Sunday, November 23, 2008

Soul Paralysis

Timing is surely a perplexing thing. Yesterday, I decided to clear off some outdated papers hanging on my fridge, and one was an old schedule of my flamenco teacher, Victorio, who's now teaching in a new location.

What was under it was a message I received almost two years ago from self-help author Gay Hendricks of The Hendricks Institute in reply to a question I'd sent about the spiritual nature of chronic physical pain to hear what he had to say about it.

I was in a very challenging state of mind at the time, angry at God and at a world that no longer made sense to me, for absolutely nothing I was reading was providing any solace at all for my wounded soul and for the spiritual debacle of my aching jaw and face, which back then was scoring an 11 on a 10-point pain scale.

As I was on the institute's email list (and still am), I decided to put Gay in the hotseat in response to the its current newsletter at the time, as he and his wife, Kathlyn, always seem to have such a clear point of view on all matters of the heart and soul. I thought for sure he'd have nothing to say to me (why should he when no one else did?), and I'm quite certain there must have been an angry tone to my question (which unfortunately I can't precisely recall).

In reading his words yesterday and this evening, they make far more sense to me now then they did back then, when I wrote him off as just another nut who was out to blame the victim, for right from the start, he shared a life challenge of his own (weight issues in his youth), noting that his healing began when he realized "I was the source of my reality."

At first it was difficult to equate a weight problem and chronic pain, for the former seemed controllable to me (you can decide what you put in your mouth, which sounds unfairly simple, I'm aware) while the latter was out of the patient's hands. (How does one take personal responsibility for a bone marrow disease?)

But in reading his words again more carefully, something is resonating for me this time around.

He told me a short story of how he'd been obese since birth, and that his weight problem seemed to be genetic in origin, so he could have easily disowned it. But he had an insight in his 20s (when he was 100 pounds overweight), which was that he chose at that moment to be the source of the problem, and once that occurred, he began to lose the weight and has stayed slim ever since.

"It's the act of choosing to claim the source of the issue that liberates the healing energy," he said. "It's when you align your consciousness with it and say, 'This is me. This is happening in me. I'm obviously making it up because where else would it be coming from?' That's when the magic begins to happen."

At the time, these words just sounded kooky, hollow and abstract, for what did he mean by "source"? It rang of self-help jargon, for surely there was no question that the pain was IN me, but how was I "making it up"? Still, I kept a print-out of his words, where they became buried on the fridge until now.

And so I've been thinking about it. In a recent post ("The Wait Is Over"), I talked about embracing the pain as a part of me--not something to be waited out or wished away, but rather recognizing it as an essential part of the journey that has made me all I am today...a person I've come to like, actually. A lot.

And then I began to think about the "source" of this pain--of all pain in my life, not just the physical--and I could see how much I've absorbed the strengths and weaknesses of my relatives, for good or bad, and how I've embodied, in particular, the awful truths they've believed about themselves.

When you're a kid, your parents are who they perceive themselves to be because of their own upbringing, and you accept them as that, just as you accept the perceptions they have of you as absolute truth. And it dawned on me that, despite years of therapy, the scars I carry from the harrowing, constant criticisms are actually still open wounds to a degree.

When I was a child, any time I bravely expressed any individuality, there was some dark force that seemed to be lying in wait for me to take that chance so that it could seize the opportunity, almost ravenously, to denigrate, mock and ridicule. It hurts me to even remember this, because I can feel a twinge of fear that all those comments about me were actually true (words I find hard to repeat here, as they still hurt so much).

I've had to learn to detach myself from them and realize that my loved ones were so insecure themselves, and that it must have given them (my dad in particular) a sense of great and much-needed power to hurt and manipulate a defenseless child.

I could sit here and plague myself with questions as to why he did this--why anyone would feel a need to destroy instead of build up the foundation of my personality--but they can never be answered, really.

The only thing I can do is tend to the scars, and claim my fears now as strictly my own, not coming from any outside source. They're within me, and it's up to me to own them, and to realize it's me who's choosing to not let them go.

Why? Well, again it's just history repeating in a brain loop that I must somehow learn to interrupt.

I'm not on any pain medication today, so I've been asking myself why I haven't gone down to my studio to work on the new paintings I'm so thrilled about, and the answer is clear. I want to forge ahead with this thrilling work, much like I did as a child, when I joyously wanted to venture into a world of discovery and chance.

Back then, though, these forays were met with sadistic criticism, and my disappointment was profound, even crushing. I suppose it's not big leap to see my fear that any stabs I make at individuality, fulfillment and success will be met with terrible disappointment, and so I freeze in a temporary state of soul paralysis where I simply don't move, literally.

Yet I'm aware that if I don't start taking some real chances here, healing on any level won't happen for sure.

I'm afraid that a pain-free, pill-free world will be stark, scary, disappointing, and perhaps worst of all, boring. That might surprise some people, as I seem to be all about adventure and creativity and putting myself out there. But have I really?

Today is a clear-headed day, and the pain is low to moderate. Will I be so open to these thoughts when caught again in the vice of crushing pain? I'm always optimistic that the most recent attack will be my last, but realistically, I'll be confronted with the beast again, I know. Will Gay's words resonate then?

I can't think about this anymore. Where's the remote?


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