Men and Health

From a talk by Tim Jackins at the West Coast USA Men’s Workshop, fall 2005

Part of male conditioning in our society is being expected to absorb physical damage and be quiet about it. We men work ourselves to death, wear ourselves out, and take a sort of reactive pride in being able to work past any sensible limit.

We learn to push ourselves against feelings of difficulty. There is something about bravery that we get to learn—how to stand against our fears—but there’s a hunk of distress in there that essentially kills us, that makes us give up on life as distress accumulates. We call it aging. Life gets smaller and smaller, and more difficult. We make more odd noises as we move. You remember your father’s noises? You said, “I’ll never sound like that!”

The suppression of discharge has meant that distresses from physical damage accumulate and make everything more difficult. In this society we die seven years earlier, on average, than women do. Women do not have carefree, distress-free lives, but I think the physical damage is a large part of what does us in[1] sooner.

WORK ON PHYSICAL DAMAGE

Work on it or die. It’s very simple. There are few things we can say this explicitly. You have to go back to when you were taught to be a tough little guy, or go quiet, or do whatever it was that made you stop looking at the hurts, stop paying attention to them, and stop having any hope that somebody else could listen to you about them. This happens to men early. How old were you when you stopped paying attention to physical hurts? How old were you when you started getting “toughened up”? It can depend on your neighborhood. By the time we were six, the guys in my neighborhood were all doing that. And it continues on into the teenage years, when the hurts become solid. If you do physical labor for a living, you’re supposed to take all of that punishment quietly, come back for more the next day, and keep it up.[2]

We men are starved for somebody to notice and pay attention to our physical distresses. If the conditions are right, we’ll sit down and tell horrible stories. That’s the closest thing to a session on physical distress most of us can find. “Oh, you think that was bad—listen to this!” Even the well-conditioned, proper, successful  businessman, if he has an operation, wants to show you the scar.  He wants someone to pay attention to the physical damage he was subjected to.

Physical damage makes a distress recording in the same way emotional damage does, and usually both are mixed together. Maybe the first time you got hurt it was just a physical hurt, but odds are that the people around you handled it poorly because they were emotionally upset. Even if you weren’t upset, you picked up the upset from others and it got connected to the distress recording of physical damage. A bit of blood showed, and Mommy got scared and thought you were dying. What could you think at that point? Fear recordings accumulate with each bit of physical damage we don’t get a chance to discharge, and so the confusion builds.

Some of us are really scared about physical damage—even little things. We feel like they’re going to be permanent. When I have certain kinds of hurts, I start thinking I’ll have to live with them for the rest of my life. At some point people usually give up on recovery and start accommodating. What you need to do when you sustain physical damage is look at it: look at the way it feels, face the pain of it, and discharge. Almost everyone in our society, including you, is terrified of doing this.

PAY ATTENTION TO THE PAIN

Our society is organized to hide pain. Deeply ingrained in the medical profession is confusion about pain, damage, and distress. Almost always, medical people want to deaden the pain as quickly as possible. If you ask them why, they often can’t give you a rational reason.

I remember a time a couple of decades ago when I chopped off the end of my finger. I went to the hospital. The nurse wanted “oh so badly” to give me a shot of painkiller. She spent time talking to me about it, and I said, “No, I want to notice the pain and go through the experience without the painkiller.” Eventually she got a little bowl of saline solution to soak my finger in and when she thought I wasn’t looking dumped some xylocaine[3] into it, as if I would absorb it somehow and it would deaden the pain. Of course, it had no effect that way. But she couldn’t resist; she couldn’t hold herself back. The fear of somebody not being numbed was too intense for her.

What you need to do is face the pain. Pain is not a mistake. It is not a bad thing. Pain is connected to physical damage. It is part of your body’s system for notifying you that there’s damage in that spot. It’s the way your body gets you to pay attention to it. When you lose touch with that notification, you lose touch with the injury.

You have to turn and look at the physical damage and pain. We men are so trained to turn away and not pay attention to it that it’s a struggle for us to notice. What we have learned to do in Co-Counseling is to “torture” each other. (Laughter) By “torture” I mean rub the sore place and let the person feel it. The injured person needs to howl. He needs to make the sounds of feeling the physical hurt.

Essentially what you want to do is help the person notice the damage that has been done. You are not trying to cause new damage; you are trying to keep the person’s attention on the damage and pain that is already there. For those of us who have been pushed away from noticing, paying attention to our injuries is a big struggle. 

It’s almost impossible for most guys to do this, so as counselors we often have to make noises for them. Along with helping them to feel the pain (by rubbing the spot), we have to make the noises they can’t make.  And we have to overdo it, because we’re trying to contradict patterns of staying controlled and quiet. We have to be loud and sound like we’re in pain. This sort of thing: OWWWW! OWWWWW! (said loudly and with intense feeling).

We have to use all our ingenuity to get them to notice. We have to bring the injury to their mind. Maybe one knee is badly damaged, and they need to pay attention to it but they can’t. As counselor we might be a little edgy[4] about doing anything with that knee, so we go SMACK on the other knee. That’s enough to bring the injured one to mind. We’re trying to get them to pay attention to the physical damage and pain, and stay there. As they pay attention to it and discharge, something starts to resolve and the injury becomes less and less painful.

Distress patterns interfere with our ability to heal. When people work on physical damage, they notice changes in the way the injury feels and how fast it heals.

DISCHARGING ON BURNS

Burns are a good example. You know what usually happens when you burn yourself. The burn blisters up with fluid and becomes big, awkward, and sensitive for a long time. Something else happens if you pay attention to a burn and feel the pain by keeping it warm. Put it in lukewarm water so it feels like it’s burning again, and discharge. When it’s no longer warm enough, heat it up a little more—and keep doing that. (You can test the water temperature on unburned flesh to determine how much heat you’re applying.) As you heat it, the burn gets less and less sensitive. And if you do it enough, the skin doesn’t blister at all. It dies (the burn killed it), and it lies there like leather, tough and flexible. It stays there until the skin underneath repairs itself, and then it peels off.

When you don’t work on a burn this way, you get the big mess I described earlier. Apparently the pumping of extra liquids to the area is an overreaction to the physical distress.

I have two great examples. In high school, when I was seventeen, I was working in the back of a cafeteria at one of the big dishwashing machines. (Those machines don’t just wash dishes, they sterilize and cook them.) A hose broke, and one of my hands got hit with 150-degree water. Luckily it was a noisy dish room and I was alone. I just sat there, caught hot dishes, and yelled my head off[5] as I kept working. I knew I was never going to get another chance to test this method so cleanly. For a couple of weeks, two-thirds of my hand was like leather, and there were no blisters.

The other time was with the seven-year-old daughter of a Co-Counselor. She pulled a frying pan of hot fat onto herself, and it spilled across her face. Her mom and another Co-Counselor were working with her on it when I arrived. They were putting a washcloth on the burn to keep it warm. The washcloth was quite cool—they couldn’t bear to keep it warm enough that the girl could actually feel the pain. I asked the girl if it was warm enough, and she said, “No.” I said that the cloth needed to be warm and that the burn needed to hurt for her to be able to discharge and fully recover. So the seven-year-old kept ordering her mother to go back and make it hotter. It was lovely. The mom would ask, “Are you sure?” and then she’d go back and warm the cloth.

We did that for forty minutes. Then the girl got into the bathtub, set the shower temperature, and marched into the warm water—over and over again. Her skin was bi-colored for about two weeks before it all peeled off. There was no scar.

I am quite sure about this work. If you need graphic proof for yourself, try it.  It’s interesting. The burn changes right in front of your face. With the discharge of most distresses, you know you’re better, but how do you show somebody else? How do you show someone that something has changed in your mind because you’ve been able to discharge on it? It’s hard to do, but with burns it’s right out there where you can touch the results. It’s nice.

PHYSICAL DISTRESS AND AGING

Even though at the moment you may not be hurting, you need to remember that we all have been trained not to focus on physical hurts. The resulting accumulation of distress makes us slow down and stop trying, and eventually it can kill us. I have no idea what aging actually is. I’m not sure anybody does, because no one who studies it has any idea about distress patterns. We certainly don’t have enough information. But I intend to find out. Last month I was sixty years old. I figure I can go up and down the basketball court for at least another two decades. I’d rather not be alone, so I invite you to join me.

I suspect that aging is real to some extent, but most of what we see is distress recordings sitting on top of the aging process. The recordings make us give up, make us settle for being hurt, make us unwilling to try against the pain to have a fuller life. I suspect there’s a tremendous amount every guy could get back if he had the resource to face and discharge his physical hurts. I want you guys to start doing that now and not wait until things look hopeless.

CANCER

Our bodies are well engineered, and if they’re in good shape and functioning well, they can handle all sorts of things. This includes things that happen to our cells. 

Consider cancer cells. We have too many cells in our bodies for some of them not to misfunction. With billions of cells, something is going to happen. So we have built-in mechanisms that hunt for the cells that have gone a little weird and signal them to commit suicide. We’ve had these mechanisms all our lives, and they’ve worked well. Then at some point something interferes, like being exposed to too many chemicals of a certain sort, and the system gets overloaded. It looks to me like distress is part of what interferes with the system and prevents it from continuing to operate well. If discharging on physical distress is something we can do, I think it makes sense to put in some time on that.

PRESENT AND PAST PHYSICAL DISTRESSES

We work on present-day physical distress by looking at how it feels in present time. To discharge on most other distresses, we talk about how they feel but we also look at the present-day reality that is different from the distress. Present-time physical damage is present-day reality. The way it feels is part of that reality. It is not a separate odd thing coming out of a distress recording. It hurts for real, and we have nerves whose main job it is to pass that message on to us. So we need to pay attention to how the damage feels.

Because we have a lot of physical distresses from long ago, present-day physical hurts may feel just like something we felt before. Have you noticed how the ways you get sick almost always consist of the same symptoms over and over again? You know a cold is coming; you know that feel. I think most of those symptoms are probably restimulated distress recordings.

Everything that was going on with our bodies at the time the original hurts happened was recorded, including fevers. An elevated temperature can be incorporated into a distress recording, as can any other physical response, and when the distress recording is restimulated, we can get a fever again.

Someone in one of my early fundamentals classes worked on a time in her teens when she had tuberculosis. One of the symptoms of tuberculosis is a high fever. She started working, and her temperature went up to a hundred and four degrees. It scared her, and her Co-Counselor. Together they brought her attention out of it, and her temperature went right back down.

An experience my mother had is another example of physical symptoms being brought on by restimulation. My mother was one of the first four people to experiment with what later became RC. I was about five years old when she had her first Co-Counseling session. In that session she talked about the morning sickness she had when she was pregnant, and after talking about it she had morning sickness for a week. All the symptoms came back. That didn’t do her any good, but it was interesting.

When you work on old physical distresses, don’t focus on the physical feel of them. They’re back there in the past, like other undischarged distresses, so look at the surrounding emotional feelings: how scared you were, the sadness, whatever. If you look at the physical part (and it’s not horrible to do that), what can happen is similar to the examples above. You can restimulate the physical aspect of the recording and feel just the way you felt back then. Several years ago there was a period of time when I’d wake up in the middle of the night with every joint hurting from the rheumatic fever I had as a child. Then it would be gone in the morning.

You can bring back the old physical distresses by focusing on them, and I suggest you avoid doing that. It doesn’t tend to let you discharge, and it can be confusing. Instead, look at how scared or alone you felt, or how you were treated when you were sick. Were you put in the back bedroom and left alone until you got better? Look at all the emotional feelings surrounding the physical distress, and then the physical part of it will discharge in yawns.

COMMENT: About fifteen years ago I started working on having been in an incubator as an infant.When I’d head directly into it, my lungs would fill up with fluid. That wasn’t useful, and I realized I had to come at it more tangentially.

TIM’S RESPONSE: There’s a fascination to get back to what happened, and we can be pulled into that.

YAWNING

Yawning is the big sign of recovery from physical distress. It is the least suppressed of the discharges, so we tend to be able to do it. If I mention it, people start yawning. At the beginning of every Co-Counseling session, if there’s enough slack around me, I will yawn for three, four, five minutes before I go on and work on anything else.

We all have a vast mountain of yawns waiting to come out. As you cry or shake about the emotional side of a recording, the crying or shaking will be sprinkled with yawns. Yawns are important. Because they haven’t been suppressed like the other forms of discharge, it may be hard for us to remember to take them seriously. But yawning will change your perspective. You will notice a big shift in your mind.

In the mid-seventies I was discharging on a time when I had rheumatic fever at age six, and appendicitis at age four. I would yawn and yawn and yawn, especially in one particular Co-Counseling group. After a certain number of yawns, suddenly I could see everything in color in a different way. Something had shifted, and I could see the world more clearly.

Even though it may seem like an odd little offhand[6]sort of discharge, yawning can make a big difference in the way the mind functions. It’s just as important as all the other forms of discharge.

If I can find time and go away to someplace where I don’t have to pay attention to anything, and just sit for five minutes, I can notice myself, and stretch and move and start to yawn. This form of discharge is that available. If I can remember to take three minutes in the morning after the alarm goes off and just notice myself physically, the same thing happens. I start to yawn and stretch. Something unhooks a little, and everything becomes easier. This is true when I’m  getting up and also when I’m going to sleep. You may have to walk into another room where no one is going to request your attention, where you are safe from intrusion, to be able to do this—but I think it’s worth testing it out.

QUESTION: Do you think there are different kinds of yawns? For example, is there a tired yawn and a physical-distress yawn?

TIM’S RESPONSE: I don’t think so. I think they’re all connected to the same thing. Tiredness, physical damage, ingested chemicals, hormone imbalance—all of these come off as yawns. When there is present-day physical damage, people tend to want to touch it. You know how injuries itch as they heal. You want to touch them. You want to rub them. You want to stretch that muscle. All those things seem to be part of healing, too, but yawning is the big thing that shows.

HEALING, VERSUS STABLE OR CHRONIC, PHYSICAL DISTRESS

QUESTION:  Can we counsel directly on the hurts that happened this weekend?

TIM’S RESPONSE: Yes. If you’re still feeling the pain from a recent injury, you can work on it directly. There are questions. One of them is, ”When is it over?”[7] It’s hard to be precise. When does it stop healing? Has it reached a stable point at which it’s not healing anymore? When it does, you start working on it as an old hurt rather than a present-day one. But if you get clumsy and stumble into old physical feelings, it doesn’t hurt you. It just hurts. You can get your attention off them and work your way out of the restimulation.

People sometimes get trapped in physical distress, and the distress becomes chronic. In that case, it’s better to get their attention off of it. If they have a migraine headache, get their attention out. Get their attention away from the restimulated physical distress and encourage them to counsel on whatever emotional feelings are attached to it. Until they get enough attention off of the physical distress, there usually isn’t enough resource to work on it.

ASTHMA AND ALLERGIES

QUESTION:  I tried to counsel someone on asthma, and when I’d encourage him to take a powerful direction, his symptoms would come up. He would say, “Okay, that’s too much,” and I didn’t want to push. It seemed tricky.[8]

TIM’S RESPONSE: It is tricky, mainly because it scares both of you. It’s hard to have judgment. I’ve worked with a couple of people on asthma and similar conditions, and all the present-time episodes looked to me like restimulations of early fears. Maybe the initial episode was mostly fear, too. Perhaps the physical difficulty was never the main distress.

C— was working on early childhood asthma. He figured out that the asthma itself hadn’t been particularly bad but that his folks had been afraid that he was going to die and had acted out that fear at him. Something like that is often a big part of these kinds of recordings. Try to get your client to see that the reactions of the people around him were a separate thing. Try to get him to talk about what the people were doing.

With asthma and some other physical conditions, like allergies, some small thing was in the environment at the time of a hurt, and running into that small thing now is enough to restimulate the hurtful event and bring on the physical symptoms. Perhaps there was pollen from some particular flower in the room. If the same kind of pollen is around in the present, the person’s senses pick it up and that’s enough to trigger the physical symptoms.

I’ve worked with people who have asthma, and I’ve also heard reports from others. Asthma seems to be connected to heavy early fears. People need to go back and look at those fears, but they’re usually afraid to. In my experience, people always feel scared about the attack as they work on it. They can’t avoid that if they’re going to work on the distress. If they try to be oh-so-safe and stay away from it, they can’t really work on it. Your client is going to have to feel afraid. Try to find a way for him to work lightly on it. Have him practice wheezing. Or, as counselor, do a caricature of the thing he’s afraid of: die—slowly, strangling, in his presence. Pull his fears about the asthma off to the side somehow so he isn’t trying to look at them directly. (Of course, it will help if you work on your own fears about all this beforehand, with somebody else.) The better the sessions go, the less likely it is he’ll have an episode of asthma.

I know people who, when an asthma attack has felt imminent, have worked hard at getting their attention off the distress. They’ve found ways to pull their attention far away from it so that the restimulation doesn’t snowball into an episode. Since it’s possible to do that, one would suspect that the symptoms are recorded distress.

You need to be confident for your client. You can tell him, “I’ll do whatever it takes—you’re not going to die with me here.” Somebody has to be confident, because he won’t be able to be confident for himself for a while.

KEEP NOTICING THE PAIN

QUESTION: I have lots of aches and pains from a recent injury. You probably wouldn’t appreciate it if I were screaming while you were trying to talk up front. Does it make sense for me to keep noticing the pain if I’m not discharging? My mind is able to pay attention to you and not pay attention to the aches and pains.

TIM’S RESPONSE: The question is, does it distract you to notice the pain? I’ve developed a way to not ignore my physical distress when I’m paying attention to other things. I make sure that if something still hurts, I keep noticing the pain. I keep flexing the limb or moving it. You can do that without being distracted. It makes sense to keep your mind noticing present-day (non-restimulated) pain, and doing that doesn’t have to pull you far away from the world. Your mind has the ability to keep track of many things at once. You don’t have to do just one or the other.

SMOKING AND DRUGS

QUESTION: What about discharging things you’ve done to yourself, like smoking or drugs?

TIM’S RESPONSE: All those substances put in physical distress. Hopefully your use of them is far enough back that it’s an old hurt. (Laughter) You work on all the distress that’s wrapped around it. For example: Why did you start smoking? Who smoked in your life? When did (or do) you “need” to smoke?

With drug use you talk about all the different times, all the “trips,”[9] all that went through your head. As people discharge on a drug experience, they get a different picture of what it was like. What seemed exciting turns out to have an awful lot of fear embedded in it. It changes as they work on it. You need to tell the story of the drug use and all the things that were wrapped around it. Studded in there you will find all sorts of distresses that got attached.

Reprinted from Present Time No. 150, January 2008, page 5


[1] Does us in means causes us to die.
[2] Keep it up means continue doing it.
[3] Xylocaine is a local anesthetic.
[4] Edgy means worried, tense.
[5] Yelled my head off means yelled loudly, without restraint.
[6] Offhand means without premeditation or preparation.
[7] Over means finished with, done.
[8] Tricky means complex, challenging, and difficult.
[9] In this context, a trip means drug-induced hallucinations.


Last modified: 2016-08-22 09:11:22+00