"I Did Not Want To Be One of Those Suffering Clowns
This article is full of great material. And it shows how genuine therapy is transacted. Dont be content with these small snippits. The article is six pages long. Dont deprive yourselves.
(quote)III. What Does It Mean to Have a Life of One's Own? With a wraithlike air, the Zen master accepted a seat on a black leather couch below the colored tumult of a de Kooning print and a photograph of a stone path vanishing around a bend in Kyoto. Lou Nordstrom later said he felt better almost the moment he met Jeffrey Rubin’s gaze. He had come as someone would to an emergency room for a therapeutic intervention.
“I left that first session with tears of joy on my face,” he told me one day last October as we sat with cups of coffee in the mica light of Bryant Park in Manhattan. “What Jeffrey did that first session saved my life. He listened empathetically and nonjudgmentally. He encouraged me to see my fears of acting out as symptoms of an unconscious desire to be seen.”
(quote)As the months went by, measured out in 50-minute sessions twice a week, the motifs of his history emerged. There was the surreal and horrific childhood of parental neglect, abuse and abandonment. There were those aspects of old trauma he was unwittingly reinflicting on himself, contriving to be abandoned by wives, disillusioned by mentors, seemingly incapable of taking basic care of himself.
From his grandparents Nordstrom learned his mother had stubbed out cigarettes on his skin and had beaten him with a brine-dipped switch; he was told that she was dead and advised to ignore the occasional phone call from a mysterious woman. It was not until he was 16 that he met his mother for the first time, at a hotel lounge in New York, where she downed a row of sloe-gin fizzes. She offered little explanation beyond that he was better off without her.
And there was the paradoxical role of Zen, which had enabled him to cope with the pain and alienation of his purgatorial youth but which he was now beginning to understand was implicated in his difficulties and may even have been making some of them worse
(quote)The (zazen) habit took. He was impressed by the calmness he felt, not the “valium calm” of killing the turbulence inside him but the equanimity that came from becoming the turbulence.
“I felt saved by Zen,” he told me. “The Humpty Dumpty image is corny, but it’s right. Meditation put me back together. It helped me overcome the split between the body and the mind. The question that remained was what to do with emotions and the self.”
A year later in Litchfield, Conn., he attended his first multiday sesshin with a group of Zen meditators. The Rinzai teacher instructed him to “kill the watcher” within. By the third session he experienced kensho, which some meditators spend their lives hoping to attain: “I felt as if something like an earthquake or implosion was about to happen,” he wrote in his autobiography. “Everything around me looked exceedingly odd, as if the glue separating things had started to melt. . . . By the time I got to my room I was weightless; there was no gravity. . . . Then the earthquake or implosion — ‘body and mind dropping off’ — occurred. There was an incredible explosion of light coming from inside and outside simultaneously, and everything disappeared into that light . . . there was no longer a here versus there, a this versus that. . . . I understood nothing except that nothing would ever seem the same to me. . . . And despite the fact that I had no understanding whatever of what had happened (nor do I now), this experience changed my life completely.”
By the spring of 2007, nearly a year into the therapy, Nordstrom had a breakthrough — what he called “a tearful reunion with my narrative.” The gist of it had to do with the way he devised what Rubin termed “a self-cure.” He sought to protect himself against the trauma of further abandonment by pre-emptively abandoning himself. If he wasn’t there in the first place, he wasn’t in a position to be cast away. The Zen concept of no-self was like a powerful form of immunity.
“The Zen experience of forgetting the self was very natural to me,” he told me last fall. “I had already been engaged in forgetting and abandoning the self in my childhood, which was filled with the fear of how unreal things seemed. But that forgetting was pathological. I always had some deeper sense that I wasn’t really there, that my life and my marriages didn’t seem real. In therapy with Jeffrey I began to realize this feeling of invisibility wasn’t just a peculiar experience but was maybe the central theme of my life. It was connected to my having ‘ability’ as a Zen student and to my being able to have a precocious enlightenment experience
But what was absent in the rush of revelations during his tearful reunion with his narrative was any heartfelt sense of mourning. His new insights were mostly a matter of intellectually understanding the way he used Zen to assuage the pain of the past, hiding the pathological aspects of self-abandonment and neglect in the rapture of Zen vacancy; how he hid from his own neediness, anger and grief in the ecstatic abnegation of enlightenment..
(quote)I’m not converted to psychoanalysis in toto,” he said, “I’m converted to a very specific point, the relevance of abandonment in my life and the cost of Zen to myself — the damage I did to myself via self-neglect. I didn’t realize what I had renounced. It was a little like duh-uh! One of the most important insights I got from therapy with Jeffrey is that subconsciously I want the depth of my suffering to be witnessed by someone. I want to be seen for what a strange fellow I am. As a young guy I got off on the sense of being different. There was some arrogance and elitism in it. The positive spin of the surreal nature of my childhood was that there must have been some special destiny for me. To give up tenure, to become a monk, I embraced an aggrandized narrative. What Jeffrey has done is indicate that forgetting the self is not a constructive approach. What one needs to do from a psychoanalytic perspective is remember the self.”
It was a far cry from the advice he’d gotten in 1987 from a Zen teacher who said, “What you need to do, Lou, is put aside all human feelings.”
In a dialog with the therapist:
“Re-entry is difficult,” Nordstrom admitted. “I feel I’m going to be blindsided — that I’m being set up. The record suggests that’s what tends to happen to me.”
“Do you hear your language?”
“That’s what tends to happen to me.”
“What do you hear — that I sound like a victim?”
“There’s no agency in there — to see that is to open to the possibility of feeling less the victim in your life.”
“I know this intellectually. I’ve had this sense of being a victim, a marked man for a long time — marked for bad things and marked for great things.”
“I wonder if that isn’t a compensatory fantasy which hides a deeper pain. It’s not that ‘I was horrifically abandoned, unconscionably neglected,’ it’s ‘I have a special destiny.’ ”
“Yes,” Nordstrom said. “As a boy I consciously constructed this idea that I’m in a situation that makes no sense whatsoever. The only meaning I can glean from it is that there may be some kind of completely different life in store for me. There will be a compensation. I am owed.”
(quote)“No, because it’s led to a passive detached relation to your own life. It’s robbed you of your human birthright. It’s like you are waiting for Godot. It keeps you in a virtual life. Do you get that? Do you feel that emotion?”
“This isn’t the first time you’ve said that this is the source of my suffering.”
“The vessel you took to escape your childhood became your prison cell. If we could move through that, I think it would open things even more.”
“What I got from my life in Zen is not what most people get or want from Zen. Most Zen students are samadhi junkies. They like the buzz. There’s a suppression of anger in Zen which is another kind of alienation. Sometimes it makes me sad. Teachers should point this out — how risky samadhi is from a psychological point of view. I was once asked what did I want from Zen practice. What I wanted was I didn’t want to be like everyone else, running around like chickens with their heads cut off.”
“There’s a little bit of that elitism — I don’t want to be one of those suffering clowns.”
'I dont want to be one of those suffering clowns."
Could this be what leads so many to become gurus....and promise an end of suffering, so as to distance themselves
from that which they cannot bear to face in thier own lives?
And generates their desperate, proslytizing energy?
And perhaps for some, an eagerness to surround themselves with ailing people to reassure themselves they are the strong, superior leader?
Somone who goes into the self help business with these unexamined motives will punish you for growing beyond them.
That is why real therapists like Dr. Rubin go through training analyses and take mandatory CE classes on counter transferance issues.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/01/2009 12:41AM by corboy.