Chapter Fourteen - "Help Me --- I'm Tired Of Feeling Bad"

Chapter Fourteen

How the Brain Alerts Us To Its Distress

1. Specific body sensations or symptoms

2. Diffuse inner body states

3. Specific feelings

4. Thoughts, images and image sequences such as dreams

5. Unusual behaviours

6. Psychosomatic illnesses


1. Specific Body Sensations or Symptoms

These are among the brain's simplest methods of alerting us to the fact that we are in distress.

A racing heart or a pain in our head are examples of simple specific body sensations. Simple though they may be, you may be interested to note that the deepest causes may be very far away in time, and in space, from the physical sensations of which we first become aware. Thus, we are alerted but may have no idea what is wrong. This experience of realizing we are in distress, but having no idea of what is actually wrong, is common to all the alerting systems we will study. Even if we do know what is wrong in the present, more often than not it is resonating with something we do not know in the past.

- All week long my stomach has been killing me.

- All week long?

- Yeah, I guess it started last Sunday night when I had that fight with my daughter. She hates me.


2. Diffuse Inner Body States

Diffuse inner body states are just exactly that; they are an overall inner sense that something is wrong. For example, the general state of uneasiness which might permeate our being when we are somewhere we don't wish to be. Although these sensations are not coming from a specific organ within us, and although they seem at first difficult to grasp, they can be one of the most rewarding of our basic doorways into the unconscious. Once we develop the knack of focusing on them, we will discover that they are extraordinarily rich in texture. They will be seen to radiate from one or several places within the body all at the same time, different areas contributing different textures and intensities.

- I've been feeling kind of funny inside for several days. I can't quite put my finger on it. I just don't feel good. My buddy at work was fired last week. I guess I kind of wondered if I am next.


3. Specific Feelings

Feelings themselves are one of the most complex phenomena, the pursuit of which we will attempt to master. They lie inside and all around the other phenomena we will study. They intermingle with body sensations and diffuse body states. Sometimes they are in the foreground and sometimes in the background. But everywhere we go they will be our companions and our guides and sometimes contribute greatly to our confusion.

Nothing in depth therapy can match feelings in their fluidity of motion and in their ability to shift back and forth between themselves. Feelings are the shape changers of the regressive world.

Feelings are powerful; they travel in packs and they often do not get along with each other. They also travel in two different kinds of opposing pairs. They are the handmaidens of the brain's defences because they are quick; they can be vicious; and they are experts at spreading confusion. As if this weren't enough, they can be, and often are, invisible.

In spite of this impressive list of chaotic achievements, once they are house-broken they are our best friends. When we are damaged in childhood, it is our feelings more than anything else which become dysfunctional. It is one of the great paradoxes of the mind that we shall turn to these dysfunctional elements and rely on them in the end to lead us home to health.

- I've been so frightened lately. I just walk around all the time feeling scared. I guess it's been since my mother died.

Within the realm of feelings lie specific individual feelings and also two kinds of opposites:


A. Simple Benign Opposites

This first set of opposites are confusing but relatively benign. We can love someone and hate them at the same time. We can want something and not want it at the same time. These kinds of simple opposites spread confusion until someone gives us permission to let them live together.

- I can't be angry with him, I love him. Sometimes, however, I am so angry with him, I actually hate him. I know this doesn't make any sense because I love him.

- So you feel both love and hate for him at the same time?

- Isn't that crazy?

- It's what you feel.

- Yeah, I guess it is.


B. Complex Malignant Opposites

The brain has impulses and it has controls. A person without conrols is very, very dangerous. As necessary as controls are, however, in the damaged child they often grow too large and can later strangle the growth of the adult.

Over-control in adults can come from many places. When a child is terrified of its parents, it fears to speak up. It fears it will be killed or at the very least badly treated. This is a lesson it never forgets; it learns to control itself forever. The child's terror may grow so great that the adult it will become suppresses itself with a power that is quite malignant.

Furthermore, the damaged child always concludes that it is worthless. Otherwise, it reasons, why would people be hurting it? If it is worthless, nothing coming from within it could possibly have any value -- so again it shuts up for good.

As we struggle to liberate the mind in these kinds of people, an endless series of these malignant opposites begin to surface. These opposites lie everywhere within the mind and are the largest stumbling-blocks to its growth. They are the result of over-control and they serve to keep the mind's secrets well and truly hidden.

They also serve to prevent the expression of murderous rage toward ourselves or someone else.

I want - I'm not supposed to want

I love - I'm not supposed to love

I hate - I'm not supposed to hate

I think - I'm not supposed to think

I want to speak - I'm not supposed to speak

I'm an okay person - I'm the most disgusting, rotten thing that ever crawled on the face of the earth. I have no right to think, to feel or to do anything.

The list is endless and each item on it inhibits growth.The bottom line, of course, is that these people are not allowed to be. They have no right to exist on any level whatsoever. All forward motion in their growth, and in their therapy is therefore completely and finally terminated.

- I want to tell you how often my mother used to come home drunk.

- Tell me about it.

- I can't. I'm not allowed to say bad things about my mother. I want to but every time I start to talk about this I just can't.


4. Thoughts, Images, and Image Sequences such as Dreams

The thoughts, images, or image sequences, which come to us during our inner journey may be straightforward statements which require very little interpretation. They may, on the other hand, be highly symbolized and displaced representations of something we cannot easily see. Nothing is more ornate than a dream and yet, attended to with a few simple rules, dreams too can take us straight to the feeling-centre of an issue. After reading this whole manual, you will be ready to read the Appendix, which contains a very short trip into the unravelling of these seemingly exotic communications.

- This image of my baby being killed keeps coming into my mind.

- Killed?

- Yeah, someone sneaks into her room and strangles her. It's horrible. Am I going crazy or something?

* * *

- Last night I dreamt about a little tiny frog which was run over by a great big truck.


5. Unusual Behaviour

From time to time, we all find ourselves doing things that don't seem to make sense. Behaviour can range in its complexity all the way from multiple personality to simply hanging around with someone we never used to like. Whenever we do things which deviate from our usual routines, we may have something worth exploring. It is not my intention in this book to pursue this area in great depth. It deserves to be mentioned in passing, however, as something which may trigger our awareness to underlying difficulties.

- I think I had one of the strangest experiences that a woman can have last week.

- What was that?

- I went into the washroom in a restaurant. There was this guy standing in front of a urinal staring at me in surprise.

- So you were in the men's washroom?

- Yes. Why do you suppose I would make a mistake like that?


6. Psychosomatic Illnesses

Again, I am not intending to pursue this topic to any great degree except to re-confirm that unresolved emotional distress does damage the physical body. Whether it be the asthma of an unhappy child (although not all asthma comes from unhappiness) or the ulcer of an adult whose needs have never been met, these breakdowns in bodily function are also excellent doorways into the unconscious.

- My husband hit me again last week and I had the strangest reaction. I simply couldn't catch my breath. My family doctor said that it was an asthma attack. I've never had asthma before in my life.

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