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Whole Body Focusing: A Life in Crisis Explored

by Kevin McEvenue

Kevin and Paul host a TAE study group with Nada Lou in Toronto.Please call or e-mail if you would like to participate. mcevenue@ica.net

Paul Huschilt had been supporting himself with computer work for years, despite his dislike for it. Then he was diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, a condition where the median nerve in the wrist is pinched, causing pain, tingling and numbness in the thumb, index and middle fingers. He had been fitted with wrist supports to wear while typing, and at night, when the symptoms can be worst. Paul had reached his limit. His wrists ached with a dull, cold pain. His hands could no longer do the work he had to do. On this particular day, Paul decided to do something different. He started paying attention to himself, particularly to his wrists, listening inwardly to the physical sensations and allowing himself to feel the pain, just as it was. For once he did not try to fix, judge, or push it away.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, he was aware of his gut. The knot there felt connected to the pain in his wrists. As he made room for the knot he was filled with a wave of despair. If he couldn’t work, he couldn’t support himself. But he hated computer work! For ten years he had been doing work he didn’t like. Now he couldn’t even sleep. His despair deepened. He realized that he had long ago lost the skill of doing the work he loves. But he felt powerless to change.

Again, this time he did something different. He accepted that he was powerless and that he didn’t know what to do. He listened to the pain in his stomach that felt connected to his wrists. This felt new, and seemed to be part of a larger story. Once again he realized that it was beyond his ability to make it right. And then there came a shift, from a pain that felt stuck to a pain that felt almost pleasurable. For more than two hours Paul paid attention to what was there, without resolution. Then he went to work.

When Paul sat down at the computer, he noticed his fingers were different. They seemed to be reaching out towards the keyboard. They trembled, as though stretching with wisdom all their own. To Paul’s surprise, what flowed from his fingers felt like love. How could that be? Paul hated computers! In that moment his whole relationship changed, not just with typing, but with people at work and with the work itself. The pain was gone. Sitting at the computer felt good. All of him was typing now, not just his fingers. It was a dance, coming from the whole of him, making his fingers push down on the keys. Paul was delighted That night he slept. Over time the pain disappeared. He stopped wearing the braces. Once they had protected him, but now they prevented him from moving into this new way of typing. His work habits changed. He took more breaks. He found himself smiling at his co-workers and in time made friends with some of them.

This happened seven years ago. Today if Paul works too long at the computer the pain returns, more sharply than before. But it is a reminder, a signal to stop and take a break, not a return of the chronic condition.
Paul’s experience of listening to his wrists is an illustration of those special qualities inherent in the Wholebody Focusing process: namely, a willingness to stop and attend to what is happening inwardly; to make room for what is there, just the way it is, and accept the not knowing that comes; to allow other parts of the body to awaken and connect up with the wounded part; to let the story come to the surface that underlies the physical condition and gives it meaning; to embrace a shift in the body and accept how the pain can feel very different; and to make room for surprising changes not just in functioning, but in attitude as well.

It was the change in attitude that was the biggest surprise for Paul, a change that not only relieved his carpal tunnel syndrome, but expanded the quality of his entire life.

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This page was last modified on 11 April 2008