Saturday, September 19, 2009

The voices in my head

Today is a bad day.  My adrenals were overactive during the night and I woke twice in the middle of a nightmare, with my heart pounding in my chest. Now, I'm exhausted, and as a result the skin around my eyes feels stretched and painful.

As I write, I'm noting the voices in my head that respond to what I'm doing; writing about my pain.

'Don't complain,' they say. "This is boring...who would want to read this?...heaps of people are sick, you're not the only don't want to be one of those boorish wingers do you?...'

A few years ago, when I started to do some of Stephen Levine's pain meditations I noticed that any time I so much as approached the areas where I felt 
exhaustion, pain, or discomfort, these voices would appear.  It has been interesting to observe them - their tone, their level of emotion, and whether they appear to be just a general voice, or the voice of someone specific.

What I started to notice is that the voice was often that of one person, a man, who, when I first got sick around a decade ago, I went to see as a 'healer'.  He used a combination of techniques - everything from meditation and reflexology to 
Neuro Linguistic Programing.

Unfortunately, instead of an improvement in my health, or any type of healing whatsoever, I walked away from this man with the idea that my illness was my fault, and there was something very wrong with me that I had to fix up in order to heal it.  One of the things he said constantly, as he was encouraging me to visualise being well, was "don't focus on the pain, you just need to walk through it, push through it to the other side."

Now, when I approach my pain in meditation what I hear is his voice, saying, "What are you doing 
focusing on pain?  This is just'll be sick forever if you dwell on this. You're just acting the victim, you're weak." All I can do in reaction is to let this voice be -  to note it, to feel the panicky sensation behind it, and the doubt and self-blame wrapped up in it.

Over time, hearing this voice has become a symbol for me; a  little signpost pops up in my mind that says, 'Keep going! You're on the right track!'  I think this is happening because know that if I rouse this voice, if I hear its 
insistent tones in my head, then I must be approaching what I am most afraid of, and what is most difficult for me - the minute by minute, present awareness of what is happening in my body right now. If this includes pain, then, unfortunately, that is what is happening.  I try to just allow any feelings to come up around the pain - bitterness, anger, annoyance, sadness, despair, self-blame - and let them all have their say.

In the background there is always the protesting voice of the 'healer' saying, "this is a waste of time, total indulgence!"  But increasingly, I can just feel the anxiety behind this voice, and let my fears
be. Occasionally I have the image of the 'healer' standing in front of me, holding something that represents my life (usually just a vague shape) in his hands.  I reach out, take the shape back and firmly say, "This is my life, I gave it over to you, but, I'm having it back. It's mine, not yours."  Each time this image arises I feel like I've taken one small step forward to taking my life back, and making his voice just a fraction smaller in my mind.

In Stephen Levine's excellent book 'Healing into Life and Death' he has a wonderful section on how holistic healers can sometimes be as damaging as they are healing.  Reading this was profoundly important to me in trying to understand how hurt I had been by the man I went to see as a 'healer.'  I felt like I wasn't the only one that had been affected in this way, and this helped to take a lot of my self-blame away.  In my next post I'll type out this section.

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