Saturday, September 05, 2009

Health, Unhealth, and Standing Your Ground

When people are in places of pain, they see the world with eyes of pain. You, in turn, will be described in terms that describe them. Be careful ; it may feel like an attack. You will have to learn what is them, and what is really you.

It's very important that we do not allow accomodation for the needs, demands, and pathologies of the crippled and suffering to dominate life for the healthy. Please be careful and do not read in any lack of empathy in that statement. I take empathy as a matter of course, and caretaking for those not doing so well in the community is laudable and adds to the honor of that community and those who do the caretaking.

However. The healthy have a right to enjoy their existence as well, free from the projections of those in pain, free from the dramas and demands of those who are not whole, and their entire lives should not have to be warped and turned inside-out by those who do not see properly and turn everything into a production weighed down with tension, vitriole, fragility and volatility. If you have a problem, it might be your problem, not mine. If you behave courteously, appropriately, and with good will, I might be willing to help out to some degree, but that does not make your problem my problem. I am happy to be of help. But your difficulties do not give you any ownership over me. Nor do your past issues with others impact upon my simple, innocent, well-meaning actions and phrases, even if others have engaged in actions which seem similar but fit into larger patterns that were difficult for you.

All of this should seem really self-evident, but it's easy for things to get twisted around inside-out and backwards. It's easy for Loki to manipulate victimhood into a power-position that enthralls the strong and healthy. That isn't a good thing. That perverts the spirit of good will, neighborliness, and lending a helping hand. Saying so doesn't make us cold-hearted, uncharitable bastards. It's a matter of seeking balance, of seeking wholeness, of wanting health to pervade relationships. Health can pervade relationships even in the midst of struggling with physical or monetary problems. Of course, stress coming from any corner can put strains on people's ability to relate well, and that should be taken into account, but it is never an excuse per se to mistreat someone else.

That doesn't mean we expect perfection. We're all human. We all can lose our temper from time to time, but if in the process we've stepped over the line of someone else's rights, we'd better make good with an apology and some good will. And if both sides stepped over the line,s ome good discussion to clear up misunderstandings is in order.

I also understand that people struggling to heal from pain, especially psychological pain stemming from relationship issues of various kinds from their past, sometimes need special accomodations and special environments, where they need tender, loving care of a special sort, and sometimes with the kids' gloves on. All I'm saying here is that those special environments, important as they are, important as they are to affirm, allow, and if one is willing from time to time, to provide, they cannot be allowed to dominate the all of life. There's been many times I've been sick and wished I was at the beach enjoying the sun, and at those times, it's been helpful when someone could come spend time with me, and difficult when they couldn't, but in any case, the help or lack of help of one or two people who I'd enjoy does not give me any place to out-and-out resent the hundreds or thousands of people who are at the beach enjoying their time in the sun. They get to have that time!

I think we have an unhealthy understanding, approach, and relationship to these issues, which ends up polarizing us. When people get overwhelmed by other people's pain, they tend to freeze up, and perhaps over time become uncharitable. This can exacerbate the needs of those in pain, who then over-react and over-demand, which drives the cycle onwards.

It's a big argument for stopping crime. "Huh?" you may ask. I know it seems like a leap, but a great deal of the pain that people carry has to do with past violations of rights, and the frank fact of the matter is that when people's rights have been violated as children, they often carry around scars for the rest of their lives. Hopefully with some attentive and chronic help they can smooth over these scars and come back into health as best as possible, but the simple fact of the matter is that some scars stay with people their whole lives, and affect not only them, but all the people around them. I don't want to portray myself as a right-wing "lock 'em all up" kind of person, but certainly crimes must be dealt with as speedily, efficiently, and firmly as possible, with every attempt to neutralize further harm and to whatever degree possible to heal what harm has occurred. I'm not convinced that "locking 'em up" solves anything, because I believe in liberty, but some kind of firm community response is needed. The old system of fines and outlawry are probably some good solutions into which to dip. In general, though, despite a lot of "law and order" blustering, I don't think many people take injuries as seriously as they ought to. It's true in ways that those who have not worked closely with the injured can rarely understand that when a criminal injures one person, they are rarely just injuring one person, but injuring a whole community over a lifetime, because the violation has ripples and reverberations that cause chaos and generate trouble and difficulty all down the line. The emphasis should not be on the healers to completely cure everything (although we do the best we can), but on preventing the injuries in the first place as best we can.

We can have a compassionate understanding of the chaos that often accompanies those who have been victimized, and yet at the same time refuse to be victimized by it ourselves, refuse to allow their place of pain to destroy our efforts at happiness. And we must never allow -- though it will happen -- their judgements, which stem from places of pain, to erode our morale. Harsh judgement can often be morale-destroying, and people coming from places of pain often distort things and make things far uglier than they are. This doesn't mean we should shut out critique, but that we should have discernment to distinguish ugliness from legitimate criticisms which actually need and require addressing.

Let's also remember that there can be unhealthy attitudes towards the sick, while the sick themselves may have quite healthy attitudes towards their own health struggles. If we have not learned to maintain good boundaries, and absorb absolutely everything in our environment (easy for those of us who are very empathic), and if furthermore we illogically try to take responsibility for someone else's state of mind and make it our own, well, then we're going to be the mess, and we're going to get so frustrated that we will have a tendency to take it out on the person who is in pain! We'll have a tendency to resent them even if they are not doing anything, simply because we have not learned to be able to differentiate between what is their experience and what is our experience. Many people who come from people-pleasing backgrounds struggle with this. There has to be a healthy sense of self in order to be able to enjoy most anything in life, as well as to be able to endure difficult times and be there with someone having a hard time. As long as they are for the most part behaving, with genuine good will if not always with good mood, then their hard time should not be your hard time. They may be sick, but you may be the one who is unhealthy! Wyrd brings us many ironies in life.

There is such a thing as pathological pursuit of supposed "healthiness" that is not healthy at all, because it does not stem from a place of wholeness, of connection to all the varied realities and vagaries of life. There's a reason why some get called "health nuts". Please don't misunderstand me. Creatively struggling to make changes, in a holistic manner, that can improve one's life is a very good thing. But fanaticism often reveals an underlying desperation and obsessiveness that itself may be very unhealthy. Often those on these kinds of kicks get very callous, cold, and judgemental towards those who are having difficulties. This can amount to a kind of perfectionism whereby everyone who doesn't make the mark of perfect "health" and perfect "happiness" is damned for their failure. This smacks more of puritanism than anything genuinely heathen.

Health is a big topic. It requires a lot of deep thinking, and it's never encompassed by one sitting-down or one article. It's an important topic to ponder, because wholeness and health were central concerns of heathenry, and they ought to be to us today.


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