25 Jul Everyone Has Their Own Path
In the past 3 years of work around distributing “All The Rage” I have interacted with thousands of people in regards to mind body emotion issues. I’ve also continued to do a lot of work to become more aware of my own mind body issues and I feel like I have continued to slowly and steadily move down the path of awareness and healing. This does not mean that I consider my self “healed”. Perhaps the Buddha was healed and continues to live on in the form of enlightenment, but the rest of us all have the disease of being human and eventually it will kill us all.
A few profound realities have become even more clear though this process of sharing the film and continuing to be inquisitive and open to new awareness (i.e. not taking the position that I am healed or that I understand this situation as an “expert”).
1. Every single person’s path towards healing is profoundly their own. While it can be useful to read, or interact with, positive stories and experiences of others, comparing and contrasting our own journey’s with other people’s is rarely useful.
2. While there are many stories that sound like “miracle” recoveries those stories are actually way more complex than we realize. Perhaps we have read about a person who read Dr Sarno’s book and had an immediate cessation of pain. What we don’t hear is that they already had a strong inkling that something emotional was going on, and Dr Sarno’s words opened up a door that had already been cracked. If that door is instead locked, the worlds don’t penetrate as easily. We also don’t get the full understanding of how the struggle continued for that person and that they had to continually come back to the knowledge. Just as with our car or our house, things go well when we maintain them but tend to fall apart if we don’t check the oil or clean our air conditioning filters. Maintenance never stops being important.
3. Over time it has been quite easy for me to tell who will benefit from the knowledge and who won’t with some clarity. Often times I know that my information won’t land but I have learned to offer it up without expectation if I think there is some small possibility that the knowledge might plant a seed. I do so with the awareness that the chance of it helping in that moment is very slim. However, if the seed can be planted it can grow. Still, when I can tell that this seed will be seen as an assault I know to let it go, and this is the case much of the time. More than once I have offered this seed to someone and it has been ignored. Later when the problem is ongoing and talked about again, I notice that many mutual friends of ours who have had profound benefits of our film offer the person solace and support but not the knowledge. They all have benefitted from the understanding but have enough sense to know that all they can do is offer love, and don’t dare to offer awareness because understand that it will not land. This awareness helps, because people can take it or leave it, but about half the time, even if I offer it up without any energy of attachment (i.e. a sense that I need to be heard or that I am right) I get an angry response. Since I know that their response is their response I am not too bothered by the anger (though as a reforming goodist I still do get some sting).
For example, the other day a Facebook friend, whom I don’t really know, posted a plea for help with terrible back pain (fire symbols and all). I had a sense that there would be resistance because he was clearly in a place of desperation, and that place makes it very difficult to see past the overwhelming distraction of the pain. I went ahead and sent him a link to our film and said simply, “We made this film about Dr Sarno that might help “. A few minutes later he wrote back, “Looks interesting, but what exactly you advise to relieve pain and fix lower back?” I responded, “Dr Sarno’s approach was to think of pain as a mind body interaction- so the work is less physical than connecting the dots between the pain and emotional stresses – in an acute phase of pain it can be difficult to make the connection – the film is also quite personal.” I knew that he would not be able to hear it because he wanted a clear and simple answer, and the answer is neither clear or simple. However, since he asked a question I felt obligated to respond.
I could see that he clicked through the film watching less than 1% of it. Desperation often makes us want an immediate fix, which conversely makes it very difficult for us to be thoughtful, and if thoughtful inquisitiveness is necessary to solve this problem, then that desperation keeps us stuck. I have been there, so I have some insight into this. I have also talked to thousands of people, and from my experience desperation, and a desire to solve the problem right now, or have some solution outside of our own agency, often makes the process that much harder to work through. In short people who are truly inquisitive about what is going on have the ability to be open to the possibility that looking inward might prove answers. Even when we are feeling desperate we can find that space to listen but it is wildly more difficult.
Today that friend wrote a post about the results of an MRI that showed no real problems. I commented on that post, “it’s good to have confirmation that there is no major “physical” injury. the definition of pain is ” a physical and emotional response to tissue damage or the anticipation of tissue damage”. In other words the definition codifies that there is an equal measure of perception/emotion and physical damage. In general our medical system only focuses any attention on the physical aspect. As people have suggested, acupuncture might help relieve the pain. However, I also suggest thinking about various stressors that might be going on- things that might not seem to be the problem especially. The problems often have to deal with things we are trying very hard not to address – that seem not addressable. For example in Dr Sarno’s book he talks about some of his patients who perhaps love their mother in law- but are unconsciously enraged that she came to visit for a week but stayed 7 years. Dr Gabor Mate talks about this in his ground breaking book When The Body Says No. He points out that if you can’t say no – your body will do it for you- or to you.”
I didn’t really think this point would open the door, but hoped that the seed may be planted. I find it hard to let go of my desire to help people, to share the knowledge, so I balance that out with a deep awareness that the person might not want that information and might reject it; will even probably reject it. It’s important for me to hold this space because that way I can offer it without expectation, and I know from experience that expectation is carried wth the words even if we aren’t aware of it. This makes it more possible to not have a negative reaction when they react with anger, and it makes it possible for me to simply let it go. For example I offered some advice a couple of weeks ago to a twitter connection that I had given the film to a few weeks earlier, but whom had not watched it- but was very thankful for getting it. I hedged my words heavily, knowing that the advice might be rejected. She responded sharply and then blocked me. So it goes.
In short, the more resistant that people are to the ideas, the angrier they are about their illness or their pain, and the more desperate they are to find an immediate response, the less likely the will be to figure out how to open the door to awareness. There is not magic pill for that. I am not a therapist, and I don’t pretend to be one either. I can point people towards a path, and I can use the underlying metaphor in our film to help them connect with their own story and their own understanding. To use another metaphor, no one can push a horse into the water or make it drink. Anyone who is silly enough to try is only going to get themselves frustrated or possibly injured. So, my advice to everyone is to be good to yourself and to others, and to accept the fact that others may have trouble being good to themselves. Part of being good to them is finding a way to support them if you can, but also give yourself boundaries, recognizing that the people who struggle the most are often like a drowning person, and in their desperation they might try to pull us down to pull themselves up. You can’t save a drawing person if they are trying to pull you under. So, be comfortable handing them a life preserver, but if they are too desperate to grab it, maybe you shouldn’t jump in the water to pull them out. Again, it is much more likely that they will pull you under than that you will save them. That in itself is a form of finding balance for ourselves, and it is that kind of balance that allows us to continue to thrive and help other people. If you are going to jump into the water to help make sure you do it with some kind of flotation device or the ability to move out of the way if they become too dangerous.