29 Mar The Secret Ways We Help and Hinder Each Other
Years ago, a woman in her 70s came to see me with a long list of health problems. It seemed there was something wrong with almost every area of her life. As I listened to sound of defeat in her voice as she described the misery she was experiencing, I noticed myself think, “What a mess.” And I realized I was feeling her misery in myself, in my own body.
I also realized I was helping to perpetuate her situation. I know we’re crossing into woo-woo territory here, but hear me out. Built into virtually any longstanding pain or health problem is a secondary factor – one’s resistance to the experience. The resistance can both magnify the issue and cause it to become more firmly anchored in us. And even though she probably wasn’t conscious of it, I was validating that resistance by sending a subtle negative communication: “I resist your problems, too. I’m uncomfortable just imagining what your life is like. And just as you don’t accept this facet of your experience, neither do I.”
At the time I was studying a form of healing called Sat Nam Rasayan which entails the healer entering a meditative state wherein any sense of separation or resistance disappears. As one welcomes all perception, internal and external – thoughts, smells, sounds, feelings, tastes, images, etc. – an experience of equalization occurs. The “quiet” perceptions – a hidden thought, the air moving across one’s skin, a distant scent – come up in volume. And the “loud” perceptions – a prominent thought, a fire engine passing by, a sharp pain, a strongly scented detergent – come down in volume. All things meet in the middle, in an experience of deeply peaceful, neutral oneness, and there, healing happens.
So, when I noticed my resistance to this woman’s story, I relaxed. I accepted all of her and I accepted the feelings that arose in me as she spoke, and all the others in the room, from the sun streaming through the skylight to the ticking of the clock to the feeling of my clothes on my body, plus numerous other smells, thoughts, tastes, and feelings. I allowed it all to equalize into a sort of perceptual flatline, and I experienced a sense of expansion of the space within and around us.
And then she changed.
She stopped talking for a moment, blinked, and took a deep breath. Then her voice had a different, stronger quality to it as she said, “You know, I’m going to get healthy again. Tell me what to do.”
Usually I restrain myself from prescribing a total life overhaul because it’s simply too much for most people to implement at once. And if they dive in and then fail, it may hurt their ability to trust themselves and undermine future efforts toward healthy change. But in this case, I felt daring. I laid out all the things I thought she should change, from diet to sleep to her relationship with her adult children.
Months passed and she didn’t return. I wondered if my treatment didn’t work, or if I pushed her too hard, or if she had died. Hey, sometimes that’s just where your mind goes. Anyway, eventually, I saw her name in the appointment book and I was eager to hear what happened.
It was one of the most dramatic transformations I’ve ever seen in a patient. She was a new woman. Her eyes were clear and sharp, her voice was strong, she sat up straight and looked confident and youthful. I asked her, “Were you able to make any of the changes I recommended?”
“All of them,” she replied.
And that was pretty much that. I saw her a few more times for minor things, but she just didn’t need me. Of course, we can assume that her own actions were instrumental in her healing, but I tell you, everything shifted when I chose to hold her differently.
Since then, I try to avoid mirroring people’s resistance back to them. I feel the angst of their struggle with unwanted experiences and I work to accept the whole individual, allowing their state to equalize into the broader field of my awareness. I can’t say I always succeed at this or that the result is always miraculous when I do. In fact, I’ve found it’s best not to do it for the result. I just do it because there’s no point in resisting. And because I’d rather see people as I believe they really are – not victims of their circumstances, but powerful and perfect, and temporarily confused about who and what they really are.
So, let’s try some more equalization this week. Notice your resistance. Notice others’ resistance. As you perceive it, broaden your perception to include more and more of your total mental and multisensory experience, allowing the field to equalize. Allowing the subtle to come up and the noisy to settle down, everything evening into a still neutrality. Then share your experience here, if you feel like it.
Dr. Peter Borten
P.S. If you missed my first article on equalization last week, you can click here to read it.
P.P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about this and other approaches for resolving pain of all kinds, check out my new online course, Live Pain Free.
JoLynne AndersonPosted at 23:15h, 29 March
This is wonderful! I wish more providers practices these principles, when providing care. True connection.
Peter BortenPosted at 16:30h, 30 March
YvonnePosted at 04:57h, 02 April
This is wonderful….I will be 70 years old in October and my life has become too much of a confused challenge; I cannot even tell you how I came to this page but I am grateful and oh so thankful….and will not stop reading!!!! Still so much to learn in this life….
JoLynne AndersonPosted at 23:16h, 29 March
Christy HarveyPosted at 01:13h, 30 March
This is exactly how the alchemy happens! I am delighted to see your post on this, clearly outlining the transformative steps we can take in each and every moment to reliably encourage a deeper experience of health.
Peter BortenPosted at 16:31h, 30 March
Thanks, Christy! I’m glad to know you’re doing this work too.
AnniePosted at 01:43h, 30 March
This is perfect! Thank you for your insight. So simple and yet so impactful.
Peter BortenPosted at 16:32h, 30 March
You’re welcome, Annie. And thank you.
TamiPosted at 01:56h, 30 March
I found this to be very relevant for myself. When others shame or judge resist a feeling that I have it tends to magnify the problem where I was when I feel accepted by a friend or partner and I am given space I heal almost immediately and grow. I know we aren’t ultimately responsible for other people’s feelings or emotions and we are all accountable for ourselves but I do think we can truly help each other and help the world be better by being more open and gracious. I just got out of a relationship where every feeling I had was shamed and rejected if it was negative and I’m now in one where I’m allowed to process (and have!) my feelings and it’s made a huge difference in being able to heal and feel stronger.
Peter BortenPosted at 16:33h, 30 March
Thank you for sharing, Tami. I’m glad you’re in a healthy relationship & that you’re able to be insightful about your process.
DenisePosted at 09:02h, 30 March
I love this! I am a nurse practitioner in a very busy inner city University hospital and I have found myself using this technique on rare occasions. I didn’t even realize it WAS a technique. There are times when my patients suck the life out of me, and other times when I can be completely present with them without drowning in their sorrows. Those are the times when I can offer the most help. I’m so glad you articulated it in a way that I can utilize it more purposefully. Thank you.
Peter BortenPosted at 16:34h, 30 March
Thanks, Denise. I’m so glad to hear that a nurse in an inner city hospital is tuned in in this way! We need more people like you.
Jan AbrahamPosted at 10:36h, 30 March
I had the most wonderful sensation of understanding, excitement, and hope when I read this article. It washed over me and through me and I believe this will be an incredible help! I had read about equalization in a book about Buddha getting “unstuck” and I had tried it while walking under-dressed in extreme cold last week. (A bit silly, but I was able to relax and feel less cold!) Your article, however, applied it to my life in a way that resonates with my soul. I know it will work and make an incredible difference, especially in relation to my sister and my son. Thank you!
Jan AbrahamPosted at 10:55h, 30 March
Too funny! Forgive me! It WAS your great article from last week that I had read on equalization. I was skiing on spring break. I have been to the Centotes, and I hate cold! I tried it on the mountain and when walking in flip flops and a running shirt back from the hot tub. (Temp was about 5°F, windchill -10!!) It worked!! Now I intend to apply it to loved ones in pain. I was also reading about Buddha…
Peter BortenPosted at 16:35h, 30 March
I’m glad to hear it worked! Yes, keep using it in more circumstances!
Peter BortenPosted at 16:34h, 30 March
Thanks, Jan, and you’re welcome!