Conversational collages 1

The following are a collage of conversation extracts taken from transcripts carried out as phenomenological, reflexive research between Pam Baldacchino and Dr. Benna Chase. This aims to testify to the possible benefits of Deep Shelter Project for patients at the Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre, Mater Dei Hospital. The research question being addressed is:

To explore and understand how Deep Shelter, an art project, can be used by therapists and clients within the oncology support services to reach an interior space of deep reflection and understanding.

Benna: With one particular client who has been through a lot and she is going to face a lot…This person is presently highly anxious…I showed her the film (Remembering Yesterday). I think that (the visuals) is what she needed at the moment because it would have been too overwhelming to concentrate on and relive what happened in the past and to deal with what could happen in the future, even in therapy.

Pam: Are you saying that perhaps when we go through therapy, where we express ourselves through words so as to remember what we have been through or describe what we are feeling, there could be a more gentle way of allowing a person to come to terms with what they are going through?...Can the audio-visuals help the person on a deeper, less conscious level?

Benna: The feeling in itself is more on an unconscious level. I suppose what you are bringing back to our patients is something that we have lost in Malta because of the buildings, the traffic…we’ve lost nature and even if we are surrounded by sea, when you go to the beach it’s crowded. What you are bringing back is a space in us which we’ve forgotten exists and this is very important, very unique… So it’s like a connection on an unconscious level that we are touching and in a way you bring up Humanity’s hand and I’m saying is this the level of humanity which we don’t pay attention to?’

Pam: One identifies a loss. Maybe we are in a kind of bereavement and we don’t even know it. Also one identifies a need, because once you lose something that you had, even though you might not actually know you had it but we did have it…it is part of our collective inheritance…so there’s this loss that reveals this need that come out again with illness when you face your mortality.

Benna: It’s really interesting, but when I asked my client, before showing her Remembering Yesterday, how she was feeling from 1 to 10, 10 being very good, I didn’t realise the music wasn’t on. Before the visuals she said it was 5 and I asked her afterwards and it came up to 9.

With another client I chose Circle of Belonging. The film tells the clients to take care of their breathing. What helps this particular client is being centred. She was very quiet, she was concentrating, so when I was trying to get her back to her feelings, she couldn’t do it but this kept her there. I usually tell clients to tell me their feelings and for many people who find their feelings terrifying at that moment, the film is not as threatening.

Pam: What does helping someone to centre mean? To centre oneself is to connect with your core.

Benna: On a more superficial level, it helps you not to be all over the place. But on a deeper level, if you’re centred and you are in touch with your core, it a place where you find strength.

Pam: Maybe it is a place where you gain perspective because you are more focused?

Benna: Yes, but I think there is more than that. I think when you are centering you are coming in touch with your inner strength which many of us forget about when we are ill. People say, “How did she cope, if I had to go through that, I’d fall to pieces”... So when you are really centering, for me, it’s coming in touch with that inner strength. So that would be a deeper level. There is a part where you are centering, where you aren’t all over the place, you are more focused. But then I find, there is a difficulty which these audio-visuals meet. Looking at them, there is a level of insight, a level of self-reflexivity that the person is capable of doing through them.’