Healing the Mind — Body Split

  1. Nothing to Cling To
  2. Clinging to People
  3. Unstuffing from Stuff
  4. The handy dandy 5 step plan to cure what ails you
  5. Real Relating
  6. No-Body Home
  7. Undoing Trauma’s Knots
  8. Non-Habitual Living and Being
  9. Healing the Mind — Body Split
  10. Ideological Foolishness
A New Series—On Clinging


body mind split

Me? Split? I am not! There’s my body… right over there!”

I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but most people in North America have a mind — body split and are therefore emotional illiterates. They may have an intellectual grasp that there are a range of emotions, but for most people, for example, it’s difficult to differentiate between sadness, ennui, melancholy, “the blues,” and something more clinical, like depression. (Hint: a lot of what is called depression, isn’t.)

Of course, mind scientists (the priests of the 21st century…) want to persuade you that they can tell the difference, but really, all they’re doing is coming up with a diagnosis that justifies what they already believe to be so.

For example, a 15-year-old girl we know was recently diagnosed by a psychologist as being depressed. (Given that this is a medical term with a specific meaning, I’m surprised how loosely it’s applied.)

First, two interesting bits of information:

  • First, the daughter is 15.
  • Second, she was prescribed Prozac.
Before I get to the punch line, let me just say that there is a real issue about prescribing Prozac (and Paxil, among others) to people under the age of 18, as there is a greatly increased risk of suicide.

Now I really haven’t a clue as to how this brilliant diagnosis happened, but I’m guessing that backwards reasoning played a big role. Goes like this.

First, there is no drug for sadness, but there are a whack of them for depression. So, here’s this kid who’s having issues, who seems sad, who is not sure what to do with her life. Things are just not going all that well.

This is not acceptable to many parents, to the kid, and to most of Western society, because as we all know,

we’re all supposed to be
happy, fulfilled, successful, and rich.

The diagnosis actually starts there. Remember what we said last week, about clinging to the habit of how we view life. We cling to, and are addicted to, our cultural values. So, given that the kid doesn’t fit, Western medicine seeks to normalize her. She “shouldn’t be this way,” so they just kind of root around in her head, tightening the screws here, capturing a marble there.

Here’s a flash: maybe she IS normal, for her, and all she needs is to learn to accept and then manage her sadness!

But I digress. Big Pharma is a key societal “normalcy” maker. And Big Pharma tells us that there’s a pill for everything. So, here’s how it goes.

The person is sad. The person shouldn’t be sad. Therefore there must be something wrong. Pills fix what ails us. Prozac and Paxil are considered depression medicines. So, let’s diagnose the kid as depressed, and give her the pills.

This of course begs the question — was she depressed in the first place? Or was this a simple way to get her out of the office, onto a pill, and properly numbed out, so she would again sort of fit in? Methinks it was the latter.

I used to hang with a doctor who was both a friend and a client. He was a really big “pill guy.” He got so enthused with all of the new mental illnesses that were coming out of the DSM-IV that he’d often decide that he had the illness and needed to be on the pill that would “cure” it.

He described dinners put on by Big Pharma, and after describing the presentation to me, would, as a footnote, say, “Oh. And the guy said that eight sessions of psychotherapy was just as effective as the pills .”

In other words, a noninvasive, non chemical approach was highly successful. Duh. But those little pills are so much more convenient.

This isn’t meant to be an anti drug rant, although it’s turning out that way. I’m trying to get at how society deals with emotions.

Early on, we are taught, by word and example, which emotions are acceptable and which are not. I usually use anger as an example, because lots of people have it on the “bad” list. Typically, when parents see their kids acting out anger, they try to get them to stop. They may try distraction, lectures, bribes, or one of the following brilliant sentences.

  • What have you got to be angry about?” Or,
  • I’ll give you something to be angry about!”

The reason this happens is that the parent is bewitched, bothered and bewildered by their own anger. So, what happens is that the child learns that

emotions on the “bad” list have to be justified before they can be expressed.

Here’s the clinging piece.

We go through a lot of trouble to learn societal rules. Agony actually. You can sometimes see it in the faces of two-year-olds, who scream, “No!” Their faces are beet red with the effort of repressing an emotion.

When we finally “get socialized” we become addicted to society’s rules.

In other words, most people develop a socially acceptable, limited range of emotional expression.

And because it took so much work to get there, they cling and cling to this limitation. They become emotional illiterates, with a miniscule range of expression, no words for their emotions, and a death grip on a limited way of understanding themselves.

In Western-based cultures, black and white thinking prevails. So as most of you read what I’ve just written, you may think, “Well, Uncle Wayne is arguing for expressing emotions all over the place.” And when you picture that, you likely go to your “bad” list, visualize everyone running around expressing those emotions, and freak yourself out.

better to hide

Head for the hills! Uncle Wayne has lost it!

That’s not what I’m suggesting.

I’m suggesting that you examine your emotional list, and discover what you’re clinging to.

Emotions, in and of themselves, do not mean anything. Thoughts, in and of themselves, do not mean anything. You are not your thoughts, and you are not your emotions.

Emotions & Thoughts are things you have,
not things that you are.

Letting go of clinging is all about detaching from identifying with these internal processes.

If you reread that paragraph above, about how our emotions get conditioned, or perhaps better, how the expression of our emotion gets limited, you will see that there are two separate things going on here.

  • One is the bare emotion, and
  • the other is the socially approved classification.

Emotions are felt in the body, and then our minds get involved, not by accurately labeling the emotion, but by placing the emotion on either the good or the bad list. If it’s on the good list, Whoopee! If it’s on the bad list, it’s “stuffing time.”

The end result is that we expend so much energy stuffing our emotions that we have little left for actually living.

joann peterson

My friend, the late, great Joann Peterson, is most famous for her course and her book, called “Anger, Boundaries and Safety.” This book is really a must read. In it, you’ll find a structure to safely express anger.

The same approach can be taken with sadness, grief, boredom, disappointment, and the 10,000 other things.

There is no such thing as a safely harbored emotion. Emotions build and build, and find their way out over the stupidest things. Much better, I think, to find a simple and efficient way to be our emotions. Briefly, and elegantly.

Here are five other techniques that will help.

1. Have a breath.

I suspect that after I finish this series next week, I’ll begin another on how all this works out in the real world. I’ve been designing workshops lately that have to do with the practicalities of all of this — this looks like a great retirement project for Darbella and me. She’s really gotten herself cranked up, by the way, about both meditation and Chi Gong. This is pretty exciting to watch.

Anyway, back to breathing. The real reason we have to remind ourselves to breathe is that, when confronted with a “negative” emotion, most people simply hold their breath. It’s like that old movie saw, “The crowd held it’s breath!” In a sense, the breath holding is about trying to figure out what to do next. Even though we know what our culture demands of us.

Breathing somehow re-engages our presence. We seem to come back into the experience — as opposed to either checking out, are going up into our heads in telling ourselves long-winded stories. That breath, followed by another and another, creates spaciousness and room for action.

2. Have your emotions.

Credit where credit is due here: this is a favorite expression of my buddies Ben Wong and Jock McKeen. I unpack this to mean that emotions are meant to be expressed as opposed to analyzed, justified, explained away, or repressed. No matter how scary you make it to express the emotions that live on your “bad” list, as you become more emotionally mature, repression simply isn’t an option. The cost in energy, passion, focus, and full bore living becomes a price you are simply unwilling to pay.

Pick up Joann Peterson’s book, read it, and live it. Simple as that.

3. Live and examine your life.

We all know the quote from Socrates,
“An unexamined life is not worth living.”
Its opposite is also true —
“An unlived life is not worth examining.”

If I were to dig to the core of what I believe, what I live, and what I write about, it would be “live and examine one’s life.”

I suspect you are here, and are a loyal reader, because this is also what you want.

I know that you make difficulties for yourself. You get into the, “This is so self-indulgent” blather, because society has trained you to be a good little boy or a good little girl — and being good means focusing exclusively on others, always to the exclusion of yourself. Which is what got you into the mess you are in the first place.

And here we are again, full circle. Society want you to be good, to behave, to never make waves, and to focus externally. And haven’t you noticed that there’s always someone out there, who is just burning with desire to tell you exactly who you are, what you are, and how to fit in?

The Buddha was an interesting guy. One of the last things he said was, “Be a lamp unto yourself.” He suggested that you never take anyone’s word for anything, including his. Rather, he suggested that you test everything in the only place that’s a valid testing ground — inside of you.

That’s right. You have to step up to the plate, grow up, and make your own decisions about who you are, how you will engage the world, and, in a sense, decide what you will surrender yourself to.

Hint: it’s NEVER a surrender to the world or to your culture. It is an endless owning, examining, and living out of the totality of you.

4. Sit down and shut up.

Meditate, Meditate, Meditate! There is simply no other approach to get you into yourself, observing yourself, and learning to let go of your games. Meditation is all about noticing, and releasing.

Much of the letting go has to do with our thoughts. We erroneously think that we are our thoughts, as opposed to having thoughts, as I said above. But the goal is not to talk yourself out of thinking — that’s simply not possible. The goal is to simply notice. Thoughts come, thoughts go — attaching to them is optional. Until you not only understand this but live it, you are condemned to a mental hell of your own creation.

So sit. Watch. Notice. And don’t waste your time making a big drama out of it. No one cares, because all that drama is the same for all of us. (You’re unique! Just like everyone else!)

Minds go “yada yada yada,” and then our ego gets involved, and we think each “yada” is gold. Much of what we think is conditioned by our culture, is actually mindless and meaningless. If you really think you’re brilliant, I’ve got the perfect place for all your thoughts:

in the toilet

Let it go?!!!

5. Get to know your body.

If you look at the other four suggestions, you’ll notice that they’re body oriented. Even living and examining your life is best accomplished through quiet reflection and internal feeling merging together into a new way of understanding. In other words, lived and examined life is real, as opposed to a mental construct. I say to clients, “Don’t tell me what you’re going to do — do it, and let me see it. I only believe what you do, not what you say.”

During the Enlightenment, the West came up with this weird image. Picture a rider on a horse. The rider is the mind, or the brain — the head. The horse is everything from the neck down. So the image is that of the rider (the mind) totally controlling, while superseding, the body, and especially the emotions.

It is said that we trust our minds, distrust our bodies, and hate what lies beneath the belt line. So many judgments about bodies, about sensation, about passion and sex. And yet, you are your body, you embody your emotions, your passions, your sexuality. You ignore this reality of your being at your peril.

Bodywork and breathwork, massage, and the soft martial arts — tai chi, aikido, judo, and the like are ways to get into the body. Your only goal should be to begin to feel again. After all, you incarnated (became flesh) precisely for this reason.

Your body knows, and your body is speaking to you always. It’s not always “right,” but it is always available. It is one channel of knowledge and inspiration, worthy of much of your attention.

This week, look at your emotions, your stories about your emotions, and what your attaching to. Have a breath, quiet yourself, and simply let go.

Make Contact!

So, how does this week’s article sit with you? What questions do you have? Leave a comment or question!

About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

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