A friend told me yesterday about Dr. Rick Hansen’s metaphor about absorbing what is good. I love it and I am careful with it. To paraphrase, with all mistakes being mine, he suggests that negative experiences are absorbed into our cells instantly as they happen. This makes perfect sense to me, as the body has great wiring for protection and to stay alert to danger. So the negative experiences stick like Velcro. Good experiences (which are not life threatening) take 20-30 seconds to really be absorbed right into the cells. He talks about these experiences hitting the body as if it were Teflon, and without practice, they slip right off. As someone who has spent my life working with sadness and grief, I have been slightly reactive to some of the new work coming out of psychology that gets lumped under the title “positive psychology.” Somehow, I had constructed in my intellect (and my defense) that trying to make me happy was a denial of my own experience and the hard work it has been to be me, or to sit with my clients. But Dr. Hansen’s writing “tone of voice” (so important in how I absorb information) just seems to suggest that this would be so helpful to learn because sometimes the pain is just too much to bear and wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to help the brain reorganize.
I have always talked about memory attaching to strong emotion as one of the reasons why we remember the bad things. So now I can carefully (and without denying my own suffering and the value I have gained by facing it) begin to consider those 20-30 seconds. For the past several days, I have been using this as a mini-meditation and it is extremely comforting. We shall see how this experience goes, but I am passing it on to all of you, because there is a whole world of reasons why we are covered in Velcro, which I respect…but waves of relief and a more flexible brain seem worthy of trial. Thank you Dr. Hansen.