Hide and seek

kids art040

It’s a joy to be hidden but a disaster not to be found. -D.W. Winnicott

True in any game of hide and seek, and meaningful in deeper ways. Winnicott, the British pediatrician/psychoanalyst, was a wise and playful man, and an important influence for me in work with kids.

A fifteen year-old girl comes into my office and refuses to speak, to draw, to do anything. We have known each other for years, have seen each other every week in art therapy sessions, and have lots of history together. Ours is a strong relationship, but these days she’s pretty unhappy, and having to come to therapy makes her feel even worse. She barely even bothers to roll her eyes at me when I talk to her, just puts her head down on the table. It’s going to be a long 50 minutes. So I start drawing her. There’s really not much else I can do. For a long time, she doesn’t stir. But she has been listening to the scratching sounds of the colored pencils I’m using, and she is curious about what I’m drawing. Eventually it’s too much for her, and she lifts her head.

at015She is visibly pleased by the drawing, or maybe just by the fact that I drew her, and we chat a little bit, nothing heavy, before she leaves. She thinks I ruined the drawing with those spikes coming out of her arms, and I can’t disagree. She laughs when I tell her I was just trying to draw her porcupine quills. Things feel comfortable, things feel safe. We are both relieved.

The following week she’s not talking again.

It’s a joy to be hidden but a disaster not to be found. Sometimes the best gift we can give is to be present, and wait until someone wants to be found. And find a way to remind them that they probably really DO want to be found.