Health is more than physical; never underestimate the mind-body link, which in recent times has become known as the mystery of the ‘other’ you. Connecting with the other intelligence that hides within your brain and your gut feelings can bring healing, wholeness and a sense of completeness.
I’ve been reading some amazing books that allow a glimpse into an interesting mystery. We are two, we have two bits, one of which does not use language in quite the adept way the other one does. Instead it communicates with feelings, emotions, imagery, symbols .. inchoate, complex powerful and mysterious, and childish and simple all at the same time.
While this ‘other you’ is at least as smart as “you” are, this part is not particularly acknowledged in our education and growing up, a society driven by literacy and numeracy, technology and science.
This fixation on the rational means we can grow completely disconnected from our other more primal self, the powerhouse of our emotions, the energy workhorse of our passions, the intuitive insight of genius. If the only way it can get our attention is through emotions, bodily feelings, gut sense, and dreams then it will amp up these channels until we cannot ignore them.
So how do we reconnect the dots?? The answer is, through a glass darkly…groping blindly, without our quick facile words and sharp nimble mental gymnastics. Through the non-verbal: emotions, vague feelings, physical pain, images, symbols, half-visual/half-verbal puns, the clumsy, childlike, awkward side. By setting your clever verbal side to sit and wait, be a servant to, the slow clumsy side, like the interpreter for a disabled genius, straining to work out what it is trying to say, without leaping in and taking over. Only then can you see how powerful, how deeply intelligent, how important it is. The hard part is explaining verbally how to do something non-verbal. I’m reading/ trying several books that allude to communication channels: the authors have had to invent terminology that glances sideways at what they want you to try. Fair warning, some people find some techniques suit them and not others, so read these with your own natural preferences in mind.
Imagine That! By Sr Marlene Halpin is my favourite. It uses the term “Spiritual Phantasy” which vastly undersells its importance. It contains guided visualisations that take you into various life challenges, and asks you to reflect on both the imagery and feelings that you generate. For example, one for when you are facing life choices; things that might seem equally good no matter how much you think about it. In a quiet place, take several deep, slow breaths. Let go of your thoughts, and relax. (Take 20-30 second pauses in the spaces.)
When you are quiet, imagine three boxes.
What do the boxes look like?…What size are they?
Look at them and notice the one to your left, the one in the middle and the one to your right. Approach one of the boxes. Which one attracted you? Look at it, then open it. What do you find inside?
Does anything happen?
Go to another box. Which one do you approach? Open it.
What do you find inside? Does anything happen?
Now go to the remaining box. Open this one too. You find something inside of it. What do you find? Does anything happen?
Take the three things you have found and look at them. Perhaps there is some interaction among them. If so, notice it.
Let the phantasy fade, sit up or stand, and stretch. Sister Halpen then gives examples of people’s phantasies, and what they meant. For example, one woman found a fire hydrant, an empty doll carriage and a puppy (and evidence the puppy had been in the box a while). The puppy jumped into her lap, then got up and used the fire hydrant. She realised she was safe where she was, but needed as a fire hydrant. The only box with life in it was the one with the puppy. Her decision was to move on.
I have used the Three Boxes phantasy at critical life junctures where I could not make a decision, and found it a very powerful tool, much more so than the fairly abstract-sounding “spiritual direction” title.
There are many equally powerful “phantasies” that guide your life in directions much more consistent with your ‘gut feeling’. That bring a sense of aliveness and completion. A clunk of ‘aha!’ a solid feeling that yes, that is right on. Well worth investing in this book if you want to know the things that will heal you, free you and light you up.
Some other books that glimpse sidelong through the glass: Dr Eugene Gendlin’s “Focusing”, a guiding star of a book for anyone wanting to get unstuck, heal emotional chaos, find their deeper self-knowledge and direction. Gendlin redefines the terms focusing, felt-sense, and the phrase ‘all that’, to describe a process for listening to and understanding emotional and physical pain that is trying to signal us that something is wrong, or the reverse, that are alighting our energy and inspire us to follow something that is right. Gendlin starts by saying that after analysing thousands of hours of therapy sessions they could
- they could tell within two sessions if the patients would recover, and teach people how to spot it
- identify that this focusing process (enabling the body sense) was what worked
- patients who used it recovered in the therapy sessions
- nothing the therapists did made any difference
- it was easy to teach the process to people
- everyone could learn to do it, and it would work for them too
So another great little book to buy if you’re paying for therapy and they haven’t taught you this technique, it could be well worth the Kindle price https://www.amazon.com/Focusing-Eugene-T-Gendlin-ebook/dp/B004CLYCSO#nav-subnav.
Ulli Springett, Symbol therapy, uses a simpler approach: ask your ‘higher power’ (however you imagine him/her/it) for a healing symbol, and for a symbol of your problem. This uses the same non-verbal intelligence to come up with colours, shapes and imagery that will guide you towards healing for emotional and physical pain.
It would be remiss to not mention Ann Faraday, Dream Power and the Dream Game. I had the privilege of seeing Ann and her husband John and watching the ‘two chair’ process for asking various parts of the dream what they are. This is the exact same sense, that of asking an image, what it means emotionally. It really made sense that only you can interpret your own dream symbolism; and indeed as you ask the dream symbols, and swap chairs, you give that mute source permission to reveal more of your inner feelings. So dreams are another avenue into the murky depths that leads to enlightening changes. https://www.amazon.com/Dr-Ann-Faradays-Dream-Power/dp/0425160599 and https://www.amazon.com/Dream-Game-Ann-Faraday/dp/0061000264.
Yes another source of wisdom Betty Edwards (of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain fame) wrote another book called Drawing on the Artist Within. She explains several techniques using colour and line to connect you with your intuition. However the standout one for me was writing to your non-dominant hand. As in, writing with my right hand “How are you? How can I help you feel better?” and allowing the clumsy, gauche, childlike writing to come forth without judging or thinking. Absolutely right on. https://www.amazon.com/Drawing-Artist-Within-Inspirational-Increasing/dp/067163514X
In several of these techniques, you do not even need to understand the process at a rational level, they just leave you feeling better. I’m sorry this blog is a “throwback” series, all these authors wrote in the 70s and 80s but I haven’t found anything similar of recent times and would love to hear from any of you of similar types of processes.
My other favourites, the NLP pioneers Bandler and Grinder, and Milton Erickson’s hypnosis, will have to wait for another blog post.