the ides of march

The famous non-violent Vietnam war hero, monk and spiritual writer,  Thich Nhat Hahn wrote of a very mild man who was a good man and minded his business,  One day a young girl got pregnant and in her quest to hide the identity of the father she blamed it on this mild mannered man…The parents came and accused him, he answered, “I am sorry you feel that way.”  Later they brought the baby to him and said it would have to be responsible for this child and he answered, “so be it, if that is your belief, I will care for the child.”

Years later the family came back and said they now wanted the child back and he answered if that is your need and your belief so be it.”

The Master Tich Naht Hanh tells the story with more detail and fills the images to bring this story to life.  I am repeating the little that I remember of it because I have had occasion recently to feel accused of sins that I did not feel were on my soul, but being accused, I felt like a sinner.  As I was going through this period of time where the gossip and the stories were told and re told and even embellished I often thought of this Asian man who took everything said about him in stride.  But, it was more than in stride, it is as if he had a mission to not allow himself to become engaged in anyones drama, even if it meant not correcting a gross misperception.

I wish I had that power, that right mindedness to let perceptions take form in other people’s minds and to let these scenes just become the drama of the person creating the drama.  But I am no Monk, no Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be. And as the rest of the stanza goes:

Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I always resonated with Proofrock,  a man full of high sentence and a bit obtuse.  I always wanted to be a man more useful that I appeared to myself.  There are times when I wondered about the 39 years that I spent “counseling” people, “analyzing” people and in those attempts to support and to hold up and even to lend my ego when it was needed–I so often wondered, am I really helping.  Is there a piece of wisdom that I am imparting.

I never understood why at the end of a day of intense psychoanalysis when I was exhausted, I wondered why I should be tired. I would think, I have not labored, i did not sweat, I was not out in the heat of the day  digging with a pick ax and a shovel.  I only thought that sweat from my brow was hard work.  Intellectual activity–that is chicken feed.  Intellectual activity, emotional activity–these are mild states to be tolerated no matter how sever they are.

I think I was wrong.  A deep desire to reach someone emotionally may not require the tools of a pick-ax, but they require sweat from the heart and even gut wrenching pain that can come up from such depths that you wonder if you will ever see the bottom, the end to the pit of pain.

And what makes it even more interesting is that it does not even need yo be your pain–sometimes someone else’s pain will carve that same deep quake.  Well, i suppose this was an 8.9 because something rattled far and across the land and shook buildings that I thought could never be rocked–but they were and what has fallen in Porto Prince or Santiago can rock New York or London or my quaint New England with as much earth shattering tremors.

As I think back to the mild mannered man who never needed to correct the other party’s misperceptions, I wonder if I even want to be that kind of passive, non-violent man.  I see the very deep spiritual quietude that he must have in order to refuse to refute even evil stories about him, but I fail to understand why the lack of defense is applauded.

It has always seemed to me at least in my clinical work that as much as I found it difficult to mirror and join projections of hatred, it always felt wrong to validate a paranoid projection.  I think that delusions are such a common enemy of my mortal soul that I feel a sort of Michael the Archangel righteousness when it comes to correcting injustices.

I do not think I have an answer here.  It is more of a question.  When does confronting a delusion injure the party being questioned and when is it simply a human comfort to let that person struggle with their version of reality.

What is real, the perception or the fact, the data?  It almost leads me directly to the notion that spiritual solutions are not in competition with scientific fact they exist side by side more of a complement that a competition.

If I hurt you and did not mean to does your knowing that i did not mean to make it hurt less?  And if the answer is yes, then is psychic pain simply a matter of perception?And what would be the extent to which that could be true.  If I accidently drop a bomb on Berlin or London and then I say, “oops, I did not mean to do that.”  Does it hurt Berlin or London less.

Is the nature of an attack connected to the perception of the attack and does quantity of attack matter.  These relationship questions plague couples of any kind and sort. Mothers and father, sons and daughters, husbands and wives and nations to nations the question of intention and the acts of diplomacy are closely linked.

Forgiveness and acceptance are related, but not identical twins.  For the real act of forgiveness to take place it must be a negotiated contract.  Acceptance on the other hand is some thing that I can do all by myself and it does not require the other party to even participate in the equation.   I am sorry, I forgive you is a two party exchange.

I accept that what happened simply happened and I must find a way to go forward an let go of the event is a one party system.  I can go solo by letting go and accepting things as they are.  But the real heart of forgiveness is a coordinated, an arrived at, negotiated, well understood two-sided contract.

And on the way to the theater on the ides of march Julius Caesar said, “Well, the ides of march have come.” To which the seer responded, “Oh yes, they have come, but they are not gone.”

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4 comments on “the ides of march

  1. Collette Williams says:

    Sometimes I don’t respond to your blogs because you offer a buffet of ideas and I just don’t know how I can respond without writing a diatribe. I’m ever striving for the economy of spoken/written words! … amazing you write on this topic now. I had a rare dinner out last night with my closest friend. We talked about the art of being a “good” therapist/counselor/analyst. My friend asked why I have not chosen to finish my master’s in counseling – something I thought long and hard about – and still revisit from time to time. I told my friend that a “good therapist” must have great pateince and tolerance and allow the patient to keep their denials and dysfunctional coping mechanisms in place as long as they need them because if a thepasit strips their illusions away at the wrong time – that pateint can suffer terrible psychic pain – or worse – decide to leave this world by their own hand. Ultimately – although I think I would make a good, knowledgeable and compassionate therapist – I do not want the responsiblity. I think doctors and therapists are in very high stakes work. If a doctor – despite his/her best efforts – fails a pateint, they can die. If a therpaist fails a patient despite his/her best efforts – the patient can experience greater pain and suffering and/or death by their own hand. There is no perfection in this life even though we want doctors and therapists to have “perfect” solutions. And so I honor my helper/healer qualities in Brown DPHB research. At night I honor the artist in me with writing and jewelry making. Still, none of us are immmune from harming others or being harmed. I mentor a woman in a 12-Step recovery program. She is angry at me right now because I drew a boundary with her about confidenitaly and not talking about other people. She took my honesty in too personal a way. I cannot stop this woman from feeling bad – despite my best efforts to ease the personal pain she experienced when I spoke about the need for confidentiality for the good of all. Such is life. I strive to live the St. Francis prayer as best I can. I will never achieve it with perfection. I’m reminded that “to err is human, to forgive is divine.” I will continue to inch closer to god-like behavior the rest of my life – and to practice more self-forgiveness for the unintentional mistakes and harm I bring upon others. As a “recovering recluse,” I will say that for me – to be in the world and risk the rath of others for making misteps is better than to die alone in isolation where I avoid risks in the world for fear of doing ANYTHING wrong. One can’t experience Nirvana/Bliss moments in life without taking some significant risks. Most of the time – things turn out ok … other times, shit fairys come and &%$* all over us. Thank god for resiliency and forgiveness! [I can’t imagine EVER living like the “mild man” that you referenced. … Best I can do is be the “mildest woman” I can be and that’s good enough!]

  2. claudia luiz says:

    One of my favorite entries of yours – just so easy to grasp the feelings and concepts – the conflict between peaceful vs. aggressive energies – in ourselvs, in our patients, in how we work…really great – you nailed it.

    • aldussault says:

      thanks, Claudia…how is your writing project coming along..i would like to see more of it….if you would like to send additional chapters, i would enjoy reading al

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