"We are all of us wounded people.
The is no such thing as a person
who is free from illness, incompleteness,
and injury to his or her personality.
Some of us can simply hide
from our woundedness
better than others."
Healthy, Functional, Evolved, Whole, Fulfilled
Be all five if you can. All are worthy goals. Here are some distinctions between them while you work at it.
Psychological health refers to an absence of symptoms and the presence of a consistently self-enhancing behavioral repertoir. It's a state rather than a process, though it gets flabby if growth comes to a halt for very long.
Functionality amounts to "healthy" rewritten to sound more systems-oriented. Therapists say functional when they mean relatively free of symptoms, like an engine that revs without knocking too hard. Unlike "healthy," however, "functional" is a negative concept, a zero, that doesn't address whether a person feels productive, awake, alive. My hope is that in a decade or so it will be recognized for the mental health ghost it is and ignored by everyone but insurance companies, who in the late '90's are still describing anxiety disorders as "psychoneurotic."
We've already glanced over evolved: it simply means "higher up in the developmental hierarchy." A child who masters "object constancy" is just as healthy, all else being equal, as an adolescent who learns to express his feelings verbally, but the adolescent is the more evolved of the two. The same with the twenty-year-old who adjusts to being out on his own and the eighty-year-old who monitors his fantasies for wise hints from the life within.
If functional means health on the surface and evolved health of the heights, whole has to do with a synthesis of the two. One can be functional but not evolved, and evolved with a finger or even a leg stuck back in the past; one is whole when all the pieces are present and available to consciousness and fitted together where they intrinsically belong. Healthily undivided, which is why Jung penned the controversial remark, "It is more important to be whole than to be good."
Psychological fulfillment (self-transcendence, higher wholeness, Valhallic health or vitality) is the struggle by which we overcome symptoms, suffering, or some other potentially debilitating obstacle, thereby converting a meaningless given, temporary or permanent, into an opportunity to rise to a greater inward depth and strength. It is a process rather than a state and has little to do with levels. Growth toward functionality, health, evolution, or wholeness requires mastering a lifelong series of graduated frustrations; growth through fulfillment requires mastering oneself in the presence of threats to one's very identity, the unfairness and unevenness of the battle lending it unique potential for an improbable leap into self-affirmation.
Let's face it: a scale of growth or enlightenment works well for many but has little relevance to the terminally ill or the catastrophically impaired, let alone to the Sydney Cartons among us, the unlikely heroes who trade a life--fulfill a life, rather--to save another's. At most scales can tell us where the person in question was developmentally before the last gasp or the final sacrifice, and expecting our constructs to do more would be illogical. Some time back the aging father of a friend of mine kept himself alive through years of illness in order to care for his wife, whose mind was failing; before he expired (which was just after professional care was obtained for her) he read a bit of spiritual literature while joking that it might prepare him for a Beyond in which he did not believe. A plainer contrast between textbook enlightenment and the fulfillment of still higher values can scarcely be imagined. I never even met this man, but the impact of what he did through an inconceivable outpouring of love and will touched many, me included. I hear there was very little left of him when he finally died.
When we climb the spiritual heights, the earthbound reach skyward, but when we sacrifice security or development or even our lives for higher loves, the very heavens lean down to touch the earth.
In some tales, Sir Percival, the young fool-turned-seeker who after years of wandering the wilderness discovers both the Grail and the Fisher King, an old man with a wound that never closes, cannot complete his mission until he first asks the King if he needs help and then hands over to him the Sacred Cup itself. A hint for spiritual seekers and model-designers!
Craig Chalquist, M.S.
Allies of Growth: Insect Way-Showers
The Gifts of Pain:
Stephen Levine has discovered in his work with the dying that our reactions to physical pain offer insight into our attitude toward life in general, and the more we push pain away, the less energy we have for living. Pain stirs our grief and brings up long-suppressed anxiety and unfinished business. Simple awareness has a healing power. He suggests that we can use each moment of unpleasantness, each insect bite or sting, if you will, to learn how to meet all unpleasantness, all pain, and investigate how resistance turns pain into suffering.
Thus discomfort can teach us how to live and take us to places otherwise inaccessible in our normal conscious state. Each incident provides an opportunity to stay in the present moment and bring awareness to the places inside us that recoil and harden in resistance. Softening around them, as Levine advises, lets us penetrate the armor that keeps life at bay and lets us live closer to the mystery. No one can live a pain-free life. Knowing there are gifts in painful experiences helps redeem them and helps to temper our responses if it is another species that brings the pain.
In her book Pain: the Challenge and the Gift, Marti Lynn Matthews considers pain as a guide, a biofeedback system that lets us know what is healthy and unhealthy for us. She says, "There is integrity in pain: it is not punishment but a force that pushes us into expansion. Without a push, we would never take the leap that would allow us to fly free."
Transforming Weaknesses Into Strengths:
Some cultures advocate the use of meditation and ritual to transform unpleasantness and discomfort and to further self-understanding. If you will recall from Chapter 3, Gyelsay Togmay Sangpo deepened his wisdom and compassion by attending to the lice on his body. In Path With A Heart, Jack Kornfield tells the story of a poisonous tree. On first discovering it, most people only see its danger. Their immediate reaction is to cut it down before someone is hurt. This is like our initial response to dangerous creatures. It is also our first response to other difficulties that arise in our lives, such as when we encounter aggression, compulsion, greed, and fear, or when we are faced with stress, loss, conflict, depression, or sorrow in ourselves and others. We feel great aversion and want to avoid it, or get rid of it. In the case of the poison tree, we cut it down or uproot it. In the case of an insect, spider or scorpion, we poison or stomp on it.
Others who have journeyed further along the spiritual path discover this poisonous tree and realize that to be open to life requires compassion for everything. Knowing the poisonous tree is somehow a part of them, they don1t want to cut it down. From kindness, they create boundaries around it. Perhaps they build a fence around the tree and post a warning sign so that others aren't poisoned and the tree may also live. This is a profound shift from judgment and fear to compassion. Applying it to the mosquito, we might search for a vaccine to protect the insect from the malarial parasite, while taking measures to prevent mosquitoes from feeding on people already afflicted with malaria.
Another type of person, who is extremely wise, comes upon the poisonous tree and is happy because the tree is just what he or she was looking for. This individual examines the poisonous fruit, analyzes its properties, and uses it as a medicine to heal the sick. By understanding and trusting that there is value in even the most difficult circumstance, the wise person's actions benefit a great many people. This may have been Wagner von Jauregg's attitude when he used the malarial parasite to save thousands of syphilitics from a slow and painful death. As mystical poet Jalaluddin Rumi said, "Every existence is poison to some and spirit-sweetness to others. Be the friend. Then you can eat from a poison jar and taste only clear discrimination."
Perhaps, on the deepest levels, we already know that within adversity is a gift. It is why we are so fascinated with the creatures that can arouse us and initiate our transformations. In dreaming our psyche informs us in symbolic language about the role of fear, pain, and death as prerequisites for growth and renewal. And some deep aspect of self must activate the internal and external events, bringing us the creatures and experiences we need to initiate our own rite of passage and move toward healing and growth. We can dream those experiences, or we can unwittingly draw from the natural world the physical presences that will fit our particular needs Following shamanic wisdom, we could support our initiations by naming the creatures that we fear as our allies. It's a practical way to begin courting their power. What happens if, following Hildegard of Bingen's lead, we call dangerous creatures "glittering, glistening mirrors of divinity?" Are these not the passwords to open the door to our greater identity? Maybe all we are required to do is to meet adversity and pain with our respectful attention and be willing to learn from it. Instead of killing the creatures with the potential to harm us, seeing with the eyes of wisdom, we can dance around them and allow difficulties to become our good fortune.
"Go to the edge," the voice said.
"No!" they said. "We will fall."
"Go to the edge," the voice said.
"No!" they said. "We will be pushed over."
"Go to the edge," the voice said.
So they went . . .
and they were pushed . . .
and they flew . . ."
Excerpts from 'The Voice of the Infinite in the Small:
Subtitle: Revisioning the Insect-Human Connection.'
by Joanne Lauck, M.S.
Self-Healing and Your 100% Brain
"All living things are inherently equipped to have a complete, self-sufficient and healthy life. Ill health is an unnatural state. Unless living organisms are deprived of essential needs or have suffered injuries, they are intrinsically prepared to be free of disease. The healing process of an organism is within each living system itself, just like the process of respiration, digestion, secretion and reproduction. Health is a natural state, because it is harmony and balance. It is homeostasis. What makes Homo sapiens different from other living creatures regarding health? The answer is primarily emotional attitude, and the failure to use completely all of its species' brain potential!" (Melvin D. Saunders)
"The longer I live the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.
We cannot change our past we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing that we can do is to play on the one string we have and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you we are in charge of our attitudes." (Charles Swindoll)
"You are responsible for your thinking. Change your thinking and life will get better. But, what thoughts do you change? Your troublesome thoughts about a situation can easily be found in your self-talk. Self-talk is that inner running dialogue you have with yourself. It is what you tell yourself about life's situations.
All of us have a voice that talks to us. You might think of it as your conscience. It might be that "inner observer" who seems to sit in the corner and watches everything you do. You may recognize it as that voice that starts talking to you upon awakening in the morning. Sometimes it may wait until you look in the mirror before it actually speaks. It is that voice that says, "You sure are handsome." or "What a wonderful person you are." Or "You are going to have a great day." It might say, "You are so slim and your hair looks beautiful." If you donít' recognize this voice, then yours may be speaking to you in a different tone. You might be hearing, You look like crap today" or "You sure have gained a lot of weight." "Your hair is a mess." "It's is a terrible day! Get back in bed." This voice, the negative, critical one, is one of the main reasons we have so many problems. It can destroy resiliency by opening the flood gates and draining away your energy.
This voice can make anything worse. You may be like most people and know how to take any small problem, think about it for awhile, and have a bigger problem. That little voice keeps telling you what might go wrong. All of the dark possibilities are pointed out. The imagination creates a very bad situation. The problem goes from a mild annoyance to a major catastrophe as you convince yourself that the imagined situation is the real situation. You are now busy confronting a problem that only exists in your mind.
To change your attitude you must change the inner dialogue. To change the dialogue you must catch it in action. To do this you have to pay attention to yourself. You must engage in self-observation and listen for that inner voice."
Dr. Dan Johnston, Ph.D.
"Sometimes life falls apart, and we have to put it back together. In these times, we often seek a cure to eradicate the problem so that it no longer exists. Unfortunately, every problem does not have a cure. But by recognizing this fact, we may be able to achieve something even better: healing.
Curing and healing are different. Healing is to be made whole, and it is fundamentally a psychological and spiritual process. Healing occurs when we accept the reality of what is and continue to live a full life.
We can help to heal the wounds inflicted by life's challenges each day by addressing the four levels of the healing process:
1. Bodily healing: This is what we usually focus on. We strive to make the body well and to be physically healthy.
2. Emotional healing: When we accept all of our emotions without judgment and express them to others, we achieve emotional healing. This healing is not attained through emotional explosions nor does holding back from tenderness and love access it. Emotional healing is being aware of what you feel and being able to engage the emotion.
3. Mental healing: Our attitudes, beliefs and values determine our mental healing. The goal here is to gain perspective on the situation at hand, and to face it with a positive, realistic attitude. Mental healing provides the wisdom needed for daily living.
4. Spiritual healing: This gives you a sense of connection, meaning and purpose. Through spiritual healing, you are able to look with awe upon the simplest events of life and to appreciate their beauty. No longer feeling isolated, you look at the world through the eyes of love and ask, "What can I do for others?"
Dr. Dan Johnston, Ph.D.
Never bear more than one kind
of trouble at a time.
Some people bear three--
all they have had,
all they have now,
and all they expect to have.
--Edward Everett Hale
"The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude." (William James)
"In the final analysis, the question of why bad things happen to good people translates itself into some very different questions, no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it has happened." (Harold S. Kushner)
"Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it."
"Grant that I may be given appropriate difficulties and sufferings on this journey that my heart may be truly awakened and my practice of liberation and universal compassion truly fulfilled." (Tibetan prayer)
"Meditation tends to lower or normalize blood pressure, pulse rate, and the levels of stress hormones in the blood. It produces changes in brain-wave patterns, showing less excitability. . . . Meditation also raises the pain threshold and reduces one's biological age. . . . In short, it reduces wear and tear on both body and mind, helping people live better and longer." (Bernie Siegel, M.D)
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