Monday, June 11, 2007

The Malingerer

An interesting and possibly useful insight during meditation this morning. It started out with the observation of the discomfort and un-ease of the breath, with this continuing cold, and moved into an annoyance with its recurrence and its refusal to quit. I began watching the flow of energies in the body and asking myself where the blockages were: the throat, certainly, and the lungs--the whole upper torso. Then I thought to ask myself what the old emotional blackages might be: what was it, I wondered, that the mind could be setting up to impede the natural healing process--because I do believe that the body wants naturally to heal itself, and has the knowledge and the power to do it.

Okay, so the mind came up with a very interesting memory: as a boy at boarding school, from the earliest age until the day I left at the age of eighteen, I had learned to practice the art of malingering. The "san"--the sanitorium, the little school hospital at each of the two schools I attended--had appealed to me as a wonderfully safe refuge from boyworld out there. In my experience, this meant school work (essays, learning the rules of math and algebra, learning the tenses and cases in Latin and other languages, learning great chunks of Caesar by heart--thank God, I've forgotten them, though I still remember whole poems by LaFontaine that I learned back then); and sports, which I hated with a passion--I was never able to see a ball approaching me through space; and teasing--especially about the plump little body of which I was inordinately ashamed.

So if I was fortunate enough (I thought of it this way!) to get sick, I made it my duty to myself to find ways of prolonging the sickness and the stay in the "san." I got to be quite good at it. I could develop a fever at the drop of a hat, and my symptoms, mysteriously, seemed to hang around indefiitely. In my last year at boarding school, I spent the second (winter) term of the school year as an exchange student in Germany, where the DKW (now the Audi: I have never liked those cars since then) skidded on an icy road and ended up in a head-on collision with a tractor. The impact was so great that it broke the heavy farm equipment neatly in two--and cracked my head in a nasty way against the windshield. Returning to school in England, at the most miserable of periods in my life, I found comfort in the "san", where the good nurse was sweet and kind and motherly, and delivered nice little pills at night to help me sleep. I suspect she knew that I was malingering at the time, so I'll never forget her kindness.

Kind of pathetic, no? But there's a sad truth here: what I learned--what my body-mind learned--was that you make the most of your sickness when you have it, you protract it as far as possible to derive the last little piece of benefit from it. Sickness becomes a great, protective force which excuses you from any other unpleasantness that life may bring.

Will this insight--and the power of the mind--help me get past this dreadful cold? Or is just a piece of fanciful gobbledy-gook? The medical profession, certainly, would have me believe their story--about infections, the need for anti-biotics, etcetera--and the rational western mind with which I have been trained finds it hard not to go along with them. Still, an interesting insight, no?


Quink said...

Sounds like you might find a spiritual home here. We also put a guide to malingering and hoodwinking matron into our book, Swinesend...

Anonymous said...

Speaking of malingering did you see the Soprano's last night. Not going off with a bang or a wimper but with onion rings. A perfect literary ending and such an odd pop culture finish.
Onion rings will cure your cold with the help of some

Dr. Steve said...

I too was a malingering child. My household was chaotic and physically dangerous. When I was “being sick” I was treated to pleasant attention and caring. My body-mind learned quickly that if the stress at home got to a certain point my body would serve as the family stress circuit breaker and I would get ill. The attention would turn to me and instead of violence I would receive concern. Thus started endless trips to the doctors, rounds of antibiotics, blood tests etc. During yet another move to yet another city and another new school the doctors thought I had leukemia. Make no mistake, I was truly sick; I was sick of living with alcoholism, uncertainty, and hate. It wasn’t until I emancipated myself from the craziness that I became free from the need to be ill, or have I? It’s so easy to believe that disease is an external force, its reinforced culturally, medically and socially. In my hallucination I see symptoms as messengers from the deepest part of myself. I try to pay attention to any meanings that my body-mind might be sending my way. If I’m in my lower chattering mind I interpret a cold as something I caught from someone else, and why can’t they be more careful not to expose others? If my consciousness is elevated for whatever reason I interpret the runny nose and malaise as a message that I may not be acting in congruency with my life’s purpose. In my strange way of thinking I don't get disease, I do disease. Symptoms for me can be important clues to where to look for a change in behavior that may be needed.
Or, it may just be a cold.

Carly said...

Onion rings? Well, I know tons of cooked garlic kills just about anything. Steamed or stir fried, it tastes a bit like potatoes and doesn't smell. Good aging food.