A Personal Study of Core Pain

Martin Sellix, 2002. A Personal Study of Core Pain. Reformulation, Autumn, pp.27-29.


A Personal Study of Core Pain

Martin Sellix

This is my attempt to understand my own core pain about a particular issue. It may not cover all the academic criteria but it has helped me to understand my own feelings. And as a result I share it as an aid to help us understand where others may be coming from in their journey and where their journey may have stopped. I hope too that it may be of use as a way of expressing and helping a stuck journey, as mine undoubtedly was, to become a journey of change and excitement.

In CAT we speak of reciprocal roles, target problems, procedures and exits. We try to describe journeys in words, the reformulation, and drawing, the sequential diagrams. My guess is that for many a client as well as for the trainee therapist, this all sounds daunting and a little frightening. The use of jargon can both excite and hide the real feeling world and when it all becomes a reality there is a feeling of - what is happening here? Such was my experience when faced with the prospect of serious surgery .Yes, there was the usual "it will be all right", "yes you will be fine" and the usual nondescript -"don't worry". Quite what one makes of the "don't worry" school of thought I leave to the imagination. The facts of the matter are that faced with serious surgery I was scared out of my wits. Even the night before the session in theatre I considered backing out. The level of fear and scare was something that I had not experienced before and the feeling of loneliness was intense. Everyone was nice and reasuring and soon I gave up trying to elicit sympathy or even the hope of substitution! It was at this point and in the middle of the night that I began to ask some questions:

1) What is really going on?
2) Why am I so scared?
3) How can I manage what I am feeling?
4) Where is the root of all of this?
5) How can what I am feeling benefit others as I understand myself?

What follows is an attempt to answer these questions. It is written from the standpoint of trying to describe my journey into one part of my core pain.

As is always the case, past history is important and I share just one significant aspect of the roles I have with my parents. I was never what I would describe as comfortable with my parents and found them to be distant. This description of one role leaves me to feel cut off and not wanted. Therefore we can speak of one repertoire as distant to cut off and lonely. This I now realise not only had significant power in the way I dealt with my parents but also how I deal with myself, especially when it comes to emotions and feelings. The number of cards and good wishes that I received massively challenged the "I don't matter and no one is interested in me". In fact not a day passed in over five weeks without a card or a phone call or a letter or a visit and I had to realise that I do matter and that others are interested in me. Such was the power of these gestures that I began to confront part of my core pain -fear. Fear- it was so powerful that I was afraid to look at it and even to think about it. Yet it is ths fear that stops me from being who I am, a creative person. It is this fear which prevents me from trying to express myself. I am consumed with fear to the point that I am afraid of dealing with this fear. It was as I came to this point in my thinking that a change began to take place.

Firstly, I began to speak in a different way to those around me and began to trust what they were saying. Having this basic reciprocal role meant that I was ultra suspicious about anything anyone said and would dismiss most of it as "oh they are just being nice" and that would be that. No matter what was said there was a suspicion. This I saw was beginning to diminish and a sense of trust was emerging. This was and still is a new experience. Being cut off and lonely means that one tends to make ones own parameters and one does not take into consideration what others are trying to do by way of help. Being cut off also means that you are on your own to make decisions about the on going issues Little or no reference is made to others and when an opinion is given it is dismissed almost out of hand.

Secondly, and this is more difficult to describe, one is cut off from oneself This implies that there is part of you that does not exist. Indeed the part that does not exist is the part that actually controls all the rest. Fear for me was the controlling element; this fear would not allow any active participation in coming to terms with what is actually going on. In the situation that I found myself in there was a real and absolute need to trust others. How do you trust others when you are afraid to? In fact that is the very thing that you have to do. It is not possible to operate upon yourself! It was at this point that I began to appreciate that very deep down there is an anger, which is also afraid to express itself for fear of what it might do! I thus have come to the conclusion that to begin to express some core pain, as CAT describes it, also brings out other feelings, which are far more powerful and can be destructive: destructive in the sense that they can prevent change. And after all isn't change wat we are trying to effect? The change that has come about for me is twofold. Firstly it is to express the feelings without feeling dismissive or cut off and secondly it is to incorporate the change that seemingly automatically comes about. Therefore I feel that we need to give a real space to others with whom we work in a therapeutic way so they may realise the power of expression and the purposefulness of change. Only by expressing our pain can we change. When put like that it all sounds so simple and so basic but it has taken me all of my life to come to this point. But in my defence, none of us likes pain and we tend to shy away from it. For those whose roles might incorporate a "distance" and a "loneliness", pain is the very last thing that is contemplated. But let me explore a little further.

During this process I have come to think that the repertoire of roles that I own could be defined as "abusive". These roles have not enabled me to be true to myself and have prevented me from becoming the person I am destined to become. The anger that I learnt in childhood prevented me from growing and kept me in the grasp of childishness. What do you really do if you are dismissed and are not wanted? Answer - stay close to what you know and don't deviate from your own ways. And why? Because of fear! It is fear that stops and it is anger that can make you go. I feel that there are two sorts of anger -a destructive anger that expresses itself in violence or destruction and a constructive anger that expresses itself in a power to make things happen. Too often the destructive power plays its own game and very little gets achieved except reinforcement of the feeling that you are not wanted. In CA T great fun can be had and great strides made in the understanding of well-worn procedures. But it seems to me that nless some "talking" takes place in the zone of the core pain little progress will be made by way of change. Maybe for me the true Zone of Proximal Development lies in the area of trust: to be able to express and determine the power of the inner feeling world. The beauty of CAT is the freedom to explore without criticism in an atmosphere of being wanted and trusted. How often is such an experience new to our clients?

It was as I "talked" to this core pain and majored upon "Fear" that I began to see the make up of what this fear is. Now I am fully aware that fear can be different for us all and yet what is unique is also what is most general. It was as I talked that I began to see some of the facets of fear and I express it like this.

I spent a great deal of time thinking through just what all this meant. Perhaps I may be permitted to look at these descriptions in turn to try and express what they have engendered in me. We are always about words and meanings and we all have our own finer definitions.

Frenzy. I did not know quite what to do or where to go for what I wanted. That begs the question and the answer is simple- I didn't know what I wanted! The more I fought to find what I wanted the more frenzied I became, witnessed by the fact that the bed was remade several times! I was hot and cold and upon reflection very scared. What were they going to do? Why should I let them? Who had made this decision? Why did I? Did I? Frenzy has a power of its own and for me this frenzy is all about fear. It was a sleepless night and had many a resonance with past situations.

Fury. It is okay for everyone else but the last thing I am going to be is furious! Not a bit of it! I was furious with everyone including God. Why has God made me like this? He didn't have the grace to answer. Or did He? Maybe the answer lay in the very soul of my being. That is to say that as I begin to discover more about me, I begin also to see who I should be and that surely is what God is about. But fury for me is a no go area – well, that is what I like to think. In fact of course I am very furious about all sorts of things and so are all of us. What we don't like is expressing this fury. Cornflakes can be therapeutic! It's the noise, it’s the texture, it's well everything about the darn things which can help express what you really feel as you chew on this; well, what are cornflakes for? Fury is good for you. It enabled me to say all sorts of things in my journal, which are best, left unsaid and certainly are not for public consumption. If you will pardon the pun!

Excitement, Eeriness and Egocentricity. As I lay there thinking with the systems of the Hospital whirring all about me I came to the conclusion that this was all for me. Yes I knew that there were many others in the Hospital and all were in some kind of need. But for me on this morning, it was all about me and people were there to try and get me right. An impossible job, but they were going to try and do it! Thus it began to dawn on me that in all of this there was an excitement which at some moments was all consuming. Yet at the same time there was an eeriness which, as I write this short paper, I find is beginning to take me over. It is that distance, that loneliness, that I have experienced most of my life and now here it is in a very powerful form. Can I allow myself to be who I am? The fact is that I cannot be anyone else and these thoughts were very frightening and began to make me question just who I am. Well who am I? Isn't that the question that we all ask? And isn't that one of the reasons why cliets come to us? And doesn't CAT provide a way of looking that enables us to be able to see who we are at a particular time? Without a personal CAT therapy I am not sure that I would have been able to deal with the ferocity of some of the feelings that I experienced. And that was another part of this excitement. That which I knew was becoming real, and the reality of it all was beginning to make sense and the sense was enabling me to deal with the issues with which I was being confronted. It all sounds too good to be true but it is true and I hope that our clients come to this point at some time or other. These three descriptions are all intertwined, they are about the reality of each of us and each of us need to come to the point of trying to differentiate between them and also to experience them. Is this the true reformulation, recognition and revision? It seems to me that the fascinating part of our exploration is to discover how to differentiate between them. I feel that we can only do that when we have a crisis" or an "event" which causes us to think and feel. It is in the thinking and the feeling that these parts become unravelled and we begin to see the make up of our real self. For paradoxically the egocentricity is also the openness that most of us yearn for. We yearn for that excitement that comes from the central core of our being; as one of the divines has said "we must enjoy ourselves for ever". To enjoy means that we become excited by our own existence. This means that we need to try and express these deep feelings and to experience them in a new way. CAT tries to do this by creating the tools and the space and the therapist needs to know when the client is "walking on water". To walk on water takes an enormous amount of courage, and faith that the natural "sinking feeling" will not be overwhelming.

Rage, respect, rapport and result. Like the previous section of my exploration I feel that these four are also intertwined. The key to it all is rapport. We need to find a rapport between them all. Rage and fury are linked and may be the same coin seen in a different way. On the other hand, rage is about a different sort of power than fury. Rage is for me more destructive and vindictive. It creates more devastation and closes down any real dialogue that might takes place interpersonally and intrapersonally. I found that I was very full of rage and this prevented many feelings from being dealt with until I allowed a communication between the rage and myself When this dialogue took place a rapport was begun which amazingly created even more results than I would ever have dreamed possible. For a start I found that I was calmer and could begin to appreciate what others were really trying to do for me. When this happened the so-called "battle" which I was setting up abated. The result of all of this was that I beame, not resigned, but very peaceful and was able to talk to others and to my inner core in a way which was respectful, releasing and had a resounding effect. The effect was one of overall peace and was a place so far removed from where I had been that it was startling by comparison. Had I made it? In one sense yes, but yet at another far from it. It was but the beginning of becoming. It was the beginning of another journey, which had just begun and hopefully would not end abruptly. Here in all of this is the reformulation, recognition and revision.

It is as I try to communicate all of this that I feel that there is so much more. Since as CA T therapists we try to communicate by both words and drawings I want to suggest another diagram. It will mean going back to the beginning to try and chart this journey.

The diagram, as all diagrams do, leaves a great deal to the imagination but then without imagination we will never see what is within let alone try to deal with some of the deeper aspects of who we are. We began with the "the real core pain" which inspired the roles that were adopted. It is my contention that it is the core pain which causes us to discover the roles even though we are not at the outset conscious of it. It is only when asked about the events of childhood that we come close to the pain and the roles. My therapy has enabled me to discern what is going on in some measure although I am ready to admit that there is much more besides. I am what I am and only when I accept this can I change. In other words in reworking "the real core pain" we find " a creation helper". Core pain becomes the true agent of change.

My experience was no plain sailing and the whole of my being played its part. That is to say body, mind and spirit all had their part to play and they played it! As I look back I am enormously grateful to those who spent the time and made the effort to wish me well by card, by visit or by phone. Through all of this and more I have come to realise that I do matter and that I matter to others in a way that I had not quite appreciated. I hope that the above helps others to wrestle with the inner bits that surgeons can't reach but the spirit of CAT can.

Martin Sellix
August l0th 2002

Full Reference

Martin Sellix, 2002. A Personal Study of Core Pain. Reformulation, Autumn, pp.27-29.

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