“Self-pity is spiritual suicide. It is an indefensible self-mutilation of the soul.”
– Anthon St. Maarten, author
“He was finally getting around to his mental healing after frequent and urgent urging…”
Naak was 25 years old, one of those tall, dark and handsome stereotypes we see in the movies periodically. He had been in a serious auto collision…and badly injured. He had damage to his spine, legs and internal organs. But now he was mobile again, currently walking with a cane.
He had been in hospital for over three months, and now, rehab for three more. He was finally getting around to his mental healing after frequent and urgent urging by family, friends and medical staff.
But, Naak was so pissed off by his situation, what he called “all the wasted time,” he still carried an attitude of being a victim. It was dramatized by the hoodie he wore to hide himself from the world, the one word responses he uttered to my questions, and by how he avoided eye contact, which in some Indigenous cultures is a sign of respect, but in this case was the opposite.
“…with bouts of scowling, one word responses and heavy sarcasm…”
Naak had agreed to talk with me because I had said to his father that I could help him get his life back on track. Apparently, this had caught his attention and so he had agreed to meet with me.
I began by collecting Naak’s history. He reluctantly told me…with bouts of scowling, one word responses and heavy sarcasm…he had an older sister, Nadina, who was studying law. He said his parents were friendly, easy going people but very protective of their two children. They had apparently lost their first child due to a severe birth defeat and so “doled on” their surviving offspring, especially Nadina, their favourite.
Naak said his three biggest traumas were: Nadina being his parent’s favourite, being emotionally abused by Namid, a former girlfriend, and his recent auto collision. He had barely got through high school, dropped out of two separate college programs in the past, and it had been down hill ever since with no steady jobs and lots of partying.
“… he laughed at the question and said he didn’t have any goals.”
When I asked him what he wanted by coming to see me, what his goals were, he laughed at the question and said he didn’t have any goals. Naak said he was only interested in keeping the financial payments from his auto insurance coming in so he could feed his two dogs.
When we explored this a bit, he let out the fact that he always wanted to be a veterinarian to care for injured animals. When I asked him if he had ever studied veterinarian medicine he said he had but a teacher in the college program picked on him and so he had to drop out of college. Another victim story again.
As he briefly described what happened, it sounded like Naak had a long history of being in conflict with authority figures and playing the victim. Fleeing was his unconscious survival strategy. Now that his illusions were more clear to me I asked him how I might serve him.
“Don’t let your history interfere with your destiny! You were not meant for a mundane or mediocre life!”
― Steve Maraboli, author
“Some days I don’t feel like going because I’m in pain.”
“Make sure the insurance company doesn’t cut off my financial support!”
“What are they expecting from you to keep supporting you, Naak?”
“They want me to go to physiotherapy twice a week for about six months straight!”
“Is there a problem for you to do that, Naak?”
“Sure is! Some days I don’t feel like going because I’m in pain. But, the physiotherapists say that this will pass as I get stronger. But, they’re not in pain! I am! And, when I don’t show up, they say they need to report my attendance to the insurance company…who are threatening to cut me off if I don’t appear…but, my insurance company case worker, Nala,…she isn’t in pain either! “
Then he added,
“I am the one with the pain…their picking on me…just like in college…same shit, just a different person and different day!” he said, his voice raised for the first time in anger, frustration and indignation.”
“… there is always a duality, a pain and a pleasure…”
“Naak, I can help you get those people off your back! But, it will require you to choose to do two things. Would that interest you, Naak!”
“Depends!” he replied quickly.
“Depends on what?” I asked.
“Depends on what they are and whether I want to do them, I guess!” he said, with a hint of annoyance in his voice.
“OK! The first one is you would need to be willing to consider new ways of thinking about old events. And, the second is you would need to be willing to focus on how you think instead of how you feel.” I said.
“I don’t like talking about how I feel anyway, so the second one is OK. The first one, I’m not sure about yet.” he replied.
Since there was no refusal in his response, I proceeded.
“Naak, I focus much of my work on how we humans follow the laws of nature, just like every other thing in our natural word. These laws are found in physics, biology, chemistry and so on. With me so far?”
“Guess so.” he mumbled.
“One of the most basic and pervasive laws is that of symmetry or balance. It says, there is always a duality, a pain and a pleasure, a bad and a good, occurring at all times and in all places. For example, biologically, we as a species, continually avoid pain and seek pleasure. This is what motivates us to learn and survive. Make sense so far, Naak?”
“Guess so.” he said again.
“… It is the same law that runs your cell phone…zeros and ones combining…”
“So, from subatomic particles, with electrons and positrons, to high and low pressure systems which determine our weather, we live in a dualistic universe. And, this applies personally, to not just our bodily systems, like our blood pressure…it also applies to our mental systems, like our traumas.”
This caught his attention for some reason, perhaps because we had discussed his traumas earlier.
“You’re saying I get pleasure out of being in pain from my accident…and got pleasure out of Namid bullying me… and got pleasure out of not being my parents’ favourite…? Yeah! Sure, Ken! Sure!” he said, the sarcasm almost dripping from his angry lips.
“Your reaction is not unusual for someone who does not understand how nature operates. But, we have hard sciences which demonstrate daily that this law is true. It is the same law that runs your cell phone…zeros and ones combining within the same law.” I offered.
“Prove it, Ken! Prove to me this law works in my life!” he said in challenge.
“Baseless victimhood is usually the last stage before outright aggression.” – Stefan Molyneux, author
“… you are somehow smarter and stronger from those painful experiences…”
“OK! Let’s take a big picture example, so, across many moments of time, and a small picture example, one moment in time. OK?”
“Sure!” he replied, his sarcasm strong and clear.
“If you consider all that’s ever happened to you in the past that was painful and also notice you are sitting here talking with me right now, can you see that you have survived and got through it, Naak?”
“Sure!” his sarcasm strong.
“Since you got through it, does that also imply you are somehow smarter and stronger from those painful experiences, Naak? For example, don’t you know more about bullies and bullying relationships from having that time with, Namid?”
“She was a bitch and that’s all I learned!” he said, his hurt hurtling forward in his voice.
“And, haven’t you learned to avoid people who try to bully and control you?”
“I can spot them a mile away!” he replied.
“Has that been an advantage to you since your time with Namid?”
“… my mind only remembering I was driving, we had been kidding around and I had unclipped my seatbelt.”
He paused but didn’t verbalize his response. I continued,
“Naak, let’s go to one specific moment in time of strong pain for you…because the same law applies there, too! When was it? Tell me one of your most pain-filled moments.”
“One of the absolute worst was when I woke up in hospital in excruciating pain after my accident. It was the next day, early in the morning and I didn’t know where I was or what had happened…I was terrified!”
“Naak, be in that very moment! And, tell me what was the pleasure part of the pain of waking up, not knowing where you were, or what had happened, and experiencing severe pain?”
“That’s a crazy question! How could there be any pleasure at that moment? This is stupid. I’m leaving!” he said, his frustration mounting by the second and reflected in his whole body, especially his bulging face.
“Naak, I realize this seems odd to ask you this, but I am certain there was something that balanced that moment of intense fear. Go find it!”
“I woke up in hospital bed, my legs and arms strung up, my mind only remembering I was driving, we had been kidding around and I had unclipped my seatbelt. That’s it…nothing else!”
“When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power.” – Eckhart Tolle, author
“…after all that had happened…you were alive!”
“Be in that moment right now and look for the duality law, it has to be there in the same way every positron has counterbalancing electrons…the other side!”
He paused before saying,
“I thought I was going to die…but, I was alive…but, in so much pain and so much confusion!”
I said quietly,
“That’s the duality law, Naak…you were alive…after all that had happened…you were alive!”
Naak was quiet for a while.
Then I said,
“Naak that duality law operates at all times in everyone’s life…including mine and yours! That means, while thinking your sister is the favourite is painful, there were benefits to you and we can find them.”
“And, being challenged to attend your physiotherapy sessions by your insurance company is annoying but it also has to have benefits and we can find those, as well? Do you want to do that work with me, Naak?”
“… each of us are attracted to just the right amount of pain in life to motivate us to learn what we need to live optimally.”
“Not really! I just want you to show me how I can get them to back off and leave me alone! I didn’t come here to study physics! I came here to get help with that idiot case worker and those foolish physiotherapists who want to inflict more pain on me! That’s what I want…nothing more!”
“Naak, if you decide not to take this opportunity to evolve your understanding of how nature, and your life, works, in my experience, one or more of the following will probably occur. You will add more sources of stress and conflict. You will get caught up in lower priority distracting events. You will find yourself in humbling circumstances. Or, you could experience more tragedies.”
“And, why would any of those things happen to me after what I have already been through?” he said, in a challenging tone.
“In order to optimize our survival, we are attracted unconsciously to events we need to prepare us better for our future. Nature is simply optimizing our survival and our species, as well.”
“That’s a crock, Ken! I don’t believe any of that stuff!”
“Naak, nobody can make you believe anything. That must be your own journey. In a sense, each of us are attracted to just the right amount of pain in life to motivate us to learn what we need to live optimally.”
“… you are not giving up on the ideas I have offered you…you are giving up on yourself…”
“Are you saying I haven’t had enough pain yet to motivate me to learn what I need for my future? You’re kidding me, right!”
“I’m not kidding you at all, Naak!”
“I’m not putting up with this crap! I’m outta here!”
“Naak, if you decide to leave, you are not giving up on the ideas I have offered you…you are giving up on yourself and your self worth? Do you really want to do that at this point in your life…to self-sabotage?”
Naak got up and walked out of my office!
As the old saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.” So too with humans, we cannot save others, nature requires them to save themselves. We can offer them a hand, but they must choose to reach out for it.
“I will not be a victim of anything or anybody. No matter what I have been through, I’m here now, I survived, wiser and witter than before.
I am a sequential story of victories.” – King Ayles, author