Sunday, July 31, 2011

Journal Prompt #5: A person of interest

Poet Elizabeth AlexanderImage by On Being via Flickr
...And are we not of interest to each other?

The very last line of Elizabeth Alexander's poem- to which I'd only been half listening as I prepared breakfast with the radio on- came into my consciousness in such a profound way that I literally tripped over the garbage can, knocking it over, on my way to the computer to go and find it and re-read the whole thing.   

And I again came to rest on the last line:

...and are we not of interest to each other?

How beautiful!

You are by now, I'm certain, well aware of my love of good questions. So, as you can imagine, on principle, I love Elizabeth Alexander's ideas about poetry and how it leads to inquiry. Here is what she had to say about the matter in the interview she did with Krista Tippett from On Being:

I was thinking about the act of asking real questions in poems as a kind of spiritual practice. I ask questions relatively often in poems and I ask them because I don't know the answer. And I ask them because I think that poems are fantastic spaces with which to arrive at real conundrum kinds of questions, to go as far down the road as you can of understanding something and then sometimes that road ends with a real question.

I wonder if one might describe the process of music therapy (and, indeed, maybe someone already has) as a form of collaborative poetry-making and inquiry- an effort to create an evolving piece of relational art- one that often ends with more questions than answers. And one that invites deep self-reflection and, as my mother (who is a poet) often points out, frequent editing. 

...and are we not of interest to each other?

Elizabeth Alexander elaborates:

[The question] me isn't about, oh, you know, I like her shoes or ...he has a fascinating job. It's much deeper than that. Our human beings who are in community, do we call to each other? Do we heed each other? Do we want to know each other? And I think reaching across what can be a huge void between human beings.


As you consider your work as a music therapist (and as a participant in life), you might ask, not only do we interact with each other, but how do we interact with each other, who are we to each other, and in what ways are we with each other?

More questions to ponder: 
*Are my clients "of interest" to me? In what ways are my clients "of interest" to me? As in, what do I mean when I think of someone as being "of interest" to me? How do I define "interest"? Is it as "you're an interesting person"? Or is it deeper than that? And how deep am I willing to go?

*Are my clients "of interest" in terms of how I am defined when I am with them? Are they "of interest" in terms of: "This is who I think you are in relation to me"? In other words, is the "interest" defined largely by the roles we play? And how willing/comfortable am I to look beyond the assigned roles?

*Does being "of interest: mean that I know certain things about you as my client? And how does that affect the power dynamics in our relationship? On another level, what and how much am I willing to know about you? 

*What do I, as your music therapist, want you, the person called my client, to know about me? Are there things I wish you could know about me? And whose need am I meeting in wanting that?  

*What if our clients don't hold our interest? What then? 

My deepest thanks to Elizabeth Alexander for her inspiring poem and to Krista Tippett for the willingness to "go there" in her interviews! 

You can read the entire poem and learn more about Elizabeth Alexander and her books of poetry hereAnd you can listen to (or read) the entire conversation (and many other engaging interviews) with Krista Tippett here.


Dirk Cushenbery said...

I'm probably a "person of interest" on somebody's list somewhere! :) Funny how that means suspect. I hear how the older generation is often motivated to use social media simply to spy on relatives. There is a small booklet by a french author, can't remember the name. In it she contrasts community with collaboration. Sharing a mutual goal or collaboration falls short of community. Like when you never hear from someone after your project is completed. You get into professional boundaries here, but you pose some great questions, mindful indeed.

Roia said...

@Dirk I always said you were a little suspicious looking. :- ) Given your French author's definition, then I guess a collaboration *is* in some ways more like the therapy process. After all, when therapy is over, it's over, and we can't usually stay in contact forever.

You're absolutely right in noting that I push professional boundaries. I think we need to acknowledge the wish that's often there. I think not talking about it and not saying it exists is what leads to boundary violations.

Thanks for swinging by and sharing your thoughts!

Pace said...

I always think of some who is "of interest to me" as being "someone worth exploring as a human." Some people see "of interest" as a synonym for "of importance." If I were a music therapist I hope I would see all clients as "of interest" (whether it be a synonym for 'of importance' or not)otherwise it would be too easy to not put my all into what my client and I could achieve through the therapy.

I probably went off subject, but that's just what went through my mind when you presented a couple of those questions.

Roia said...

Actually, @Pace, I think you were right on subject! Sometimes I think people- even music therapists- can get hung up on the label or the diagnosis and not see the person- not go deeper.

I guess when I think of the question of "are we not of interest to each other?" I start with "do we not matter to each other?" and move on to "do we not care enough about each other that we are willing to...(for example, learn about where this person comes from, learn about who this person is, learn about how I may be influencing this relationship in a negative way, etc.)?"

So glad you took the time to comment/share your thoughts!

Tamara G. Suttle, M.Ed., LPC said...

Oh, yummy! Such a great post to chew on!I don't know, though, Roia, if I agree with your comment to Dirk . . . . I think that although we don't stay in communication with our clients once our work is finished, in some ways, I think that once we've made contact with someone, we stay connected forever.

I'm thinking of that saying about how you can't step into the same river twice. I mean once we've made contact, we carry a piece of that person with us or we are forever changed by that contact no matter how brief. So, to me . . . to say "it's over / done with" seems a little too finite.

And, as for those "people of interest," I'm always surprised to find some people have little interest at all in other people; and others find all people to be infinitely of interest.

By the way, this post cinched the deal . . . . Definitely including your blog in my resources for my ACA presentation in 2012 on counter-transference. Your introspection is RICH! Thanks for sharing!

Roia said...

Hey there, Tamara! Welcome back to the land! And, yes, I absolutely agree with you that we take a piece of our clients with us (as they hopefully keep a piece of us with them) after therapy ends.

I think I meant what I said more in terms of the fact that, as a collaborative effort- the official (can we call therapy official?) collaboration ends at some point, and the symbolic (okay, this may be getting kind of nutty) collaboration continues (consciously or unconsciously).

I am often horrified by how little attention people pay to each other any more. Honestly, I wonder if people come to therapy just to have someone sit there and quietly listen and pay attention- with no other major distractions.

Oh, and thank you so much for making me a resource for your presentation! You know I love, love talking about countertransference! I can't wait to hear how your presentation goes! Keep us posted, eh?

Tamara G. Suttle, M.Ed., LPC said...

Roia - wondering how you are faring with Hurricane Irene? I should have said . . . come to Colorado to evacuate!

Roia said...

Aww, thanks for checking in Tamara. So far so good. The rain just started about an hour ago. My neighbors and I are all hunkered down in our various condos prepared for all sorts of drama. I'm at least not too close to the coast or to the Delaware. More than likely, though, my basement may be a bit flooded. Luckily, I'm on the second floor.

We'll see what comes with the overnight. It's supposed to get much worse. Eek! First earthquakes, now this. What a week. And me with my sciatica!