Jul 16 2014

This Isn’t About YOU…

Some background:

I am not a psychologist. I am not a psychiatrist. I have a pretty solid knowledge base on things like Borderline and Narcissistic Personality Disorders – things I learned about the hard way. I am also pretty well-versed in Jungian thought, and have a reasonable understanding of Freud.

I have one of a handful of certifications in Dream Studies from an accredited university.  I have studied various dream work traditions, have written countless papers on dreams, written a three hundred page thesis on visitation dreams from the dead, covering the complete history of the phenomenon as viewed by anthropology, psychology, parapsychology, spiritual and religious traditions, and phenomenologically. I have presented my research at conferences and other speaking events.

I also suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, due to the above-mentioned hard-won knowledge of Borderline and Narcissistic Personality Disorders, as well as the complicated birth of my son, and the resulting issues that came with it (short version – almost lost him and his mother multiple times, he was born 10 weeks early, and spent a fair amount of time in the NICU, where if I wasn’t keeping track of his issues, I was also witness to the insanity of a multitude of issues for a number of other premature infants). We won’t even go into what my wife went through from this.

That’s her story to tell.

The meat of the matter:

Lately, I’ve noticed a  troubling pattern of behavior (I’d say “problematic” but I really hate that word in its current usage) occurring in a number of circles I travel in. Someone will ask for advice or help with a situation they have on hand.

People’s responses will make no sense.

“I’m having a problem with ____________ in my life, and I don’t know how to handle it. I could really use some advice.”

will often be met with

“Just accept that this is what the universe wants for you right now.”

“breathe!”

“You just need to set your intentions properly!”

etc.

Meanwhile, the person asking the advice is getting no advice on how to deal with his very real, very visceral, actual problem. Instead, he is given a litany of prefabricated affirmations that don’t help him, but instead reaffirm the belief systems of those making them. “Please help me with some ideas” is now being responded to with reminders to him, and those making them, that one must believe certain things.

This is equivalent to the Jehovah’s Witnesses I once saw in Berkeley trying to get people to take Watchtowers while systematically ignoring the homeless camped out right next to them.

The platitudes, I believe, are directed more at the person making them, than the person soliciting advice. “Oh shit, bad things happen, I better remind myself that I shouldn’t go there, because my etheric body might be bruised.”  I’m not entirely sure this is a conscious process. I think, after a while, it becomes habit.

Tonight’s source of frustration (and, really, I do want to get this site back on track away from bitching about everything at some point), is a discussion wherein someone I presume to be a therapist solicited advice about helping a client who just gave birth, whose child is in the NICU, and who is having nightmares.

Hmm.  Do I know something about this?  Maaaaybe.

Originally, there weren’t many details. One person already had it figured out, though:

“I could almost guarantee that she’d be picking up on the energies in the hospital.”

So I asked for more information.  This is how I learned that things like the NICU were involved. After I found some of this out, I provided some of the background from above, and suggested:

“I know my wife and I have been dealing with PTSD for 2 and a half years now as a result of our own situation (kiddo is fine, btw), and still occasionally have nightmares dealing with material from that time. This could be a bit of a ride for her. Unfortunately, I’d say it’s also normal. I’d say deal with the trauma at hand, and don’t look for external stuff (hospital energies), otherwise you’re just avoiding what needs to be dealt with, and what is right in front of everybody’s nose.”

For still other people, the solution to the problem was simple.

“Theoretically, I would expect more permeable psychic boundaries when ill. And just imagine all those sick people with their bodies dreaming, a tapestry of pathological images that get muddled together. The chance of tapping into the images of others seems highly probable.”

and

“just the energy alone in a hospital, a place where people are usually ill and feeling their most vulnerable!”

and, my favorite:

“My personal experience of being in a hospital ER for a wasp sting last summer is that I left with lots of attachments – people who passed through the ER and hospital. As an energy worker and shaman I employed a friend to assist me and together we cleared the energies. This lady might want to work with someone to check and clear attachments.”

These types of responses seemed to become the norm, and I realized that nobody’s actually listening or taking into consideration the very real needs of the woman having the nightmares. Instead, what everybody was more interested in, was how badass of a “healer” they could be, because they could do things like be sensitive to energies, and clear them.

These things are great, and all, and I’ve seen some really amazing work done in this regard.

However, I think this may not be the time or the place to get excited about swooping in like the Shamanic Avenger and cleaning out the residual “hospital energies” that someone is inadvertently tuning into.  I’m sorry, but “I got stung by a wasp and I’m a shaman” does not qualify you to accurately assess this situation.

At this point, I felt compelled to try to steer this conversation back to the general vicinity of helpful:

“Not to be a colossal dick about this, but when you’ve just given birth, and your baby is in the NICU, “hospital energies” are the least of your problems, worries, or concerns. If someone had brought this up to either my wife, or myself at the time (and believe me, we’re both actually rather sympathetic to things of this nature), we probably would have punched them. If you want to go there with this person, great. But I would only do so after you’ve exhausted the angle of helping her work through the trauma. Otherwise, you’re avoiding the obvious, and ultimately doing the person no good.”

It was too late.

They all agreed that this woman’s nightmares and birth trauma were “a privileged time for dreaming” (not in the “check your privilege” sense), and her dreams are probably amazing, and wow, isn’t it great that the original poster would be able to witness them! (okay, I’m extrapolating that last part). The decided upon solution was to clear the psychic attachments that the woman had picked up from the assorted hospital energies.

I’m a little let down, if not unsurprised that rather than actually dealing with the difficult issue of this woman and her nightmares, the real interest lies more in reaffirming the particular world views of those offering the advice. “I believe in energies, and how they affect us so let’s avoid looking at trauma – because that’s scary – and offer some sort of vague externalized reason for the discomfort and pain that this person is feeling, rather than actually help them.

Becoming a psychotherapist, becoming a dream worker, even, is a seductive thing. You get to dress up and be a superhero or call yourself a shaman and feel all tingly in your etheric body. YOU HAVE POWER TO HEAL (or something).

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but going out and helping others is about them – not you. Going out and helping others, should benefit and aid them, not stroke your ego for how awesome and enlightened and powerful you are.

Because if it is, you have no business being in the business.

You help no one.

People have tried to use this approach with my wife, and with me.

It doesn’t help.

And as I said.

It just made us want to punch people.

Update: A thought has come to me this morning, which is that if one is going to posit such things as “hospital energies” and tapping into the collective traumas of those around you, would not the “healing energies” provided by the doctors, nurses, and staff have any counter-balancing effect?  Or is there a subtle suggestion that these dream-working “healers” are far superior to such things as western medicine?

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