A Mission in SPACE
Do you have SPACE for new
The question to which my body responds with contraction, not just because the word ‘client’ does not sit well, but because the answer is generally no. No, I don’t have SPACE.
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I don’t have SPACE and am thinking about SPACE and writing (a way of thinking) about SPACE and what it is, and whether it is true that I (or we) don’t have any. Where, given the repeated call, might we find the SPACE that we need?
A friend points out that I can’t seem to be able to resist responding to a basic question – to which the answer is potentially simply yes or no – with metaphysics; with a textural wandering and wondering that ends up spiralling across several pages. There is no denying this. And so I have tried to land the metaphysical, at the end of this page, in a proposition for something physical – a tangible action that may (I hope) be of interest.
SPACE (Version 1) Unoccupied. Free. Yes please. Bring it on.
1. A continuous area or expanse which is free, available, or unoccupied.
2. An area of land which is not occupied by buildings.
To be unoccupied sounds like freedom. No, I do not have SPACE also meaning yes, I need SPACE. Also known as saying no as a practice of freedom because if we can’t say no, all our yeses inhabit shaky ground; are fraught with the unsaid; are not to be trusted. No being a transformational word because with its utterance the idea of a boundary is made tangible; becomes a practice. We want to bring love to this practice and to embrace the wisdom of Prentis Hemphill when they say, “boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously”. To get the measure of this practice is a challenge because distance here is more of a dynamic than a fix; is an invitation into a relational dance and a call to move with a question of S/PLACE. Where, in this moment, might I locate the place from which I can love both you and me?
SPACE (Version 2) Untitled
1. An interval of time
2. A blank between words, characters, numbers…
3. [MUSIC] Each of the four gaps between the five lines of a stave
I have long suspected that what takes place in the intervals – the in between of therapeutic encounters – is as, and perhaps even more significant, than whatever transpires in the sessions themselves. I learned the hard way (through stress and exhaustion) that my own need for gaps and blanks is not to be ignored. I learned that forgetting to take a beat between one activity and the next is a recipe for disembodiment and dissociation; for injuries that I have no recollection of sustaining; for moving too fast to feel. If I imagine myself as a text, I am one that cannot be written without pause; the writing dependent on a constant supply of commas and stops and line breaks. I have learned come that run-on sentences make me lose both my breath and my bearings. I have learned that punctuation holds me together. I have friends who tell me about feeling energised when they work right up to a deadline and submit pieces with two minutes to spare. For me, time is a squeeze that can easily trip me into limbic overload and adrenalin rushes that flood the SPACE where creative thought was once possible and now is not. What to do but follow Tricia Hersey’s advice and’ go lay down’? This is my paragraph break, a blank between where I breathe and wait and trust in the return of SPACE – the gaps between the lines – where the music that I cannot yet hear but am already dancing to, can come through.
SPACE (Version 3) The Art of Suggesting that the Measurements Could be Wrong
1. A mathematical concept generally regarded as a set of points having some specified structure.
2. Capacity for storage of data in a computer or other digital device.
I have been thinking about space-making beyond the mathematical – not as the science of juggling hours in a schedule and making more time for “work”, but the art of making space. The science, which employs reason and rules for example addition, subtraction and zero sum, calculates an absence of SPACE. The answer to the question is formulated in the negative. A deficit. There simply is no time for anything new. The art, blessed with more unruly grammars, gestures in the tense of black feminist futurity[i] toward the not-yet – the world that always will and already has, said yes to the SPACE. It does not care to be reasonable; It cares to be enough.
Unlike a digital device, my capacity for storage is undefined except perhaps by what I come to believe are its limits. When I employ an asterisk to describe myself as a *therapist[ii], the asterisk is a placeholder for a SPACE beyond these limits. This SPACE aims to make visible a gap – a kind of black hole – and to signal interest in therapeutic practices that can think from and into this gap, also known as the position of blackness[iii]. In most disciplines, and most definitely in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, blackness has occupied the position of the unthought. The asterisk is an invitation to think (again) and think beyond what and where we have been told we can think. The invitation is to reembody and reassociate and enter black feminist modes that can love and care. There are SPACES that have always been expansive with their care – cared enough to create and hold Otherwise; to provide and generate storage for the emergence of the yet-to-be.
SPACE (Version 4) At This Point in Time, Who Isn’t Hungry?
1. The physical universe beyond the earth’s atmosphere.
2. The near vacuum extending between the planets and stars, containing small amounts of gas and dust.
It happened that space became ‘land’ and building became occupation, and occupation became a claim to the land built upon as property, otherwise known as The Law. And SPACE, also known as infinite possibility, was foreclosed. And it happens that we find ourselves after this rupture[iv] (as described by Sylvia Wynter), in a SPACE where the earth has become the thought of scarcity; is spoken of as a resource running out and a world ending. While some forget the worlds that have been ended over and again[v], others watch in horror as people rockets and SPACE missions are launched. They aim to survey planets and stars and trawl the gas and dust in search of what more it can give them. Do they not see that the gas and dust can only ever be more of what is; more of the same; more of us? To grasp for SPACE is to miss the point – that the grasping is what is killing us all; That we are already after the end of eating everything[vi]; That this is an emptiness bigger than a belly. The *therapist’s SPACE mission begins not with a proliferation of stars (generating evermore ‘therapists’ for evermore ‘clients’) but with the recognition of hunger and making room for its true nature. In M. Jacqui Alexander’s words,
“…to make room for the deep yearning for wholeness, often expressed as a yearning to belong that is both material and existential, both psychic and physical…”[vii]
SPACE (Version 5) The Importance of Not Being Mistaken for a Single Being.
1. the dimensions of height, depth, and width within which all things exist and move.
The dimensions are tight. There is not enough SPACE in the word ‘client’ for the main substance of the work, which as far as I have been able to tell, is intimacy. One to one therapeutic work is a specific kind of intimacy that is important and precious. There are times when it is called for – when it is absolutely the thing required. At the same time, individual therapy is not and cannot be a sole or universal form of therapeutic SPACE. Many people – activists, scholars, therapeutic practitioners –know (and have known) this and respond by creating spaces for shared and collective work[viii]. I have been a beneficiary of some of this SPACE which has absolutely supported the process of writing, and publishing, UNRULY THERAPEUTIC. The book was a call hoping for a response. The responses that reach me are generous and loving and they delight me even while arriving, as they often do, with the question that makes my body contract;
Do you have SPACE…?
SPACE (Version 6). Yes in a Series of Unruly Formations
1. Noun. The freedom to live, think, and develop in a way that suits
2. Verb. to put blanks between (words, letters, or lines)
Yes, to the freedom to live, think, and develop in a therapeutic that exceeds the tight definitions of colonial structures.
Yes to putting blanks between new and client – making SPACE for experiments in creative social practice and for processes through which we generate meaning within our own lives[ix], and in Ana-Maurine Lara’s words, can be “…together in this ceremony, to be spiritually, emotionally and physically present – to approach the production of knowledge as a collective responsibility that is both embodied and relational”[x]
Yes to allowing the gaps; to the capacity to be less grasp and more flow; to be with what we don’t know and in vibrant and fluid relation with the unknowable[xi].
YES TO THIS KIND OF SPACE.
Many wonderful collaborators and co-conspirators are already keen to contribute to making SPACE in these ways. The initial offering - A Series of Unruly Formations – are online gatherings for the therapeutically-curious (which includes anyone currently practicing, studying, experiencing or interested in therapeutic processes). These gatherings are offered, not as a substitute for individual therapy, but as SPACE where we can work with creative social practice, be nourished with black feminisms, and usher in an emergent therapeutic Otherwise.
Interested in this mission? Subscribe for updates (and dates and times and invites)
Yours, in the love of the SPACE between
[i] Tina Campt (2017) Listening To Images.
[ii] Inspired by the work of Christina Sharpe [ In The Wake (2016)]
[iii] Hartman, S.V. & Wilderson, F.B III The Position of the Unthought. Qui Parle Vol. 13, No. 2 (Spring/Summer 2003), pp. 183-201
[iv]Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis, ed. Katherine McKittrick (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014)
[v] Kathryn Yusoff (2019) A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None
[vi] Wangechi Mutu: On the End of eating Everything https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=the+end+of+eating+everything+videos&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8#fpstate=ive&vld=cid:8cfc5c78,vid:yvGcO73MM-I
[vii] M. Jacqui Alexander (2005, 281). Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory, and the Sacred.
[viii] Some of the spaces and space-makers that have supported the development of my own practice; adrienne maree brown, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Barby Asante, Bayo Akomolafe, Erin Trent, Healing Justice London, Karine Bell, Prentis Hemphill, Resmaa Menakem, Women and Girls Network.
[ix] Leanne Betasamosake Simpson Land as Pedagogy. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society Vol.3, No. 3 2014, pp. 1-25 (2014)
[x] Lara, A-M (2020, 14) Queer Freedom: Black Sovereignty
[xi] Brown, J. (2021) Black Utopias: Speculative Life and the Music of Other Worlds
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