A Tribute to Alan A. Mooney

THE LOOKING GLASS MAN

“Can’t you hear the music?” you said.
Laughter strained with sadness

Played an old concertina tune

Odd notes

Sometimes torn from the belly

Way down

The blues barked – single shrill sounds
Fragments dressed as metaphors

Flew around the room

Desperate …

“Forget the metaphors,” you said,

“Who are you?”
 
I stretched into silence

As my mind etched you.
And time forced a smile

Cool… quiet…

A smile…..

Connection rolled around the globe

Politics and priests and sex and ideas

And “is it?” and “are you?”

And “are we connecting?”

“And is it personal?”
And “can’t you hear the music?” you said,

And….

I could
 
Martina Boland

A Client’s Perspective

I was having my lunch on Tuesday 17th February. A woman approached me and offered
 me a copy of ‘Footprints‘. She was deaf and dumb. I thanked her and immediately 
thought about Alan, more specifically about a session in which we had discussed death,
 and the beautiful way death is expressed in sign language – as a gentle effortless liberation of the Breath and Spirit. I wondered that day whether this was one of those synchronistic events that sometimes prepare one for the more difficult turns in life’s journey.
 My mind has forgotten all the details of that particular session but my heart remembers
 his wonderful capacity to hold and stay with the more personal and sensitive disclosures.

Often these Moments of Meeting moved in and out of the silence between us, as feelings and eyes and body and breath and sometimes the voice registered the connection and 
sharing between persons. Sometimes these moments were torrid brutal affairs.
 Sometimes they were passionate and energetic. Sometimes they were quiet and simple.
 Often as clients, we enter the therapeutic chamber out of crisis – when the habits of a lifetime no longer seem to complement the process of personal growth. We make that call.
 We push out into the unknown with a stranger and begin the task of removing those lay
ers of learning that keep us living in the shade. It is a process that is fraught with confusion and paradox, but one that is also pregnant with intimacy. Robert F. Hobson, in 
trying to find the words that might express the contours and dimensions of the kind of 
intimacy that defines the therapeutic relationship, searched through the work of Joseph
 Conrad. He discovered the following:-

To snatch in a moment of courage, from the remorseless rush of time, a passing phase 
of life, is only the beginning of the task. The task approached in tenderness and faith is
 to hold up unquestioningly, without choice and without fear, the rescued fragment before 
all eyes in the light of a sincere mood. It is to show its vibration, its colour, its form; and
 through its movement, its form and its colour, reveal the substance of its truth – disclose
 its inspiring secret: the stress and passion within the core of each convincing moment”. 
(Conrad, 1994; 115)

I met Alan for the first time in May 1994. The telephone call had been made, the vital
 questions asked. I was held by the voice. On meeting him I was immediately struck by 
his physical presence and his obvious intellectual acumen. The first session was difficult. I was hyper-vigilant, wildly evaluating him and seriously impressed by his ability 
to duck and dive! At one stage he looked straight into my eyes and asked, “Do you think
 I’m psychic?” It was a most appropriate and insightful question at the time. I burst out 
laughing – stunned by his capacity to read and name in those few words the truth of the 
dynamic that had been moving between us. I burst out laughing – terrified and suddenly very aware of the proximity of his personal presence. I was also delighted that he was
 prepared to challenge me. I realised in those moments, as I sat there and held onto the 
writhing stress-laden fragment of my personal truth, that he had deliberately placed himself in the process – front-stage so to speak – and was asking that I also do the same. 
It was the beginning. The task had begun. There was an “I” and a “Thou”. I was
 relieved to leave his room that day. Privately I thought, ‘This guy is quite something.”

It is impossible to describe in its entirety the richness and aliveness of the experience of
 working with Alan. Words like respect, honesty, truth, compassion, humour, love came 
to mind. I was regularly struck by his bravery – his capacity to look at the more difficult
 aspects of life, to name them and search for creative solutions. Sometimes I witnessed 
real pain and suffering in him as he struggled to stay with me in my work. Regardless 
of strategies or techniques, a willingness to enter the abyss with a client in order to help 
and understand forges a kind of bravery that is special. I am grateful that he cared
 enough for me to do so. Indeed it was his professional caring – his empathy, his quest to 
understand, his availability, his honesty, his wonderful passion and sense of humour, his
 integrity and his constant willingness to challenge me down the line – these are just some 
of the elements of the relational fabric that helped me grow and develop in the years of
 my work with him.

Maybe it is, in hindsight, entirely appropriate that the woman who approached me that 
day in February was deaf and dumb, and that the message she offered me in “Footprints” 
was one of caring and compassion. There is a kind of connecting that plummets the 
silent depths of Heart and Soul, and from there reaches out to touch others. It is this kind 
of connecting that informs and defines the content and landscape of the therapeutic relationship. And sometimes it is in the reaching out and touching, each to the other, that we 
are healed and transformed – that a life lives and moves and breathes anew. With Alan I
 remember all of this and so much more. This was “the music” that moved in and around 
the space between us. He was an extraordinary and beautiful human being. I conclude 
with gratitude for the opportunity of knowing him, for the time allowed to work with
 him, and for the personal memories that I will always cherish.

I offer my deepest sympathy to Alan’s family and to his wife Maggie.

Martina Boland

References:


Conrad, J., 1994, The Nigger of the Narcissus – A Tale of the Sea in Forms of Feeling -
 The Heart of Psychotherapy, Hobson, Robert F, London, Routledge, 115.