Humility, Forgiveness, Gratitude

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We are all born with different attributes. This is clear even at birth where we see infants who are highly active and others who are quiet, infants who are highly assertive while others are compliant, still others irritated and others peaceful. Furthermore we see these patterns developed and expressed in the growing child and later in adulthood. Who amongst us would argue with the notion that as originally created, even at the moment the sperm and the egg merge, we come with everything to define who we are, just as the seed contains within it everything which will become the plant with its flower.

Moreover just as the seed has basic needs from the environment in order to become the plant and to flower, so the fetus and infant has needs to provide for growth and development. Some seeds, for a variety of reasons, do not get what they need or meet obstacles and so may not reach fruition. So it is that many infants as they become children, adolescents and then adults (for those who survive) find themselves without their needs fulfilled and/or are burdened or misshapened by those in their environment. Having been distorted, traumatized, interfered with, can we ever regain our integrity and the wholeness with which we were born? We are all familiar with the rhyme about Humpty Dumpty and that “all the Kings men couldn’t put Humpty together again”. Is there any doubt that each of us has had our own fall? None of us would claim that the infant came so flawed that it created its own fall. Nor can we doubt that parents do the best they can. The attributes we are born with are our tools with which to survive and are patterns to own and manage if we are to thrive. These attributes, unacknowledged, disclaimed and even denied and allowed to run their course may be exaggerated or underdeveloped and so get in the way of our self-management and cause us to say and do things that have hurtful results. These hypertrophied or atrophied patterns are even expressed chemically, and so affect even the brain and create problems which cannot be healed by medicines. These problems are inevitable in all of us and vary only in quality and intensity. They produce symptoms that are indicators of something underlying which is amiss. The relief of symptoms provided by physicians and medications is not in itself a cure. Basil the Great who founded facilities for the medical care of the ill in ancient times, said: “We must take care so as to use the art of medicine, if need arise, as not to assign to it the whole cause of health or sickness but to accept the use of its remedies as designed for the glory of God and a type of the care of the souls.” He writes further “to avoid entirely the benefit of medicine shows a contentious spirit. But there is no small danger of the mind falling into the error of supposing that every illness needs the aid of medicine.” What is dangerous is the tendency to blame everything on illness and nothing on ourselves and our flaws. We humans are not perfect. We must accept responsibility for our imperfection.

So what happens to put us on a path of self destruction rather than growth? I have come to respect what the ancients have stated: “There is a wide difference between health and knowledge; for knowledge is produced by learning and health by healing.” In addition, having seen very highly educated people in my clinical room, I am clear that learning and knowledge do not suffice to open the door to healing, personal integrity, comfort and peace. In the infant and early child we see that head knowledge (the intellect), gut knowledge (the knowledge of the body) and heart knowledge (the unconscious) are all together. These get disconnected as we experience the hurts of life so that head knowledge seems to be a force unto itself. As this occurs we frequently find ourselves believing we know it all and that we have all the answers or that no knowledge exists. What pride and what a trap! Moreover without the benefit of signals of gut knowledge or the anchor of heart knowledge we become “full of ourselves” and our own importance and become inflated and inflamed. This leads to a distorted sense of self importance, entitlement and addiction to cleverness or stupidity, boastfulness and blunder. What vanity! Pride and vanity divert the energy we are born with towards self-infatuation which in turn becomes a passion which inflames our actions which disconnected from the head are without governance. It may be that the connections between head, gut and heart knowledge are genetically determined to be stronger in some while weaker in others and so events do not have the same impact on all of us, while some of us are more vulnerable than others to fragmentation of knowledge.

In my over 50 years in medicine, time after time I have been confronted with situations where there is no human-made treatment, yet in a sufficient number of those situations to merit attention I have seen what we in medicine call “spontaneous” remission or cure. Do not then these situations clarify that the cure comes from within? The literature for a number of recent years has contained reports of research projects about prayer.

In addition, in modern times we continue to recognize the soul. Words such as psychosomatic, biopsychosocial and others, contain the prefix “psyche” which is the contemporary and ancient Hellenic word for “soul”. It is difficult to contemplate any newborn infant if you take out the soul – that essential spiritual/psychological part. That said this is not a discussion of spirit, soul or God. I will however speak of healing.

True healing is within. It is better to manage ourselves and live in a manner which maintains and promotes our integrity and proactivity rather than to ruin our health with self destructive behaviors and then frequent a physician and pattern a life that keeps us preoccupied with illness and weakness. I have lost count of all the theories of human behavior which attempt to explain who we are and how we act. Research shows, the most significant common factor in psychotherapies which work is the “relationship”. In an earlier Mental Health Corner I said relationships are inside. In a meaningful relationship internal connectedness is catalyzed and integrity promoted.

Humility, the acceptance of our imperfection, is arrived at through repentance. Repentance, involving confession and counseling leading to insight, is a healing practice dating back to ancient times and still practiced today. The recognition of our selves and our patterns, and the acceptance of responsibility are essential to recovery and movement closer to our integrity and peace of mind. While this practice is common in psychotherapy, it is found throughout the human fabric and seen in such activities as prayer, support groups, intimate friendships. Forgiveness, human, personal and universal, follows and provides for acceptance of all of ourselves and the significance and cementing nature of our sadness. It is necessary to own every aspect of ourselves. Then and only then can we truly manage ourselves for only then are we able to “be conscious”, aware of what we feel, what we think and what we do. Gratitude is the reward – an appreciation of who we are, who we were created and born, and of our journey to the present, of the present itself and of whatever the future may hold.

Although not a book review, this piece was stimulated by my reading of the book “The Adam Complex: The Passions of Adam & Eve” by Dee Margaret Pennock. I am grateful to her and apologize for any plagiarism or distortion.

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