the Well

a glass of water —
how does this simplicity
measure side by side
against the whole edifice
of psychoanalysis?

The Well is one of the sixty-four hexagrams of the I Ching (no.48). I dreamed I was enjoying drinking water — the spirituality and purity emphasised by the vessel, a wide-brimmed bowl which felt ritualistic and special, and also by the fact that I was sharing the water with a spiritual brother. The man in question feels somewhat like a spiritual brother in real life, but I’d normally tend to dismiss that feeling. Partly because I don’t know him very well and only come into contact with him occasionally through my work. I also dreamed of a certain stretch of pavement on Kilburn High Rd. In 1994, my mother was living just the other side of Kilburn High Rd, in Brondesbury Rd. I slept one night in a shop doorway opposite the end of her road, and had a very bad nightmare about drinking water from the toilet cistern which was somehow more like hair gel than water. Through the eighties and nineties I used to take a weird pride in my frequent nightmares and in my ability to tolerate them. Arrogantly perhaps, I felt I was someone with a special ability to gaze without flinching into the very worst recesses of the human psyche. On this occasion however (the only such occasion), upon waking I gave way completely to fear. Compelled involuntarily, I ran from where I was sleeping, to my mother’s front door in the middle of the night, and started wildly ringing the bell, seeking some kind of comfort. I had regressed momentarily to childhood. She wasn’t in. Looking back, I feel inclined to suppose I was under the influence of the suggestive power of the idea ‘Oedipus’: I fell headlong into the Oedipal dynamic and acted it out, just by virtue of the suggestion exerted by the geographical location at the end of my mother’s road. Tree-lined Brondesbury Rd often looked to me just a little like a beckoning womb even in broad daylight. The archetypal Well is another womb symbol of course, too. In the preface to Wilhelm’s translation of the I Ching, Jung writes of hexagram 48 The Well. For him, the well symbolises the I Ching itself, and by extension the unconscious itself — and so, by extension perhaps, psychoanalysis itself. Freely available water = freely available wisdom. Just how freely available the wisdom of psychoanalysis actually is, is debatable of course. In practice, it tends to be for the educated middle classes only. It talks their language, and it takes their money.


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