The Wounded Warrior

Written by Dr. Crosbie Watler. A true story by an inspired man.

The wee hours.  Wide awake with no distractions.  No escape in restful slumber.  Free and clear space.  I can feel the energy in my body.  It’s stuck and I’ve been carrying it all day, maybe longer.  I sense some of it is not mine—passed down.  My body wants to tell me something.  I can stuff it, numb it, or tell myself a story about it.  Been there, done that, time to shut up and listen. 

It started early this morning after doing an urgent video psychiatry consult.  Another story of a broken spirit, filled with fear and all stuffed in the body.  I felt that in my heart, like a weighted blanket.  All through the interview and with each breath, I held an awareness of space around my heart.  Allowing me to hear the story, to empathize, but not have it stick to me.   In my work, I strive to listen and respond from clear space.  The wisdom and intuition of the felt sense.  The signal comes through the ears, but the body must feel into the meaning and context.

This is the flow state of the interview…and everything else.  I wonder how many practice it, or are even aware of it?  We are in flow when we interact with the world around us from a place of self awareness.  Authentic self—the silent witness.  Shifting attention briefly to inner space, the pause between the in breath and the out breath.  Listen from there and speak from there. This brings the being to the doing, creating a healing field that is unseen, but felt.

Park the mind and use it only when necessary.  Thinking is highly overrated.  Intellect is there, but not much wisdom.  Wisdom and intuition reside in the gut brain.  The silent brain.  Ultimate truth—trust your gut, listen to your gut.  It will not speak to you, but you feel into the right choice, what to do and what to say.  You will learn to trust it.  It won’t lie to you and what flows from you will be righteous.  Sometimes it will surprise you.  You might sense that some of what you’re saying isn’t yours as it flows out effortlessly.  At those moments of peak experience, one becomes a channel.  Park the mind and allow it to flow through. 

All was smooth sailing until the patient transitioned to describing his frustration with our system of mental health “care.”   He detailed the medicalizing of his despair, with a series of treatments doomed to fail, as if by design.  I felt his creeping sense of desperation and helplessness.  That hit me in the gut.  I managed to keep a lid on things and completed the interview with a plan that gave him hope.  Then I signed off. 

That’s when I lost it.

What I lost was awareness of inner space.  The domain of the dispassionate witness.  I was no longer self aware, but in reactivity mode.  All the wisdom and intuition?  Summarily tossed under the bus.  The maestro has become a puppet.          

I don’t do freeze or flight.  I scorch earth.  I now know much of it is not mine.  I’ve lead a privileged life, mirrored and supported as a child.  Blessed with the love of a good woman, authentic relationships and a sense of purpose.  We think we know ourselves, but we are influenced by  unseen forces outside our usual states of awareness.  So much of what we carry is handed down to us.  The epigenetics of our ancestral experience.  Given our collective history, much of this is trauma.  In states of deep meditation—or otherwise altered states of consciousness—we feel our ancestors knocking.  Mine are part slave warrior and it explains everything.

I know in my bones that my ancestors were fierce.  They had to be, or perish.  Many did.  And here I am.  Last man standing.  They hand me the torch and ask, “What are you going to do with it?”  This uncomfortable gift of an easy life does not sit well with me.  I will make it hard.  I need the struggle.  Now I know why.  My ancestors have been pushing boulders uphill forever, in the face of impossible odds.  And here I am.  Last man standing.  Righteous struggle is in my DNA.  I seek it out in ways that leave many—me at times—gobsmacked.  In truth, I sense some of my ancestors might not have been so righteous, but I’m selective about whose torch I choose to carry.

All of this at 8:15 on a Saturday morning in the present day…at the mercy of unseen influences and swirling emotions.  On seeing the harm that comes from the medicalizing of psychiatry, the heaviness in my heart had given way to rage in my gut.  Yet another victim of the medical-pharmaceutical complex.  Patients have become commodities—their distress labelled as disease, or worse, disorder.  Failed medical treatments for wounds of the heart.  And it pisses me off.  Slave warrior gene is on.  Like right now. 

Can I please have something to vanquish?  A wild beast threatening my family, perhaps? Or enemy warriors sneaking into the village.  How about a serving of slave owner for dessert?  No such luck.  It’s 2021 and I’m living a life of privilege in the tranquility of Maple Bay, British Columbia.  I feel paralyzed by the heaviness in my heart and the rage in my belly—swirling, building, with no clear outlet.  That’s when it get’s messy.  Listening from space?  Yeah, right.

I should have done the work sooner.  It’s 3:30 on Sunday morning.  The karmic debt of procrastination.  There is no free lunch.  Do the work, or pay the price.  What the mind won’t acknowledge, the body knows.  You can stuff it for a while—maybe the righteous rage felt good.  It’s in my bloodline and it had purpose.  It was adaptive, but it no longer serves me.  It depletes me and everyone around me.  That awareness is enough.  There was no space for it earlier in the day, or maybe I did not want to make space. 

Making space is hard sometimes.  Keeping the monkey mind at bay is hard work.  I do it all day at my day job and sometimes I just want to let my guard down, to rest.  That’s when it sneaks up on me, the alpha predator.  The present day enemy is no person or beast, it’s the conditioned mind and its unconscious patterns of reactivity.  This stuff will consume you from the inside out, play you like a fiddle and dance on your grave.

So, here I sit in spacious awareness.  The wee hours when quiet contemplation is best.  It’s easier now—nothing to do, nowhere to go, just be. Presence, awareness, silence within and without.  Space within and without.  Where everything that was stuck in my body is washed away.  The radiant light of presence has cleared the skeletons out of the closet.  Presence slays dragons.  It is our super power.

Cultivate the healing field of presence, knowing you will lose it.  When you lose it, have compassion for yourself.  There are so many seen and unseen influences wanting to play you like a puppet.  In truth, presence can never be truly lost.  Presence is our birthright.  Sometimes we just get distracted.

2 Comments

  1. I am a psychiatrist of Polish descent. I know that my inheritance of fierce rage comes from our people’s generations of oppression and occupation from all sides. And like you, I have lately been feeling this rage directed towards the psychiatric medical system. My sense is this; by overmedicalizing, it disavows suffering – but it is suffering which actually can be the crucible from which individuals will wake up from ego into deep being. By having a disorder, and many taking medications that often have a dissociating effect, it effectively blocks people from being able to wake up to the only true freedom from suffering…and the human soul has been boxed in.

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    1. Thanks Peter. The challenge really, is that we cannot support our patients towards holistic healing unless we’ve walked that path ourselves. How can we distinguish existential despair from disease, distress from disorder?
      The suffering ends not when the symptoms resolve, but when the patient has hope and feels empowered. When they feel in their bones that the assessment and remediation plan proposed is addressing the root cause(s) and not simply chasing smoke.
      Or we can “tweak the meds.” Forever. Then say we’ve done everything, with our cloak of “expertise” fully intact. The experts used to think the world was flat….

      Like

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