Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Humbling Reminder

We are all in this together. Here's a little truth-bomb from infamous seeker and psyche-explorer Ram Dass (of "Be Here Now" fame).

The Bee and the Tidal Wave.

Sometimes we focus on the insignificant to avoid the unmanageable. The bee and the tidal wave is a reference to those moments when we are more focused on the bee that's about to sting us than the wall of water rushing to sweep us away. There was a study... it was too many years ago for me to recall and cite.. about behavior in plane crashes. For some, the impossiblity of what had just happened (surviving a plance crash) was so overwhelming, that instead of rushing out of the hull of the plane to safety, they lined up with their carry on luggage in hand as if deplaning at the gate.

When we're overwhelmed we sometimes shift focus to the trivial or flat-out deny ourselves reality. Like all things, this is both good and bad. It really depends on the size of the wave, the anxiety that comes as a result of not tackling the bigger things, and also honoring the idea that, as Kurt Vonnegut wrote in A Man Without a Country, "I tell you, we are here on earth to fart around, and don't let anyone tell you different". We are constantly doing triage on ourselves. We live busy and incredibly complex lives. Our roles are not tiny and neatly defined. We're pulled into our smart phones and Facebook at the expense of making real connections or finding time to wander and 'fart around' in our selves. There's always just so much... and the threat of the bee sitting on your arm can feel so much more immediate than the wall of water building in front of you.

 For all the things that psychotherapy can be... whether treating mental illness, finding a way through tragedy, healing a relationship, seeking spiritual growth, needing someone to bear witness, wanting to change your narrative, coming to terms with one's early life, seeking shelter and a sense of containment, finding boundaries, etc..... it's also a space to sit and do that triage. Life comes hard and fast and within it all we are tumbling at ever increasing velocity towards an end. I don't mean to sound tragic or grim... I suppose this post is somehow influenced by my peer and good friend Kellie's too early and young death from cancer a few weeks ago... but my point is that this relationship between you and your therapist is worth having. Mirrors are precious things.