Dangerous Misdiagnoses   2 comments

Monday I was hiking with my doggies in the Blue Ridge Mountains and noticed my neck cramping on one side.  To stretch out the kinks I started rolling and rotating my head, wondering what I’d done to my neck.  And then it dawned on me.  instead of pulling ahead as usual, Mazie and Mitts had fallen in behind me, and as the path was narrow, I held both leashes in one hand.  My right arm swung freely, but my left arm was pulled back by the leads, and over a couple of miles that tension worked its way up to my neck.

I spent decades paying little attention to my body, and so harming it.  I have only learned in the last few years to listen to this complex, integrated structure–I would never have guessed that a sore neck could come from an arm slightly skewed.  When an injury’s throb is felt in a separate body part, it is called “referred pain.” Those are the trickiest to self-diagnose and so misleading that the real problem often escapes us.

During those years I listened no better to my psyche than my body.  I shouted down my feelings and became emotionally deaf, unable to decipher its most rudimentary language. Emotions were to be embraced, vanquished or transmuted according to an accepted moral code.  I thought every feeling was a straightforward response to external stimuli.  My anger was incited by “stupid” drivers.  My anxiety was the result of critical bosses.  My shame was the direct product of my tardiness.  Emotional “referred pain” was not even a speck of consideration… until the conventional interpretations became so convoluted in the telling that even I recognized something was fishy.  They rang false, though I couldn’t detect the crack in the bell.  It was my indecipherable, unrelenting depression that forced me to finally admit my emotional cluelessness and rethink my psychological map.

I discovered that my pride was tangled up with fear, my affection enmeshed with insecurity, and a seeming calm and patience was simply an emotional disconnect to protect myself.  I realized that my anger ignited from inside, not outside, that it was a cover-up for shame, and my shame was grounded in a legalistic denial of grace. It was all so much more complex than I realized, but this self-reflection, softened by grace, opened me to a remarkable level of integrity and clarity and personal growth.  My whole sense of spirituality and relationships was reorganized. I finally had the tools I needed for fundamental transformation instead of the spiritual strictures of a flawed system.

I have been working for years to learn my emotional ABCs.  Slowly I untangled the knots so that patterns stood out in relief and dynamics materialized.  What is the real reason for these feelings?  What leads me to freedom and understanding rather than fear and blindness?  What does my soul need in the way of support?  What pulls it down or picks it up?  I wonder–do any cultures teach their children to be heart-interpreters rather than heart-controllers?

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Posted May 4, 2015 by janathangrace in Personal, thoughts

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2 responses to “Dangerous Misdiagnoses

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  1. “I wonder–do any cultures teach their children to be heart-interpreters rather than heart-controllers?”
    Interesting question. In our culture I have observed parents who have this gift. I was not raised with it and regret that I did not have it when I raised my children. It makes adult relationships tough and painful but thankfully growth is possible as your example shows.

    • Yes, some parents are better than others in every culture, and I think in the U.S. we have moved generationally towards a more respectful and thoughtful perspective of children (from the days of “children should be seen and not heard”). At least those of us who have had to learn such skills as adults can understand and appreciate others with similar struggles. Thanks for reading and commenting, Kathy.

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