When I was 24, my father died. Not so very young, but young enough. Age is only figures, maturity or otherwise is harder to estimate. My mother and sister and I all loved him. He was the centre of the wheel. I cannot know my mother’s feelings – they had been married for 48 years. My sister didn’t say very much and I learned at first hand that major bereavement (child, partner, parent or sibling) takes a long time to work through.
I was terribly angry to have taken from me the one person who made the world comprehensible – please note – not safe, just better understood (I think of him every time I “get” a book, particularly history).
In the office where I worked, there was a short corridor, and I came to myself one day to discover that I was banging first one shoulder and then the other, as if I could not trust myself to see the walls, I had to feel them and in order to feel them, I had to knock into them. Once I realised this, I stopped. But just to be quite clear about this, I had been doing it without knowing that I was.
Wonderful thing, the mind.
Then I realised that I had to have a mirror. I think I was first aware of this when I took a taxi somewhere. (Occasional black taxis were my first luxury and they will be the last to go). I was quite comfortable if I could check and see myself, but I had to have a mirror and I had to check “she” was still there. She always was but I began to realise that I had mirrors everywhere, in the desk drawer: on the desk, in my pocket, in my bag and there was a great sense of threat that one day I would look and there would be nothing in the mirror.
By the time I saw the first of several therapists (never mind what anybody else says, the talking therapies helped me), there were cuts and bruises all over my hands and feet, a burn I had not felt happening on the back of one leg and the mirror was something I clutched for security.
I thought about all this the other day when I went walking through the recently threatened city, wading through tourists spilling all over the streets, in groups with selfie poles, posing in groups and singly, beside a London bus or Harrods. Of course there were always tourist pictures, keepsakes. ( I don’t think I still have the one of me beside one of Landseer’s lions in Trafalgar Square but I remember it being taken).
Those of a disposition calmer than my latent sense of threat shrug it off: “everybody” has a mobile so they can take pictures and they do. I want to know what they do with the pictures. Nothing I suspect. They exist and having them must mean something till you dump them or change your device. I am nearly as unsettled by the click click click as I am by the screen gazing because both of these activities take you out of the moment, involvement with the world as it is. If you’re taking a picture for a reason, a keepsake, to send to a friend – then I understand, but if you’re doing it just because you can – I don’t. And both of these activities lead large numbers of people to trespass into what we used to call personal space, body territory. If you are not looking at your world but are busy taking a picture of it, the taking of the picture becomes an interruption in the moment. Hence all those grumpy people who now walk into you while gazing at a screen or taking a picture, who rarely apologise, I think because they have reversed bumping into you to be your fault, because they are only doing what “everybody” else does.
In psychology, as in everything else, change is inevitable. Whether you welcome it or set your face against it doesn’t make any difference. Change will come. How it will come about is another thing. But I wonder what the taking of these images means? Is this a modern version of scrawling “Kilroy was here ?” You can paint over or sand off an inappropriate message. I wonder what device gazing and click addiction may do to the soul.