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  • Writer's pictureAl Tyers Therapy

Jasmine tea, green tea, uncertain-tea: tolerating the unknown

On teabags, surprises welcome and unwelcome, and the future

Two teabags propped up against a plant pot
Jasmine on the left, green tea on the right... probably

I am a loyalist to these teabags in the picture above, they’re very good and there’s two types I like. There’s a straight-up green tea and a jasmine green. The green is a bit more powerful and the jasmine one is a bit more floral, I guess. I am not an expert. It depends on my mood which I favour but overall I prefer the jasmine.

For some reason, I got a batch recently where the green ones are mislabelled: some of them are green, and some of them are jasmine. Strange, right? I guess a mix-up with the packaging or whatever. Once out of their wrapper, it’s hard, for me anyway, to tell which is which. I guess you could sniff them first but that might not be for everyone, and probably a bad habit to get into if you have to make someone else a cup of tea and they catch you giving the raw materials an exploratory snort.

Anyhow, each time I make a cup of tea now there’s something of a frisson (you have to take your excitements where you can, in lockdown) because I don’t know for sure whether it will be jasmine, or whether it will, in fact, be green.

You could approach this little coin flip into the unknown with trepidation, irritation, worry, excitement, curiosity. None of these would be wrong, really.

I suppose it would be preferable if your response was proportionate to the situation, although everyone differs at differing times in their reactions. Obviously if you were in considerable distress because you got green when you preferred jasmine this would be concerning.

I am broadly able to tolerate the uncertainty provoked by the unknown of the teabag, and this little game sometimes prompts me to reflect on my capacity, and clients’ capacity, for tolerating the uncertain in (vastly) more important and impactful life situations.

I have noticed that being very worried about the future correlates with issues around control, and specifically a lack of control. I would also say that people who have grown up in chaotic or untrustworthy environments can find it harder to approach life’s uncertainties with curiosity rather than dismay.

I have also noticed that by coming to understand more about why we felt insecure and unsettled in the past, that we can build our tolerance to uncertainty in the future. Therapy can be one way to do this.

We are obviously living in very uncertain times: Covid, finances both domestic and the broader economy, health physical and mental, injustice, the news and so on. Separating out what we can influence and what we cannot can be helpful in meeting the future with at least some optimism.

And sometimes we underestimate our capacity for dealing with setbacks. As an individual, you might consider saying to yourself: “I have been resilient before. I can be again.” To be alive is to face uncertainty and setbacks, but we have capacity to respond.


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