Creative Therapeutic Writing

3 folders: 3  extracts from 3 extracts in this piece

3 folders: 3 chapters, 3 extracts in this piece

On Young Men
and Older Women

Exploratory writing led to a theme which I kept noticing turning up through several chapters in my book ms. The theme: younger men. Did I (and do I) find them attractive?

An unequivocal: yes, returned pretty quickly. But lustful thoughts, not really.

In her illustrated book: The Boy, Germaine Greer writes of adolescent and younger boys – their beauty, their youth and how adolescents have been enjoyed and admired throughout the ages by men and women alike.

My young men had, in fact, reached their maturity – decades younger than me, now in my mid-sixties. All my writing was triggered from just one tiny scene in a long busy dream:

Dream Snatch: Everything Starts with a Cup of Coffee

I was at a large outdoors event and joined a queue in front of a stall with an awning for morning buns and coffee. The young man serving tells me the coffee from the percolator is finished: Will I accept instant coffee? I hardly ever drink instant coffee, but I want my morning coffee so I agree and drink it quickly. By this time he tells me the real coffee is ready. He gives me a cup of coffee mounded with white froth. It looks divine. It tastes fantastic. It is the best cup of coffee I have ever seen or drunk.

As I explained this dream snatch, I noticed how I’d moved from past to present tense. I stayed in the present tense with the following imaginative scenes. I wanted to find out more about the significance of the young man and the dream cup of coffee. I was intrigued this was the best cup of coffee I’d ever been given and settled down naturally with a genuine one to give myself authenticity: actually a very good cup of coffee. A real cup of coffee. The warmth spread through my mouth, the taste was velvety smooth. . .

The Exploratory Write-Up

I started by describing the young man:

You are an attractive man. About thirty something. Dark hair, several day’s stubble growth. This is the best cup of coffee I have ever been given. Thank you.

That was pretty short, so I went over the scene again with my eyes closed to visualize the scene:

A sexy young man gives me the best cup of coffee I have ever been given. Thank you, I say. And he replies: a pleasure and smiles at me. What a pity I am not thirty something and he could make himself a cup of coffee and we could find a table somewhere and have a quiet talk. And then go off for a walk into the countryside. I can see a path leading away from this crowded celebratory gathering. We could walk down this path. Talk. And be silent. And sit somewhere in a glade. And then I might stare into his eyes. And he might stare into mine.

The stuff of fairy stories and romantic novels. That was really a surprise write. From best cup of coffee to imagining myself at thirty and having a romantic rendezvous. A pleasant few minutes writing. Was that rubbish? Was it meaningful? Certainly it was fantasy. A waking fantasy. Second best to a dream.

This is the sort of hypnagogic state I go into when my imagination freewheels as the drama is happening inside my head. Preparing myself to write I quieten down, become aware of my breath, allow it to deepen, give myself over to slowness and then I enter this imaginative space.

Taking on the Masculine Identity of the Young Man

At sixty something a young man was not going to walk down a green glade with me hand in hand. In a psychotherapeutic framework, certainly from a gestalt perspective, I needed to complete this exploration by taking on the voice and perspective of the young man. I needed to find my own inner male self and understand what he represented. I used the ‘I’ Voice, kept in the present tense and included dialogue. First of all I made a simple statement, which took me into the piece:

I am thirty-two years old and a man. An older woman comes and asks me for a cup of coffee but I can only give her an instant quickly. A quick one. Is that what she wants?

I will magic up the most spectacular cup of coffee she has ever had. That will please her. She smiles nicely. I wonder what she is thinking when she smiles at me. Maybe she likes me. I certainly like her. Here is a better cup of coffee, I say as I hand it to her. Thank you, she says. A pleasure, I say.

(Chapter 1 – Dream Snatcher: book ms.)

The next piece took the writing about my young man a little further, a little deeper.

Androgyny: the Masculine and Feminine Principles of the Psyche

The American Jungian analyst, Dr June Singer (1920-2004) wrote about the potency of androgyny as a concept: the power (inner strength) lies in the openness to the opposites within oneself.
Singer 1989 (p.17)

This next extract is in keeping with this concept of androgyny:

I am the young man within Monica. In fact I am part of her. I inhabit her not through sex but by being inside her very being, inside her skin. I am the inner young man: the one to protect her; the one to be practical and the one to be strong.

(Chapter 3 – Erotic Alert: book ms)

Young man as protector. Opposites balanced in terms of age and gender. Not a bad interpretation of androgyny for me. This final piece is about a real young man I met in 2012: my camel guide on a Moroccan trip to the desert.

Safe in the Sand Dunes

It was March and warm. I ambled gently on a camel called Abu led by Karsch, a young man of twenty five, the Berber guide. My thoughts led back to the young man in my cup of coffee dream and reflections on my inner and outer self coming together. I thought about my own animus, the masculine part of myself. Real life far from home, a proper journey. I was not a bit afraid. Perfectly safe. A young man as guide and protector.

(Chapter 4 – Raw Heart: book ms)

And so from starting with an imaginative and romantic young man in a dream, I discovered an attraction to younger men which I don’t think I had admitted to myself before. In the end, it’s about looking and appreciating their beauty, but the exploration led me to consider my own inner male qualities (with only short extracts here). In turn that made me realize, I often rely on those qualities in the young men (like Karsch) who appear in my life.

A circuitous line of thought with writing I followed through several chapters. And what did Karsch talk to me about? The girl he loved, of course, and all his own trials and tribulations about her. As a Mum I’m good at listening to young men, and women, about their love-troubled lives.

********

Writing Exercise

This is an exercise to follow to find an inner young man or boy; an inner younger woman or girl, or even to reverse the age into an imagined older version of the self. These are the guidelines I would follow for any of my numerous inner selves:

* Find your inner self and decide on gender and age
* Describe his/her physical appearance
* Free-write (writing without censoring) to him/her
* Write yourself a letter from this inner self and write a reply
* Write a dialogue between him/her and yourself
* Reflect on the characteristics she/he might give you in the present
* Remember to pause and breathe when writing imaginatively
* Keep in the present tense

ⓒ Monica Suswin

Read This:
Androgyny The Opposites Within by June Singer [1976] (1989).
Boston: Sigo Press
Gestalt Therapy Verbatim by Fritz Perls (1971).
New York: Bantam Books (still in print)

Look at (& Read):
The Boy by Germaine Greer. Thames & Hudson. London (2003).

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