Sometimes, when you are forced into the dentist’s chair – with a heightened dread because you either fear another root canal filling, or even worse that an expensively maintained canal is in more trouble – if you are lucky the dentist, well mine does, will use the term ‘Watch and wait.’This is because roots canals have a life and mystery all of their own, which requires a financial budget to match them. I have become fond of this term, and leave the dentist in a mild state of elation that no immediate intervention is called for, although watching and waiting is not a state of being, which I easily apply to other areas of my life.
This morning I was up at about 5.30 to do my yoga, I haven’t been regular for the last few weeks since I fell into the soap sud bucket in France when I was giving the floor tiles a farewell clean. I was lucky because I fell forwards and not backwards, else I might still be supine in the local Bagnols hospital. But, then yesterday a friend wrote and told me, not quite a boast, that he had managed to get his head onto his knees that morning and that whilst doing so he had the thought that I was probably doing it every morning. That provoked me to restart my morning ritual and despite a sore knee I managed some yoga, which was good but when I saw how far away my head was from my knees, (I haven’t tried that one for months to be honest, I broke out into mild panic and started to breathe out a long ‘Aum’.)
At that point I looked out of the window and saw that a large car had imposed its body across our drive way and blocked us in and all my territorial adrenalin started to rise. How would we manage an early morning walk with the dogs before the heat became impossible again. I wanted to rush upstairs, to write an aggravated note and leave it across their windscreen. What a confounded ‘Cheek’.
Instead, I decided not to react but to watch and wait. Recently I have been reading books on the neuroplasticity of the brain, in preparation for my own book. Catching up on ideas that our brains are not, as previously pronounced across generations hardwired, but even as adults open to negotiations with our minds. And, that learning how to extend our senses towards mindful attention can change the neuron activities in our brains. Of course there are other ways of being mindful without resorting to meditation or a combination of Buddhism and the science of neuroplasticity, which is the direction that I am currently considering finding out more about. As a psychodynamic therapist it is only too easy to shut oneself up in a temenos, and I use that word with some deliberate criticism for its sense of elevated privilege, and not check out even the streams of knowledge that flow so close to your own. In this particular case it would mean giving more significant thought to whether or not cognitive behaviour therapy does have an important contribution, and perhaps more essential, a different contribution to make to the treatment of depression and anxiety.
The poet John Keats had his own technique which he called ‘Negative Capability’, by which I think he meant us to understand that the world is by nature uncertain and that when you are in the midst of one of its heaves you need to try work towards finding more acceptance and stay with whatever doubt or absence of comfort or whirlwind you find yourself in without irritably reaching after certainty and fact. The terrors of many things – which include depression and anxiety – are not knowing when they will pass. If one was to receive a letter saying you are now entering into one of the depressive phases of your life and it will be over six months from hence, it would be much easier to endure. Likewise many women would be able to tolerate ‘hot flushes’ without resorting to filling their bodies with dangerous chemicals with unknown side effects. Perhaps, even contributing to the current epidemic proportions we now have with women with breast cancers.
But, we never do know and our worst fear is that it will just go on and on forever.
For the time being I am putting myself on a watch and wait curve and trying to curb some – but not all – of my characteristic impulses of spontaneity and action with patience; and an energy focus on accepting whatever passes into my path. At least until the end of the week.
Oh, yes by the time I had finished my yoga the car drove off; I saw it was loaded up with suitcases and allowed myself to enjoy the thoughts of strangers departing for an unknown holiday destination with all the excitement of a 6 AM departure.