Self awareness is the starting part for all conscious healing. Through the simple act of becoming aware of yourself, you enter into a partnership with yourself, that may bring new insights, new intentions, new resolutions and new healing. The one partner is the observing self, the one who is conscious and aware of the other partner, he or she who is experiencing a specific moment in the journey of life.
I can become aware of myself in four distinct ways. Imagine you have a headache and you become aware of what you are experiencing. You are aware that you are thinking about your headache: My headache is very unpleasant, at the back of my head, I last had a headache when I ate too much chocolate. I fasted then, placed a cold ice compress over my forehead and took a remedy for my liver and gall bladder.
You are aware that you are perceiving the pain at the back of your head. I sense the pain as a very severe tight constricting pain that squeezes my head. You are also aware that this pain is making you feel very depressed because you were forced to miss an important meeting, then angry at yourself for eating excessively and then anxious that this may be more than an ordinary headache. Finally you are aware that you are wishing to get better, resolve to go and fetch some warm herbal tea, the liver remedy and the ice compress and proceed to treat yourself actively.
You have become aware of four different aspects of yourself and entered into a relationship with these four different parts of yourself: a thinking person who knows what happened previously and can take similar steps to remedy the unpleasant situation, a sensing person who experiences the actual pain, a feeling person who experiences very personally the emotional discomforts that result from the headache, and then finally a doing person who gets on with the healing.
You may well ask why I go to the lengths of opening up this experience of self awareness. It is because this little example holds the key to deep empowerment, transformation and self healing. Consider what is happening in this encounter with self:
Firstly, in order that I become aware of myself, I have to learn to look at myself. This is based on the normal cognitive action that happens whenever we want to become conscious about something, eg a tree, we observe it and name it an oak tree. We have to separate ourselves from the tree to see and recognize that it is a tree and if our perspective is not big enough we may confuse an elephants thigh for a tree trunk or its trunk for a swaying branch. We need perspective in order to recognize something and name it correctly. It is no different when we shine the spotlight on our own self, our own experience. We do this mostly unconsciously in naming, remembering, judging, admonishing or praising ourselves as we experience our every day living. We can learn the skill of looking at any aspect of our self as an objective observer, by actively stepping out of the experience into the position of the objective observer. We can do this cognitively (as in the normal situation) or we can do this dramatically by shifting physically away from our previous position and observing the spot imaginatively where we were positioned.
Secondly, the objective observer makes contact with four different parts of self, the very four partners that are able to relay the full experience of the headache to a self awareness that has a bigger perspective on the whole situation. Each part has a different job description and is responsible for a completely different mode and scope of operation. The more information sourced and relayed, the greater the potential for healing.
- The thinking partner provides in depth information about the nature of the health condition, and can convey this information to the observer in a positive or negative manner, depending on a host of preconditions and predisposing factors. Joanne who has a melancholic temperament, subject to self doubt and unworthiness, whose father died of a stroke, has had a long and painful history of headaches and constantly succumbs to headaches through excessive eating, may convey anxious self judgmental and despairing thoughts; whereas Jonathan who is more self assured and confident, has had previous headaches but sees this headache as a self motivating lesson in becoming more conscious of his food sensitivities and possibly finding other causes. Both will name it, recall their past experiences, give it meaning, judge it and deal with it according to their background situations.
- The sensing partner tells the observer about the current state of the body, the nature and severity of the pain, changes that occur, other bodily symptom and sensations. She is the one who is right inside the body and knows the situation best from within. The observer is well advised to listen closely to this information. She too will respond according to the memory of experience embedded inside the body. Thus Joanne has a long history of severe headaches that usually takes two days to clear, her bodily system is programmed to behave in a certain manner and her pain threshold as a melancholic is relatively low. Jonathan on the other hand also has had the headache before, but coped easily with it, overcoming it in a few hours through judicious self care. Generally, the victimized or harassed personality will experience pain more intensely than the self assured more actualized personality.
- The feeling partner informs the observer how the person herself is coping on the inner emotional level. It is essential to know how she is doing, whether she has the resilience, adaptability, resources and emotional intelligence to cope with the crisis situation, as well as realize that her state of being will have a powerful effect on the outcome of the headache. Joanne collapses emotionally each time she succumbs to these headaches, being reminded again of her failures and limitations. Jonathan on the other hand uses the occasion as an opportunity for new insights and self improvement.
- The doing person communicates by actions, he gets on with the job according to the directions and intuitions he is receiving from the other three partners, but also from other creative sources. He lies in bed or gets up, acts to help himself or not, has the will to explore the chronic problem or falls back in apathy. Joanne has little will to change her situation, whereas Jonathan actively makes use of adversity to change his.
Thirdly, all four aspects are in active and continuous participation with each other. Thus, the severe pain sensation may evoke in Joanne the thought my headache is very severe and may be dangerous, which creates an anxious feeling, illiciting an immediate phone call to the health practitioner. Jonathan discovers that his pain subsides when he calmly sees the positive value in the experience and actively begins to treat himself. ‘Sensing Joanne’ gives a message to ‘Thinking Joanne’ who activates ‘Feeling Joanne’, all of whom tell ‘Doing Joanne’ to immobilize herself. ‘Thinking Jonathan’ calms down ‘Feeling and Sensing Jonathan’ to instruct ‘Doing Jonathan’ to carry out his orders to restore health swiftly
Fourthly, the observer is in the favoured position to receive all this information, assimilate it and decide how best to act upon it. Usually he is in the best position to decide what is the right course of action for himself. He can see the bigger picture, possesses the most information and can make the best choices for his short and long term well being. Jonathan can decide to engage his thinking person and direct the other characters through rational and positive thought activity. He can examine his old beliefs that headaches are completely physiological and the best way to deal with them is by taking a pain killer. Or he can actively explore his feeling person to gauge the effects of past pain in his life. For this pain may connect with other experiences of pain he experienced as a child. He has learnt that the best way to uncover feelings is to express them dramatically through gesture or body movement, so he senses the pain in his head, experiences the emotional discomfort and physically acts out a tight cramped and twisted position of his body that best mimics the sensations in his head and heart. He again physically steps away from this physical posture and observes himself. When he asks himself what he is looking at, he is completely astonished to name it as a 5 year old child being beaten by his father. He had completely forgotten about these experiences that were obviously still active and unresolved in his subconscious psyche. He realizes that his headache was not about the excessive chocolate but more about the altercation he had recently with his boss who criticized him unfairly about the project that was taking too long.
Fifthly, the observer can choose to call up physical, psychological or even spiritual resources to manage the problem in the way he sees best. Jonathan chooses to evoke his own internalized healing ‘Physician’, based upon his own recollected experience of healing himself or others and his idea and imagination of what it would take to be a great healing physician. He then expresses this mental picture dramatically by acting the part and becoming this physician, just as an actor would play the part and do the healing. He can now direct the healing process, first physically with what he actually knows has worked in the past, fasting, natural remedies, cold ice compresses to the head, warmth compresses to the liver and warm teas. His inner ‘Physican’ then calls upon the boys ‘Good Father’ to come forward and care for the boy and to protect him from the violent actions of his ‘Uncaring Father’ that had caused deep soul pain to the child. The ‘Good Father Jonathan’ commits himself to always being present for the child, especially in difficult situations.
It is the objective observer alone who has the insight, perspective and intuition to see, hear and know what is needed for the next step. He will determine what kind of internalized character needs to be imaginatively evoked and created – a mother, father, brother or sister, friend, teacher or mentor, artist, scientist, priest or physician, angel or magician, warrior, protector or caretaker; and each will be endowed with whatever attribute is needed to do the work well, – loving, compassionate, gentle or firm, strong , courageous, noble or wise.
Sixthly, all these partnerships will have an effect on the physiological activity of the body, either in a positive or negative manner. It is scientifically well established that thinking and feeling affect the chemistry of the body down to the molecular level and can even affect the genetic expression of an individual. Sensations are obviously an expression of bodily functionality, so the greater the pain, the more the neuro chemical pain hormones are activated. Behavioural responses have a powerful effect on bodily functions, which is why we avoid bright light, seek a quiet and restful place and resist intellectual activity when we have a sore head. In quantitative terms if thinking has a 20% effect in altering physiological functions, feeling has a 50% effect, sensations and behavioural activity have a 100% effect. This is because these four partners have a different relationship to the physical body, thinking mainly effecting the neuro-sensory system and feelings to all those activities connected to rhythmic functions, such as the cardio-respiratory systems. The sensations and behavioral activities however affect all systems especially metabolic and motor activities which are connected to all cellular and biochemical responses.
A more detailed description of the intimate relationship between body and psyche / mind will be presented in a later issue.
Finally, we discover that working through all these relationships and partnerships, within the observing or experiencing partner, there is a greater and larger activity, a source experience of being that can go anywhere and everywhere, into observing or experiencing, who we never get to experience consciously because we are in it all the time, wherever we are, wherever we go. This is the ancient and eternal traveller in us who is always there with us, wherever we are, wherever we go, directing and guiding us each step of the way in gaining a little more awareness of who we are.
These are our partners in health, enormous, unfathomably powerful resources that we can call upon if we have the will to heal ourselves