Friday, 21 September 2012

Michael's Eyes

‘My great religion is a belief in the blood, the flesh, as being wiser than the intellect. We can go wrong in our minds. But what our blood feels and believes and says, is always true.’
- D. H. Lawrence

My friend Michael was hurting. We were having a drink in a bar downtown. “I am sick and tired of this!” he grumbled, “I don’t understand why it won’t clear up. Why can’t I find a cure?” For some months he had had an irritation in both eyes. Every time I saw him he complained about it - how debilitating it was and how annoyed he was that he couldn’t fix it.

Michael was a medical doctor and a psychiatrist and had his own private practice. He was very skilled at helping clients with their physical and emotional problems. People would even come to him from out of state to seek his advice. But nothing he did could make his own eye infection go away and he was feeling deeply frustrated and angry with himself.

“I’m at my wits ends,” he moaned, “I just can’t figure out what’s wrong. I have tried all sorts of medications, but nothing will shift it. I’m a doctor for god’s sake. I should be able to heal myself!”

Although I empathised with him, I had grown tired of his whining. I decided to be proactive. “How about talking to your eyes?” I suggested. Michael had studied Voice Dialogue with me and was familiar with the Psychology of Selves. “I guess we could schedule a session sometime,” he replied warily. I knew that ‘sometime’ meant ‘never’ and resolved to grab the bull by the horns. “I mean right now,” I insisted. “What, here in this bar!?” “Yes.”

There was hubbub all around us - the clinking of glasses, music playing, people laughing and chatting. I knew that this wasn’t the most appropriate location but intuitively I felt that now was the moment to act.

“Move over a little and let me speak to your eyes,” I said firmly.
A little taken by surprise, Michael slid his chair to his left.
“Hello, am I speaking to Michael’s eyes?”
“I understand that you haven’t been very well recently and that Michael hasn’t been able to do anything to heal you.”
“That’s right.”
“Can you explain what this infection is about and what Michael can do to help you?”
“That’s easy. He needs to cry.”
“Really? He doesn’t cry?”
“Is there something that he needs to cry about?”
“Of course! He didn’t cry when his father died. His mother died two years ago and he didn’t cry. His partner died last year and he didn’t cry. He needs to cry!”
“I see. And if he cries then the infection will go away?”
“Is there anything else Michael needs to do?”
“No. He just needs to allow tears to flow through me. Then I will be OK.”
“Thank you for talking to me.”

Michael moved his chair back and sat opposite me with a stunned look on his face. This short, to the point interaction had taken both of us by surprise. “It’s true,” said Michael thoughtfully, “I have never really grieved their deaths and I have certainly never cried for them. I’ve always been too busy taking care of other people and their needs and never allowed myself the luxury of letting my own feelings out.”

Some weeks later Michael called me to say that he had been taking some time out from his busy doctor’s schedule to sit quietly and feel the sadness of his bereavements. As he had done so, the tears had flowed and sure enough his eye infection had slowly cleared.

At the end of that year we met for dinner. I was leaving town and moving to another city and Michael had invited me for a farewell meal in a local restaurant. He seemed more relaxed and less driven than previously. He told me that he now saw the eye irritation not as a curse but as a gift. Realising what lay behind the infection had led him to re-evaluate his life. He had cut down on his workload and was now spending much more time at home cooking, gardening, walking his dog and simply being with his feelings.

At the end of the evening we embraced and said our goodbyes. And as we hugged I saw that Michael had tears in his eyes.