Yogic psychology says there’s more. Encountering these stuck and painful knots is the path. This perspective teaches us that we aren’t stuck, we’re only identifying with less satisfying “things.” One remedy, Patanjali tells us, is to look for the opposite (II:33). I think of it as the Nourishing Opposite (Fay, 2010) not just any opposite, but something that will actually invite more nourishment into our experience. Pain, then, is a process of pointing out the way to remember and return ourselves to our true nature. In integrating opposites, holding these opposites simultaneously (Bryant, 2009; Miller, 2014), a third higher synthesis occurs (Patanjali 2.48), in which suffering is eased.Fay, Deirdre. Attachment-Based Yoga & Meditation for Trauma Recovery: Simple, Safe, and Effective Practices for Therapy (pp. 16-17). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.
The prescription to nourish the opposite when feeling stuck is the same process as identifying presenting issues and corresponding client goals. In seeking the opposite of what pains us, we seek joy. Treatment plans that include objectives, interventions and modalities chart the path of the nourishing opposite. Together we seek ease for the anxious, joy for the grieving, elevation for the depressed, reality for the delusional, focus for the inattentive. Therapy invites the nourishing opposite.
What pains you? What is this pain’s opposite? Can you invite the nourishing opposite?
As a therapist-intern, I find myself sometimes wobbly having absorbed client anxieties, fears, angers, sadness and confusion. Why am I angry? Is this anger even mine? Is this pain mine? Am I mirroring client feelings? Or maybe my feelings are responding, like a song?
I have been feeling irritable this weekend. What is the nourishing opposite? Feeling agreeable? How do I feel agreeable? Accept what is, accept that for now I’m feeling irritable, sensitive, overwhelmed, cranky without shame.
Writing helps me. Sharing with you nourishes me. I already feel a bit more relaxed, allowing myself to feel irritable and agreeable at the same time.
Now you try it. What feeling is bothering you? What is the opposite? How do you invite the nourishing opposite? How can you sit with the contradiction?
This takes practice, doesn’t it…
May we return to our own nature by listening to our discomfort (over and over again),
Photography by Nate Dale – New Adventure Production