Dear Dr Third Eye aka Dr I don’t want your drama!
Albert Einstein once remarked that ‘insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’. I have often thought of the aptness of this quote, as I perpetually visited psychiatrists. The faint waft of hope circling my now cynical heart as I embarked upon yet another encounter with the ‘mind doctors’. Another human being, dressed accordingly in creased suit, hoping to reflect the masterly guise of God. What’s the difference between God and a psychiatrist? God knows he is, a psychiatrist thinks he is!
Walking into an office, often with a stranger who to put you at ease, sits on a chair slightly higher than yours, looking at you expectantly, whilst they expertly toy with a fountain pen and flick through a folder that essentially is a biography of your life, as told by a anonymous psychiatric ghost-writer.
Text books at the ready, reading robotically from the latest DSM or the World Health Organisation guidelines, the black ink not encouraging abstract thought, but more a renewed love for their life’s blood; the medical model. Quick to diagnose, to label, to define, they do so without any real understanding; not for them the perplexing and disturbing experience of a mind rotating at the speed of light until it lands forlornly in the metaphorical gutter.
Some may say my description is crude but sometimes it is important to exaggerate in order to compare and contrast differences or to be more precise to describe my experience of sitting in your office Dr Third Eye, on a cold November day.
The smile that conveys genuine warmth, rather than the obligatory professional grimace. The body language that breaks down barriers; open, relaxed and approachable rather than the expected rigidity and aloofness that serves to emphasise egotistical hierarchies.
Sitting in your office, I anxiously waited for you to read from my tablet, the disorganized list of issues that I had typed out the night before. Most, simply symptoms of deep anxiety, which of late has become my constant and inadmissible foe in the battle of insanity that plays out each day in my now encumbered mind. Waiting for the usual suggestions of drugs, intersected by the whisperings of the insatiable ‘Big Pharma’, its villainous pride at knowing another brain has succumbed to the desire to quieten one’s inner self and do away with the darkness within. Drugs to pacify, to dull and ultimately change the inherent ‘you’ that currently makes up your fragile sense of self.
However, instead you bewildered and astonished me. Not simply by reframing from offering me a side order of anti-psychotics but by sharing a personal story and all at once making yourself uniquely knowable, rather than another anonymous face in the medical practising elite. So few psychiatrists are willing to be seen, even less to admit to the foibles that flow through all of us, much preferring to be seen as ‘above and beyond’ the day to day existences, psychic pain and free flowing mental illnesses of their all too human patients.
Almost as soon as the story was told, you surprised me further by mentioning and talking in some depth about a thinker that I knew well. A German man, by the name of Eckhart Tolle, who after suffering for many years from tormenting depressions, had a life-changing spiritual-awakening that served to change not only the course of his life but also his fundamental understanding of the mind and the idea of self. His words, encapsulated in his many books, beautifully complimented the Buddhist beliefs that had been a part of my life since encountering a rather eccentric and marvellous English teacher at the age of sixteen.
It was a rather surreal experience talking about what you aptly called the ‘thought factory’, which accurately describes the constant and incessant deluge of chatter that our mind creates. As Eckhart himself would say, the mind is a wonderful tool, when used wisely. Though most of the time we are not taking full advantage of our minds, rather our minds are controlling us and driving us perfectly and uncontrollably insane. The ego; the angry, fearful and wanting chimp, exclusive to the more primitive part of our brains, given to acting like a tantrum-obsessed, egocentric, irrational two year old, hell bent on getting its plethora of needs met and causing a ruckus whatever the cost, our constant unrelenting companion. Learning to tame this mercurial beast is probably man’s greatest feat. Hey, just look at Politicians! However, this taming goes further, when we begin to question what a thought actually is and your analogy of this, re ‘we are the sky, everything else is simply the weather’ reminded me of the transient nature of thoughts. They come and they go, however preposterous or absurd they may be. I can wander anxiously after them, especially the more intrusive or uncomfortable ones creating more thoughts and magnifying my anxieties ten-fold or I can see them as just the accumulation of a ‘thought factory’ on over-drive, a guy in my head getting just a little too busy with his passion for invention. Funny, how when we refuse to play ball, ignoring his lame attempts at innovation, he suddenly loses his precious job!
Sometimes we need someone to tell us something we already know, whether it is to hear it afresh and/or arrive at different perspective or to blow away the dusty cobwebs of an understanding now gone a rye. So to hear you, in your own words talk of Eckhart was probably the greatest gift you could possibly give me. To remind me graciously that anxiety is always rooted in either the past or the future. For many of us, our fears, those things we run from, have already occurred, so why run or instead we fear those things that might happen, in some far off distant fuzzy future, a future not guaranteed. All we ever really have is ‘now’…………and even as I move my fingers to type my next word, that ‘now’ I just spoke of has passed, gone…….never to grace my presence again.
So how do we tame the beast, how do we remind ourselves to remain in the present, how do we challenge the incessant thought factory? If you’re Dr Third Eye, you give the ego, the mischievous chimp, the irrational and completely illogical dictator steering one’s slowly capsizing ship, an identity, a character, a name. For you, the constantly yapping, overly energetic, teeth baring Scrappy Doo, Scooby’s nephew I believe takes his place beside your trouser leg. How much easier, to deftly quieten a miniature cartoon dog, to see him as the manifestation of thoughts, the manifestation of ego, the guilty party in the drama waltz that distorts our lives.
I suppose there was only one thing left for me to do, as our hour and half conversation came to its natural end. Not simply to say goodbye or express gratitude but to begin contemplating exactly who I want to become and how I could find a way to help me move forward each day.
Well, we all know that ‘becoming’ is a life-long journey and forwards is always the only way but in the meantime since our encounter, I have sat back and reflected – accompanied as always by my partner, whose ability to apply the understandings he has learnt, however difficult, rather than simply ‘talk the talk’ as many seem inclined to do, has always served to astound me whilst equally inspiring me each and every day.
Maybe it was his understanding that led to the realisation that a manifestation of my thoughts could not be conjured up and visually brought to life in my mind like your four legged phantom, but that I would need something more real, more physical, something I could touch, hold and interact with………..
Therefore, as I draw this letter to its close, I know about time you say, and look across the room; my eyes are drawn to an orange and green monster eyeing me rather dubiously. My Partner thoughtfully found him; I am excitedly training him, through torture primarily, there is nothing like the pinch of a peg on devilish little toes.
And there we have it Dr Third Eye, a long and I do hope not too boring account of my encounter, with a perceivably crazy psychiatrist. A unique Psychiatrist, who needs a symbiotic relationship with his patients to make sense of his world, to make sense of ours!
With a heart full of gratitude and memories that will never leave me, the only appropriate way to end is to simply say:
Namaste Dr Third Eye