Just this week a new client shared this story. See if you can imagine this. This fellow notices that his six-year old dog is limping with one of his front legs. He gives it a feel and can’t find the reason, so he calls and schedules an appointment with his vet. The vet comes into the exam room, examines the dog and tells the fellow he needs to take an X-ray of the leg. The caretaker gives the vet the ok, and the films are taken.
The vet returns to the exam room and tells the fellow that his dog has bone cancer and will likely have less than two months to live. Wham. This poor fellow has just been hit by a bus. As he shared the story with me, he tried to explain his reaction to the words that he heard from the vet. “Shock,” was his best description.
Think about how the mind is working during this situation. This fellow takes his dog to the vet and his unconscious mind assures him that it is something simple and never gives him the glimpse of a possibility that this simple lameness could kill his dog. Then, the vet, who obviously has lost his sense of compassion, pulls his world out from underneath him with the hard, cold facts. That is, the facts, according to the vet.
The fellow said he tried to regain his composure to ask some questions, but each time he was denied any hope. The vet told him that the dog could not handle an amputation as he was too old. Remember, this is a six-year old dog. He was told that chemotherapy was not an option so the only thing left was to give him some pain medication and prepare for the inevitable.
Think about this situation again as it is a very valuable learning tool. The fellow goes to the vet assuming that the lameness is a simple problem with a probable fix. He is devastated when he is told the news about his dog. He leaves confused, terrified and a feeling of helplessness.
What if the vet had not taken the X-ray, assumed that it was a simple injury and sent him home with the same pain medications. The fellow would have left with a completely different mindset. Even though the revelation of the problem would have showed itself in time, but this is not my point. My point is, it was not the problem the dog had that created the fellow’s reaction, but the words that were used and the story that the mind created after hearing the words.
We humans, especially those of us growing up in our culture, have so conditioned our ego-minds that we have these emotionally-driven reactions to words that we have created a story about. Cancer is a perfect example. You get a phone call from a loved one and she tells you that she has cancer. You react. You hear that your best friend has cancer. You react.
Not only do we conditionally react to words because of a story that we created based on our beliefs and experiences, we become so attached to the story that we actually believe it. And, when we believe it, it becomes our reality.
Imagine going to meet a good friend for coffee. You are sitting there enjoying each other’s company and you quietly inform her that your doctor told you that you have cancer. Your friend reacts, and responds with fearful statements like, “Oh my God, you poor thing.”
I remember a story that a client told me about her dog falling out of a two-story window and breaking its leg. She was obviously panicked, so she rushed to the closest vet. The lady takes her dog into the clinic and the receptionist reacts. “Oh, my God. Let me get the vet.” She scurries off to get the vet and soon the vet drives and he too starts running around saying, “Oh my God. Oh, my God.” I laughed and laughed at her story. Imagine what it was like with three people running around hysterically. The dog was most likely the only one without emotional reactions.
The last thing that we need when facing critical situations is to have a conditioned, ego-mind flooding us with painful emotions and fearful thoughts. We need a calm mind that will assure us that everything will be fine. I know if I had cancer or some other serious health issue and I turned to a friend, I would certainly appreciate someone who was calm, quiet and assuring there for me.
So, how do we break these conditioned patterns that allow us to over-react to words? First, we realize that they are just words. Then, we realize that we have created a story that is associated with this word and that story is most likely very inaccurate. The story was created by the fearful, ego-mind based on our own experience (if any), other people’s experiences (their perceived experience), our knowledge (again based on others experiences) and society’s perspective in general. Would you really want to take that information as the truth?
When we use the mind to discredit the conditioned mind, it will eventually collapse on itself and move out of the way. Without the reactive mind screaming at us for attention, we can be objective and allow this mind-set to guide us through the potential tough times ahead.
I remember the spiritual guru Byron Katie telling the story of the doctor who told her that she had cancer. The doctor was upset having to give her the news and started crying. Katie said she found herself having to comfort the doctor. This is what happens when someone does not give in to the conditioned, reactive mind.
Remember, when you find yourself reacting to a diagnosis of a disease that triggers a painful reaction, you are not reacting to the disease. You are reacting to the word and the story behind the word. Realize this at the time and the simple awareness of this fact will allow the reaction to calm itself and pass on like a dark cloud in the sky.