I was in the waiting room at the dentist office in a ton of pain, so I thought how can I improve the moment and practice some distress tolerance. I looked over at People Magazine on my right. The front cover depicted a photograph of Natalie Wood. Then I thought, “let’s make a list of movies that were made on or before 1979, that I absolutely love.” Heck, it is better than my usual go-to distraction from medical fear and pain: trying to say, from memory, the preamble of the Declaration of Independence.
I searched for a piece of paper. I found the card cover for hotel key. It would do.
I came up with a lot of movies. Here they are in no particular order…
“Magnificent Seven” (cannot wait for the remake)
“This Property Condemned”
“The Goodbye Girl”
“Kramer vs. Kramer”
“Breakfast At Tiffany’s”
“Cat On A Hot Tin Roof”
“A Streetcar Named Desire”
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
“Splendor in the Grass”
“The Way We Were”
“Singin’ in the Rain”
“To Kill A Mockingbird”
“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”
“To Sir, With Love”
“A Patch of Blue”
“The Paper Chase”
“Terms of Endearment”
There were other films, too. I could not recall titles, only characters, scenes, and possibly actors.
Most of the basic suggestions for cognitive distress tolerance exercises involve counting, or breathing in and out a specific mantra. Those exercises did not fit that moment last night. I am glad that I have been exposed to so many different distraction techniques over three decades of sitting in waiting rooms. The exercise definitely kept me calm, and who knows maybe someone will benefit from these movie suggestions.
I knew I needed to be level-headed before I sat down in that dentist chair. And after making this list, my mind was straight and ready for anything. I was not sure whether the dentist was going to pull my tooth out of not, or if there was nerve damage.