Jan Fortune has just blogged on Why writers need to wait – indeed, not just writers but all artists. The virtue of waiting is not generally appreciated in our everyday worlds where anything that doesn’t arrive instantly runs the risk of being walked away from – or, more accurately, we run the risk of walking away from – and therefore losing – everything that does not come to us at the snap of the fingers.
This chimes so well with what I have said about therapeutic attitude that it might be considered an argument defining therapy as art but for the false dualism. Art and science are not a mutually exclusive dyad any more than body and mind. Each involves the other; And good scientific research also requires the capacity to wait.
I shall briefly recap on waiting in therapy as this is a blog on Therapeutic Attitude.
D. W. Winnicott, the ground-breaking paediatrician-turned-child-therapist probably best-known for the idea of the “good-enough mother” wrote of the “capacity in the therapist to contain the conflicts … and to wait for their resolution in the patient instead of anxiously looking around for a cure”. In doing so he was, whether he knew it or not, echoing the poet John Keats who wrote to his brother of his admiration for people who were “capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason”. (I suspect that Winnicott was perfectly aware of the connection because he also wrote elsewhere that, “if what I say has truth in it, this will already have been dealt with by the world’s poets”.)
This irritable reaching after cures and facts is something we see a great deal of at the moment. Perhaps it can come as some relief to know that it was also prevalent in Keats’ time.
Everything worth waiting for is worth the wait. Therapy and healing are creative processes, the instant therapy is a con and an addiction, your doctor is an artist as well as a scientist, and emergence is the key. We are living things, and development (of which healing is an example) is a living thing. We need to create the right conditions, be patient, and allow it to emerge.
- Winnicott, D. W. (1971). Therapeutic Consultations in Child Psychiatry (p2). London:
Hogarth & The Institute of Psycho-Analysis.
- Gittings, R. (1966). Selected Poems and Letters of John Keats (p40-41). Oxford: Heinemann Educational.
- Winnicott, D. W. (1986). Fear of breakdown. In: G. Kohon (Ed.). The British School of Psychoanalysis: The Independent Tradition (pp. 173–182). London: Free Association Books.