During those abrupt weather transitions between seasons I often get a little sick, but a recent illness took me by surprise. Everything ached. I felt weak and had strange, flaring symptoms. I thought it was clearing, but it went on for days. I got scared.
At the peak of my fear that something serious might be happening, a friend called to check in on me. When I reported my concerns, she said something like, “A lot of people are going through something similar. We all get so reactive to being sick.”
Well, it may have been true, but it certainly was not what I wanted to hear. She didn’t respond with the expected compassion I was seeking. Not only did I launch into a full-fledged defense of my unique symptoms, the length of my discomfort, and why I, above all others, had reason for serious concern, but I also noticed how energized and invested I was. Hmmm.
In fact, between you and me, while lying on my sickbed, I had entertained fantasies about being diagnosed with a horrible case of some rare, debilitating or mortal disease. The fantasies became full-fledged inner soap operas that I unwittingly used to scare myself and thereby exacerbate my natural fear. They not only gave purpose to my aches and pains, the fantasies kept me company, while taking a toll on my emotional health.
Upon reflection, I discovered a note of pleasure in this negative, anxiety provoking and habitual way of keeping myself company. It’s not that I want to be infirm. It wasn’t a suicidal ideation. It was a threadbare attempt to get a rise in a situation that was deflated and otherwise uncomfortable. It was my drama. My friend’s minimizing and saner view threatened to take it away, leaving me to my simple aches and pains, without reason for special attention.
We never think when we are in the midst of our fatalistic inner scenarios that we might actually be deriving some pleasure from it. If you find yourself using dark, internal “drama” as a way to pay attention to yourself and keep yourself company, notice, as you sink into a deep morass or complain to others, what you are really looking for. I am not talking about communicating or tending to real and tender emotion, which has a transformative effect. Similarly, fantasizing has psychological value. It’s when we invest emotionally and believe in the barrage of haunting messages that we perpetuate our darker emotions and lose our ability to go within, and to go without authentically. But letting go of our habitual and addictive pull to dramatize in this way would also mean facing the emptiness and other feelings that are there without it.
Turns out I was diagnosed with early Lyme, but thank goodness, a strong does of antibiotics quickly cured it.
How do you keep yourself company? Take a tour of your inner landscape. Enjoy an exploration of the thoughts and feelings that are the lovers, friends and strange bedfellows of your mind.