by Hughes Mearns
Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away…
This portion of a poem by Hugh Mearns was recited to me by my Grandmother, if I was worrying about something. For me it has remained a powerful metaphor and a way to view anxiety, ie as something that doesn’t actually exist in reality.
In my work with students now, I talk about thinking and how from a thought we can create a unique story – our own version of events – and that through the amazing story telling ability of our mind, we will make it seem real, detailed, an entity almost. This is often how anxiety builds.
The poem, in it’s entirety, could appear to have other meanings, and many have been suggested. It has been cited in popular music and literature over time since it was written in 1899. Interestingly the poet’s intention was apparently a lot more literal; he based it on stories of a haunted house in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
It would be interesting to hear how you interpret the poem and what if any meaning resonates for you.
And try also to remind yourself -if you do feel anxious- that this is about your thinking and not always about a reality.