Symptoms:

Friends Not Foes?

Ienvision the skeptical look of surprise on your face as you read the title of this post… We have all learned that “friends” and “foes” are not members of the same team; that the former is “good” and the latter is “bad”. Case closed. I am inviting you to take another look, to consider another perspective that just might sway your verdict…

Imagine, if you will, that you are driving your car one sunny afternoon when you notice that the “check engine” light on the dashboard is lit up. In all likelihood, as soon as you can, you would get that engine checked out. Perhaps one alteration or another is required for more optimal functioning of the engine and car itself; perhaps it is indicating the need for a tune up. In this case, the lit up “check engine” light was like a symptom that led you to get a problem or malfunction sorted out; this symptom turned out to be a friend alerting you to the issue and encouraging you to get your car checked out rather than a malevolent foe covering or hiding the issue and leaving you at risk. To act in accordance with how we usually deal with “foes” would be like smashing up your dashboard in order to get the “check engine” light to turn off; meanwhile, the underlying issue has not been tended to. Not so effective, is it?

Now, rather than a car, imagine that your stomach began to hurt; would you be inclined to bang it about or figure out a way to somehow get rid of it in order to deal with the discomfort? It is causing pain so it seems like a foe, so “full steam ahead ‘ get rid of it. Not so effective, is it? Try to shift your perspective here: perhaps the aching feeling in your belly is actually a friend letting you know that something isn’t right in your GI tract; a buddy suggesting you might want to get yourself to a clinic or something. Perhaps the symptom itself could lead to some sort of “cure”.

Although it might be covered up by various “lessons” which have been taught by the society in which we live, we all carry a lot of wisdom with us wherever we go; wisdom that readies us to be willing to check out other, less obvious options to problem resolution. These alternative options very often involve being patient, diligent, and maybe even a little gutsy; the ultimate question here: are you willing? Willing to follow a different route (a different means) to a desired end or outcome? A route that is off the beaten track? (A disclaimer is required here: all of this is barring unsafe or dangerous options!)

Listening to what your symptoms have to say and beginning to “know thyself” is a huge part in all of this. You know what is “normal” or habitual for you; having this baseline really could help you to notice when “something is off” and give you incentive to take action ie to discuss the matter with a physician or mental health professional. In a similar way, you and only you would know if remedies or treatments tried have yielded any benefits. The ancient Greeks were onto something when they recognized the importance of knowing thyself…

Poets have pointed to a radical relationship between distressing symptoms and guideposts to getting well or reclaiming previous well being. Be it depression, anxiety, panic, fear, the symptoms are not discounted or minimized at all; rather they are recognized for the direction they could provide. I encourage you to read The Guest House by Rumi as an excellent example.

So, has your verdict about who is friend and who is foe been altered? Whether it has or has not, your openness, curiosity, and willingness to read through this post and make new considerations/assume different perspectives is appreciated.

Andrea Dasilva is a Masters of Education, and a Registered Clinical Counsellor at No Fear Counselling and Summit Counselling Group.

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