling, Dreams, Hope, Madness, Narratives, Religion, Spirituality, The Inner World, The unconscious, Ways of Being

Spiderman meets Allah


I recently watched the latest Spiderman film Homecoming. I was slightly disappointed by it. I enjoyed the Toby McGuire versions. I think because he portrayed more of the conflict he felt about being Spiderman. It seems to me that Tom Holland plays it as a teenager having huge fun as Spiderman but not really having to work overmuch about the implications of this role. But i’m a counsellor versed in psychoanalytic theory, so I may be expecting too much from the film! Although having so said, “Homecoming” does give a good portrayal of Peter Parker’s oedipal conflict .Tony Stark is an excellent father figure whom the young Spiderman has to deal with.

The piece of dialogue that struck me forcibly is this one. Peter wants his Spiderman suit back from Tony Stark who has confiscated it. (Castration anxiety anyone?)

Spiderman “I’m nothing without that suit.”

Tony Stark “If you’re nothing without the suit, you shouldn’t have it.”

(There is a lovely irony here since Tony Stark invented IronMan as his superhero alter ego. He needs his Ironman suit as much as Peter Parker but is unable or unwilling to recognise this need.)

I watched Homecoming around the time of the terrorist attack in Barcelona. The question of “suits” came to mind. As Spiderman Peter Parker can achieve all sorts of things that he cannot do as an ordinary adolescent. He needs to become Spiderman. (There are important questions here about potency and identity.) Like so many other people I wondered how a person can ram a truck into a group of people enjoying an evening out. (And at the risk of death by parenthesis, there are issues of envy here. How dare you be enjoying yourself when I’m not!) Could plain Mouassa Oukabir have driven his car into a group of people, aiming to kill as many as possible. Perhaps not. But as a disciple of a particular Iman, Abdelbaki Es Satty, Oukabir had a suit to wear. Like Peter Parker, it gave him an identity as a perverse “Superhero.” Presumably his version of Islam gave Es Satty a similar kind of suit.

In the closing scenes of Homecoming Peter is offered a brand new Spiderman suit, which he refuses, much to Tony Stark’s bemusement. “That was a test, right?”asks Peter. “Of course”replies Stark. So Peter Parker goes back to  being your average, friendly neighbourhood Spiderman. It seems he has found a way to resolve some of the issues he has with Tony Stark. And, more importantly, with himself. One wishes that “radical Islam” and all its kind could make a similar resolution.



Religion, Spirituality, The Inner World, The unconscious, Ways of Being

3D living?

daily round and common task

I remember the hymn “New Every Morning” with its verse ”

The trivial round, the common task

will furnish all we need to ask

room to deny ourselves; a road

to bring us daily nearer God.”


Many years ago I was as  a devout Evangelical Christian, this verse was central to my thinking .Less for its emphasis on the mundane and  more because it gave an idea that everything was sacred..That every event in my life was either ordained by God or could be used to develop my spiritual life. In the language of those days, one was given a cross to carry. The size and weight of the cross was variable-but its purpose was to allow God to create His character in us. It’s an interesting doctrine and one I can see as useful. One of the benefits was that it allowed me to find a purpose in whatever suffering I might be going through.(The image at the top of this blog is Google’s response to typing in the verse I’ve just mentioned. For me, at least, it speaks of way finding, an idea implicit in the hymn.)

I want to link this idea of purpose to Isis / Al Qaida’s actions. Or at least to show how this idea might be played out in the minds of those who are able to drive  a lorry into a crowd of tourists, bomb a newspaper office, shoot an off duty soldier etc. I think what links all these actions-and so many more- must be the sense of  purpose that it gives, particularly if there are mental health issues at stake where one’s sense of self can become so fragile. Linking oneself to Isis or any similar group is to create a sense of belonging .One is part of a crusade to bring about the Kingdom on earth. To rid the world of the heretics who are corrupting the innocent.

(And here is where I want to write a paragraph in parenthesis or as a long footnote, but i’ll try to avoid that temptation  and incorporate it into the mainstream.) It is important to try and understand what it is that Isis etc are trying to destroy.We often attack in others the thing we most fear in ourselves. I attack what I most desire and, therefore,  most fear.The same dynamic works at an Organisational and Political level as well as at the individual level. So in the “Je Suis Charlie” what was being attacked was the idea of freedom of speech and thought. (Intolerable blasphemies for fundamentalists of any kind.) In the Night Club shooting we might  imagine how deeply envious the attackers were of those inside having the temerity to enjoy themselves. (A psychoanalytic understanding of paranoia is that the individual attacks outwardly to defend against the inner attacks in his psyche. The technical term is projective identification.)

I titled this blog 3D living? That was can attempt to consider how rich life can seem given a Higher Purpose. It probably doesn’t matter what, exactly, the Higher Purpose is. To run a marathon every day for a year; To ride a monocycle from Lands End to John o’ Groats in aid of charity or to become an Al Qaeda champion. There is a new purpose to one’s life.  It turns ordinary 2D living into a 3D extravaganza. And can be very helpful .Many charities have their followers who do extraordinary feats for their cause. But more importantly there are multitudes of people who support charities with small Standing orders each month. Churches, mosques and Synagogues are supported each week by the regular worshippers. These are the ones who make 2D ling into something rich and nourishing. They are the people for whom the daily round, the common task is sufficient.


Borderline States, Counselling, Madness, Psychoanalysis, Psychosis, Psychotherapy, Reflective Practice, Religion, The Inner World, The unconscious


Every day brings news of a new violation. Yahoo answers tell me that , worldwide, one person is murdered every minute. (And we talk of animals being dangerous killers!) Today I was thinking particularly of the Paris killings and of the death of Becky Watts. I wonder if one common link between these two murders is Envy. We know that Nathan Matthews has spoken of his envy of Becky. It also seems probable that, at least in part, envy plays a role in the latest Paris killing (linked once more to Syria.) In each case there seems to be an undying belief that someone else is getting what is “rightfully” mine. Be that political recognition, wealth and prestige or simply more love. The etymology of envy is, simply, “feeling ill will at another’s fortune”. Melanie Klein, an early and highly influential psychoanalyst who came after Freud,  suggests that an envious attack is  launched on something good (see my piece last week about internal objects.). The attack is made simply because the object is good. That becomes a source of envy. This is compounded by a feeling of being left out. That everyone else gets / has all the good things except me. (A familiar feeling in families, friendships, marriages, organisation and nations to name a few.) Most of the time, most of us can manage our envy. Either by reminding ourselves of  the good things we have-both within and without. Or by doing something about the root of our envy. Many a thing has been accomplished by a person thinking “Well, he or she can do that. Sod it, so can I! (If envy leads on to reparation, then it can be a healthy spur .When it is allied to the death instinct, it can morph into murderous rage and hatred. Just watch a set of children playing. Or a couple of dogs with a bone.)

In clinical work, envy can be a spoiler. The patient becomes so envious of the therapist that they find any contribution intolerable. Rather being able to take in something nourishing, they are so incensed that their envy leads them to try to destroy the therapist and any good thing they might say or do. This might be one way of thinking about ISIS and similar groups. Their envy leads them to destroy the envied object rather trying to take some nourishment from it. One of the many tragic aspects of the killing of Becky Watts is that her step brother’s envy was not understood early enough. (Which is not to blame anyone or anything.) If he had been able to talk about his murderous envy in a safe place, it is just possible that this enormous tragedy might have been avoided.

Much the same might be said of ISIS and their kin. If we had understood their envy of us, we might have been able to prevent many deaths. And those yet to come. (Perhaps it’s time for the Prime minister to appoint a resident psychoanalyst to his team. Or a sub team of therapists working as  a parallel group to the cabinet, using their understanding of parallel processes to inform the work of the politicians.)