Get over yourself!

There is a great story in 2 King 5 which I’ve always been intrigued with.  Naaman the leper wanted to be healed so he went to the spiritual guru of the day, Elisha, and asked for healing.  He was told to go down to the river Jordan, deep seven times, and he would be healed.  Naaman was indignant, feeling that a man of his prominence should be received more formally and a more elegant healing ceremony should be offered.  He walked away in fury.  Sometime later, he became more humble, followed through with Naaman’s advice and was healed.

This story is so relevant to the human predicament.  A man with an ailment wanted relief but he wanted this relief on his own terms. Elisha intuitively knew that a critical dimension of Naaman’s problem was ego and he knew that an appropriate step for him to take was to humble himself in some way.  And, he also knew that this relief needed to entail action. Elisha knew that going down to Barnes and Nobles and buying the latest self-help title was not enough.  Naaman needed behavioral intervention.  So, he simply sent word to Naaman to go and dip into the river Jordan seven times.  (By the way, he didn’t even meet personally with Naaman to send this message, a further “indignation” to this man’s ego. He merely sent word through a messenger.)

This is relevant to a recent posting re getting un-stuck.  Sometimes a person who is hurting might have to humble himself as part of his treatment and this “humiliation” can be as simple as reaching out and seeking help. It is very painful for some to deign to make an appointment with a counselor.  I’ve known some who will schedule an appointment hundreds of miles away merely to keep anyone from happening to see him entering a counselor’s officer.  This “humiliation” can be daring to surrender and seek help with a 12-step group or going to one’s pastor or priest or rabbi and sharing openly about one’s haunts.  It can involve accepting a diagnostic label. It can involve opening up honestly with one’s mate for the first time in the marriage.  In my clinical work I have even proposed what I call “tree therapy” to some clients, instructing them to go into the forest and talk openly to a tree just to verbalize openly about what is going on in their heart.  (When I assigned “tree therapy”, I always advised them to then seek another human being to whom they could “unpack their heart with words.” (Shakespeare)

One last note about behavioral interventions.  An often used maneuver for therapists is to assign a client the simple task of going home and planting a garden or merely getting a houseplant.  This is because a key element in any neurosis or any psychological/spiritual problem is a narcissistic streak.  The pain is so intense that it becomes all consuming. It can help to simply find the energy to take care of plants and nurture them and love them.

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