I have a student who enjoyed his girlfriend’s abundant sexuality, but couldn’t deal with the “Madonna/Whore” voices in his head, and the fact that she talked about prior boyfriends. I worked with him for a year on attitudes, processes and so forth. He’d been in therapy for years, and gotten no where.
And after a year, he wasn’t much better. This engaged me, because my commitment is to helping people heal, and I just wasn’t helping him. What was wrong?
And then something occurred to me.
- we create our emotions through a combination of focus, movement, and language.
- Anger is fear.
- The most powerful way I know to deal with fear involves physical movement.
- He was doing everything I asked, but somehow it wasn’t working.
So…either my model of the human psyche is wrong…or I’m not seeing something. If my commitment is to helping him, then I have to FIRST start with the assumption that the model is correct, but I’m screwing up. If that fails, then I have to adjust the model.
Something hit me: he talked about her all the time, with real pain. Wait a minute: that meant he was “grooving” the old pattern neurologically, literally deepening and strengthening it with every repetition.
He had a goal. He had motivation. He was taking action. What I”d missed was I WASN’T INTERRUPTING THE OLD PATTERN.
He TALKED about her, which created temporary relief (“someone understands!”) but actually stopped him from engaging with the issue. Ever take your car to the shop, and suddenly it stops “pinging” and no one can cause the issue, so they can’t diagnose and fix it?
The ego is like that. It will play peek-a-boo with your issues. So…I ordered him to stop talking about her. The next time he mentioned her, he had to pay me five bucks. He shut up for a couple of weeks, focusing on his own emotions. Then he mentioned her again. This time I charged him ten dollars. Oops! Again he shut up. And…within a couple of weeks of NOT being able to blame his emotions on her, he was startled to find himself making progress. It was just terrific.
He mentioned her again a week ago. Fifteen bucks. “Dragon Roll” time at the local sushi bar. Yippee!
Ahem. Now, finally, he is digging where the gold really is. He is “bottling up” his emotions so that his physical work is actually processing it. Whatever metaphor you use, what matters is that he is taking control of his life and emotions. And starting to integrate his life at a higher and deeper level.
Wonderful. I LOVE this.
How can you use this?
Identify WHAT you want to change
Identify WHY you want to change it.
Identify HOW you will proceed, short and long-term.
Now…INTERRUPT YOUR OLD PATTERN somehow. This can be, should be, like scratching a CD or DVD. Scratch it enough and you can’t play it.
Practice the new pattern, “fail successfully” and learn something. Start the cycle over again, with the new knowledge. What Why How. What Why How.
Over and over again, until you reach your goal.
You don’t have to be a genius to see this pattern in fiction. The character wants a goal. They hit a wall, and won’t move forward until you increase the motivations. They take actions which succeed or (usually) fail, and in the process learn something. They try again.
Remember the Tom Cruise movie “Edge of Tomorrow”? Where he was fighting a war over and over again, dying horribly again and again but constantly learning? Every time he failed, he learned at least ONE NEW THING, so that the next time he resurrected he could get a little further?
THAT’S IT!!! The movie was too raw and obvious to be a classic, but it absolutely played with this principle.
The pattern was in my student (trying new things until he found a coach who could help him). It was present in me (trying new things until I found the way to help). And we are addicted to stories because they provide us with faith that efforts lead to knowledge leading to better efforts, in an ascending spiral that eventually leads to success.
Of course, your “coach” must be sympatico with you. And frankly, the more like you the “coach” (or role model) is, the easier it is to learn and apply the lessons. So women seeking empowerment felt the “No Man’s Land” sequence in WW more than they had ever felt a similar sequence with a male hero. And black women watching Florence Kasumba say “Move…or be moved” FELT that shit. It resonated at a level they didn’t even know they needed to see.
And if you have had endless, infinite, daily role models you just won’t feel it. Might even be in contempt if you lack empathy, if you are naïve enough to think you constructed yourself without outside help.
Right: you learned to walk, and talk, and read ALL BY YOURSELF. Dream on.
This is why it is important to see ourselves as part of a continuing flow of humanity. That our art is an expression of our “is-ness” and emotions. See craft as the LANGUAGE by which we communicate our perception and experience. It all flows together, and always has.
There is a fascinating change going on in the 21st Century. Images that are just…different. More powerfully inclusive, especially along lines of race and gender. I see them as both symptoms and drivers of change. And as I relish that future, they bring me joy.
For some…they trigger fear. And I suggest that you heal yourself, and fill yourself with enough love and strength that you can turn around and help those who are willing to whisper that they are ready.
Help them identify the change they want to make
Help them connect with their reasons to change
Help them create a strategy to optimize their actions.
When they fail or relapse, help them see its just a part of the process. Why should you help them? Because YOU will have been the recipient of endless support by the men and women who came before you.
If you don’t pass it on…isn’t that a kind of theft?