Sunday, 6 January 2013

"It's been one of those dog days, doctor."

We Brits are, it seems, more sceptical about psychoanalysis than people in the USA. If you're the sort of person who thinks they'll get more sense out of a Schnauzer than a shrink, you may like two stories, one quoted as fact (of course I don't know the bloody source....) and one anecdotal.

1. If an American wants to be cured of schizophrenia, s/he'd do worse than fly over here. You are, apparently, twice as likely to be diagnosed as schizophrenic in  the USA than in the UK, if you consult a psychiatrist. 

2. A psychiatrist was delighted to see, walking down the street, an ex-patient who last he'd heard had been committed to an institution for his own safety, under the Mental Health Act. They chatted.

"So they have released you as well enough to go about your ordinary life?"
"So it seems."
"Great. So the voices have stopped?"
"Oh no. I've just stopped talking about them." 

Seems to me we're on a continuum; what's "normal?" I'm sure I'm often a bit "mad" in my head, but so far (where's some wood to touch?) it's not proved to be socially dysfunctional....

Despite my apparent sanity, and the fact I don't seem to need a psychoanalyst, I find some books by analysts and psychotherapists fascinating and rewarding. I reckon I'll read a new book,  "The Examined Life," by Stephen Grosz. The review by Michael Holroyd in Friday's "Spectator" is worth quoting, I think:

"Grosz invites his readers into his consulting room as a silent and invisible audience. So we learn what he has learnt: that achieving success often involves loss; that people like to use boredom as a form of aggression; that the eager promotion of self-esteem in children may well lead to laziness; that silence is valuable and can be interpreted; and that the only real time is the present ("the past is alive in the present...The future is not some place we're going to, but an idea in our mind now.")

Sounds like plenty of wisdom to be explored here. The last sentence, quoted directly from the book, relates in my mind to TS Eliot:

"Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable."

Eliot's explorations are often called "metaphysical," presumably because there's a Christian content to it, clearer at some points than at others. Grosz's are presumably labelled "psychiatric." 

I value anything that helps me explore the huge puzzles we find in Time, be it from a shrink or a poet. Doesn't matter how we label it when we find it in widely divergent fields of human enquiry, exploring presentmomentness is liberating and demanding. 

The future is not a place to which we are going; it is an idea, in my mind, in this present moment. Now that's a powerful thought to take on board, isn't it?


  1. That Lennon quote...

    I visited a friend's son in a mental hospital a while back. He told me that the only way to get out was to deny that he any longer heard voices. They let him out.

  2. Well, there we are then. Thanks Charles.