Heat of course, what else!



It has been an incredibly hot week in London with temperatures reaching over 40 c on Tuesday! Some compared it with summers in the Mediterranean, but this did not resonate with me. My memories of Greek summers are many and still clearly formed. In those, heat is always tempered through other elements. If I were to give an amalgam representation of  Greek summers from childhood through the senses, I would say they felt hot like an inflamed mosquito bite soon to be cooled down by some lavender anti histamine cream, hot like a day on the beach, sweetened by a cone of ice cream from the nearest kiosk or by ice cold strawberry jelly eaten in the balcony when a breeze from the north started to blow; hot like sitting at outdoor tables on a busy city pavement eating calamari and chips and feeling the back of my legs get so sweaty that they get glued to the hard wicker chair, but soon enough, some wind blows from the sea, there is a hint of thunder and a walk by the seafront may even ask for a light cardigan.

The heat in London last week was unadulterated. The air was dry and hot like sitting in a sauna with no escape door. The sun’s rays seemed to quickly turn most grass in London from deep green to hay yellow. I had a, thankfully inconsequential, fall when I went for a jog on one of the cooler mornings and my foot got lodged into one of the deep cracks in the soil that looked like there must have been an earthquake. Very few people were out in the streets and of course, anyone who watched the news was quickly reminded that there were worse heatwaves in the south of Europe with temperatures hitting up to 47 c and wildfires raging across the world. Intense heat that cannot alternate regularly with states of coolness, any heat without respite is utterly catastrophic. It is not a coincidence that our collective representation of hell is of a hot place full of open fires.

Personally, I like heat in its vital forms such as in my possibly embellished memories of Greek summers in childhood. I certainly prefer it to damp coolness and its mental equivalent of depression. In the range of human emotion, we associate hot feelings with anger, rage and passion whether sexual or creative. It is interesting that especially within the British cultural context and within the British psychotherapy world as well both anger and intense passion are often regarded with suspicion. And yet, in my mind they are much preferable than the supposed coolness of repression or even worse the robotic anti-relational mental states linked with dissociation. The problem with the hot feelings though is how quickly they can create damage, as we tend to associate angry expression with violence and intense sexual passion with the risk of violation. This is in truth questionable as when anger turns into violence and supposed sexual passion causes violation, it may be that what is being expressed is hatred rather than any true anger or passion. In my mind, the main problem with hot feelings as well as with external high temperatures is that they can only be pleasurable if they are short in duration and alternated by cooler states. Who wants to burn with anger or sexual passion for a prolonged period of time?

Not finding balance between hot and cool is quickly becoming an alarming state of affairs for our planet and a grim reality that future generations will face all the more frequently. Equally, in inflammatory states of mind, it can prove very difficult to let go of hot feelings and this can have catastrophic effects for a person’s mental health. A small example of this in the past week, which I am sure many experienced in London, was how difficult it was to fall asleep in a hot bedroom where our bodies had no chance of cooling down. Insomnia is an inflammatory psychosomatic state that can, in its most extreme forms, be damaging for the brain and certainly damaging for our joie de vivre. So, it is clear that we all need to be asking the question on many different levels of how we can maintain enough cooling space in our external environment and within our psychic landscape.

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