“What if you had a magic wand, and could change things in your favor?” Or: “What would you say and do in this situation if you could be completely uninhibited without regard to consequences?” Or: “If you could travel back into time and find yourself as a kid, what do you see?” Just like clay–our memories and perceptions harden if not handled regularly. Bend them, keep them warm and pliable, create with them, and above all, beware of neglecting them or solidifying them into assumptions.
No intellectual insight, idea, theory, or “understanding” alone ever liberates a person from mental or emotional suffering. It takes passion, wonder, and inspiration–the stuff of a vivid imagination–to overcome habits of pain and deprivation.
After all, let’s face it: our history is imaginary. It’s not the facts that count, but how we hold them. Our past is a story imprinted with an emotional charge. It takes an emotional charge to bring about change. That life-affirming oomph comes from deep emotion, even when it’s painful. My therapy style is to help a person connect with that level and then rewrite, or re-imagine the whole story–to put a new frame around a familiar picture. Even an outstanding work of art in a frame made out of dried cow manure will make a person say “this picture stinks”. My job is to remind you that it’s not the painting that stinks, just the frame. You, in essence, are a masterpiece!
The deep feelings I’m talking about are the ones hidden from consciousness. They are the feelings of a child that got tucked away into the shadows. They are the painful, unpleasant ones, but they are also the positive potential feelings, like a person’s untapped capacity to love. Dormant, like an unsprouted seed, these feelings get awakened by the heart’s fledgling desire and inspiration. We tend to divide these feelings into “bad” ones and “good” ones, but they are always the “big” ones.
Deep feelings fuel real change, because only in a deep feeling state do we clearly see what is right and what is wrong for our well-being, and sense our true destiny stirring within. That’s what makes feelings frightening and why we often avoid them. They are to the self-protective, status-quo ego like oxygen is to anaerobic bacteria. Their very presence breaks the stranglehold of routine, unconscious living, and thrusts us into the raw openness of the present moment. We often only get to that point through disaster, crisis, or loss. The tragedy of the September 11th attack, for all its sorrow, roused us all from a deep slumber of complacency.
The good news is that catastrophe is not necessary for awakening. What it takes is thirst for the real, which makes suffering recognizable for what it is: unacceptable–no matter how familiar it’s become. I believe that letting go of suffering, and the identity that we’ve built around it, takes guts, because it can feel like what it metaphorically is: Death. Positive imagination is the death of illusion. That’s why love comes first to cushion the blow. Both together make for change that’s attainable.
Good therapy jump-starts the imagination. It shakes the status quo, illuminates pockets of darkness, releases the heart, and ushers in a new baseline—a sense of an alive self.
Andy Bernay-Roman is a Florida Licensed Mental Health Counselor, a Registered Nurse, and a Licensed Massage Therapist, who practices his unique form of body-oriented psychotherapy primarily at the Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida. Find out more about his work through his book, Deep Feeling, Deep Healing: The Heart, Mind, and Soul of Getting Well (ISBN 0-9708662-0-8, Spectrum Healing Press, 2001), available at his website http://www.deepfeeling.com. He can also be reached at 561.471.5867.
Vol 27 Issue 4 page 24