To begin the story at the beginning, read "Part 1: Post 1: Beginning Again," published in January, 2013. To consult a description of the campus, read "Part 1: Post 14: The Greening of Campus," published in March, 2013.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Part 3: Post 3: Loose Threads

 I'm still thinking about the workshops from earlier this week. Obviously I'm thinking about Charlie's scars, how he could have come by them, but he’s not going to tell me that story, I’m sure, so I can’t see much point in putting a lot of energy there.  It’s a good bet the injury had something to do with his alcoholism, and he protects his vulnerabilities like a porcupine does.

No, the one I’m trying to figure out is the first aid class. They said that before you treat anyone you need to get the patient’s permission, and the way they said it made it sound like some regrettable inconvenience. Like obviously, the person needs help, but too bad you can’t if the patient is stupid enough to refuse. Or something. And something didn’t quite sit right with me. 

I’ve been in group therapy long enough now that wondering why I think and feel things is starting to become a habit. I wouldn’t say I’m overly obsessed with it—I still find the inside of my head basically a boring topic of conversation—but sometimes I notice things without knowing I notice them, and sometimes those things turn out to be important.

So I brought it up in group therapy. I wasn’t sure I was supposed to bring up something like this, because we usually talk about more emotional things, but Allen was with us this week and he said it was ok.

“You’ve found a loose thread in your mind and you want to pull on it. So go ahead and pull on it; let’s find out where it leads.”

So I started talking. We talked around and around the subject, and every time we went around I got angry. Or, at least Allen told me I seemed angry. I’m not very good at what Allen calls ‘naming feelings,” yet. It was like I was going around a track and there was a bump in the track and every time I went over the bump I got mad, but I couldn’t figure out what the bump was, and nobody else seemed to notice. They all agreed with the first aid teachers, and didn’t seem to see the big deal anyway. 

Finally Allen suggested we try role-playing. Pretty much the whole therapy group had been in class with me, so we broke into groups and did training scenarios, pretending to be sick or injured like we had in class, except with the patient refusing care and the rescuer insisting. We did three different scenarios, so we each got to be the patient, the rescuer insisting on giving care, and a secondary rescuer watching. And we were supposed to keep track of how our bodies felt in each role. Allen is really into paying attention to bodily feelings. He says that is where emotions live.

As the insisting rescuer I felt weird, slightly sick, and bizarrely turned on. It was like being somebody I really don’t want to be. As the other rescuer I felt bad in a different way; I wanted to stand up for the patient against the other rescuer, but I couldn’t because I didn’t think that was in the script. But as the patient, I didn’t have a script. I just had to pretend to be injured and to say no to treatment.

And maybe it was because I’d been role-playing at that point for several minutes, but I really got into it. I forgot I was playing a role. I got really angry with the rescuer and tried to physically push her away. She fought back, and accidentally bumped against my “broken” arm and I screamed like my arm was really broken. I don't remember feeling any actual pain, but I acted like I did automatically, without even thinking about it. Raven, knocked off balance, leaned for a moment on my arm, right where I'd decided it was broken, and this involuntary pain scream escaped me. In my mind, my arm was broken, and this sick twit was trying to mess with me like she didn’t think I could take care of it myself. And everybody in the room stopped what they were doing and looked at me.

I won’t get into the entire debriefing session afterwards, other than that Allen named my response to the patient as “compassionate” and “protective,” and that some of the others reported the same feelings I’d had in each of the roles. I wasn’t the only one who pushed the rescuers away, I was just the only one who had convinced myself I was actually physically injured. 

Raven said I must hypnotize very easily and said I should talk to Kit about trance induction and extraction. But she also said that in magical ethics there is something about consent as well; you’re not supposed to even cast a spell on someone’s behalf unless they ask you to. Oak said he’d heard of that but didn’t think it was true; as long as you cast the spell for the other person’s highest good it was ok, and if you worked in the name of the Mother she’d stop any wrongly conceived spells from taking hold, anyway. So then we started talking about magical ethics, and I thought we were kind of getting off-topic, but I didn’t want to say anything about it. Oak kept arguing that if somebody needs help you have a duty to help them, even if they don’t realize they have a problem. If you don’t, they could die, or whatever else, and how could we let that happen? He seemed angry now, like maybe he thought I’d indirectly accused him of being a bad person, with my screaming and my anger and my protective compassion. He kept saying how could we let a person make a serious mistake if we knew better and had the power to help?

Suddenly, something clicked in my mind. I didn’t think Oak would like hearing it very much, but I figured if he was taking my thoughts and feelings personally that was his problem.

“We don’t have the ability to know what’s best for other people,” I said. “If someone else wants to live their life a certain way, that’s up to them and God. They have their own Higher Power to take care of them. And it’s not us.”

Donna way looking at me funny.

“That’s very wise, Daniel,” she said, in tones suggesting she thought I hadn’t had it in me. I would have resented her tone, except she was right. I hadn’t.

“It’s not original,” I told her. “I heard someone say almost exactly the same thing, word for word, in Al-Anon.”

[Next Post: Monday, May 13th: Island]

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