Do I fight the symptoms or
do I give into them?
I know what you are thinking. The
answer is obvious. Of course you fight,
right? This will not be my answer.
Since there are only two choices, you
now know my answer. Read on.
Fight versus Surrender
One of my favorite past times is
reading obituaries. OK. I agree
this is weird, perhaps even
demented, but give me credit
for a little self-disclosure here.
What do people say about their
loved ones when they die of cancer?
“She fought a courageous battle.”
It goes without saying (although
I am now saying it) the obituary
never points out that the battle
was lost. For all of the thousands of
obituaries I have read, no one –
I repeat no one – won the battle.
These odds are not encouraging.
This is my twisted way of alerting you
to what you are not expecting. I will
argue that a healthy way to heal
the symptoms of Parkinson’s is to
embrace the meaning and information
they offer to us.
My explanation starts with a story
about horse racing. How in the
world is horse racing related to
Parkinson’s? Ah, is impatience
an issue for you? It is for me. Let’s
each tolerate our impatience
as I write and you read the next
Horse Racing and Parkinson’s
One of my pleasures in life has been to
live at one time in the beautiful city of
Lexington, Kentucky which is home to
some of the fastest and most famous
thoroughbred racing horses in the world.
Part of the Lexington folklore revolves
around Patrick Henry, a horse that won
over 6 million in purses.
In his retirement years Patrick Henry
lived on a horse farm near the famous
racing track known as Keeneland.
His handlers told me that the most
dangerous time to be inside Patrick
Henry’s horse stall was when the racing
horn at nearby Keeneland signaled
the time for a race to begin.
Patrick Henry knew he was not at the
starting gate. He knew he was not racing.
He knew he had been “put out to pasture.”
He did not like it one bit.
Patrick Henry would become angry,
even violent. His entire body would
shake, rattle and roll. He tore up
anything in his way – his hay rack,
the walls to his stall and even his
handlers if they were inside the stall
with him. It was dangerous business
for his handlers on racing day.
Patrick Henry was determined to
race. He had no interest sitting
on the sidelines, hearing the shouts
of the crowd while eating hay in
His handlers quickly learned that you
could not confront Patrick Henry during
such occasions. His fury would be ignited.
He temper would intensify. His symptoms
would become measurably worse.
His handlers explained to me that the
only response was to allow Patrick
Henry to have his pout, shake like
a mad horse and scream out his anger
from the bowels of his life force. The
only response possible was to allow
the energy to be expressed.
Once he was able to fully and
completely express his feelings they
would pass. The shaking would stop.
The fury would pass.
Patrick Henry was processing his
own feelings of inadequacy. His
handlers and owners decided he
was too old to race. Part of him
certainly knew that he was too old
But this was all too much to stomach
for this proud horse. Patrick Henry
needed to release his own feelings of
inadequacy in his own way.
Parkinson’s and Horse Racing
Let me now explain the connection
between Patrick Henry’s frustration
and Parkinson’s. Having known now
many persons who have the symptoms
of Parkinson’s, I have observed that
there is an underlying intensity that
is usually present. The intensity is
coupled with a genuine sense of power
and focus, two remarkable traits that
help people succeed in life.
The intensity and focus is a good thing.
It is a precursor to success in life. It is
the reason why so many people with
Parkinson’s have a long record of amazing
The Place of Balance
When the symptoms of Parkinson’s present
themselves what is the typical response for
anyone? For most people (myself included)
the typical response is to fight the symptoms,
to engage an internal war against them.
This response works beautifully for some
people, but I want to offer a companion
response for you to consider.
Consider the possibility that
your body will find a place of
balance no matter what
circumstances you confront
or how you respond.
If you operate in high gear day in and day out –
running marathons, accomplishing miracles,
running a business, setting high goals, handling
the traumas of everyday living – your body will
find a way – anyway – to find balance in your life.
You cannot stop this process no matter how
hard you try. You have no control over
Yin Versus Yang
We need both yin and yang. Aggression needs to
be balanced with receiving the pleasures of life.
The war inside us needs to be balanced with
making peace within us.
If it suddenly becomes more difficult to move,
your body may simply be finding a way to
slow you down. If it is more difficult to talk,
maybe your body is telling you it is time to
listen more often. If your body wants to shake
uncontrollably, perhaps there is tension in the
tissues that needs to be released.
In other words, any symptom you experience
is valuable information your body is giving
you. All you need is to listen to your body.
Give in to the pain, discomfort and frustration.|
Set your intention to learn more about its
underlying meaning. The symptoms –
however unpleasant they may be –
are gifts in disguise.
The best analogy here is to think
of what happens in martial arts
when you absorb the blows of your
opponent rather than counteracting
with equal force. There is limitless
power when you flow with the energy
of the moment – absorbing the blows
rather than fighting them.
If you counteract the blows of your
opponent you will ultimately lose
the fight. In the end the route to
victory is “giving in” and yielding.
This philosophy is eloquently honored in
Process Work as formulated by Arnold
Mindell and explained in the Dream Body.
The following is taken from my interview
with Steven Fenwick, Ph.D., who
is a psychologist and national expert in
“As you look at the underlying meaning
and purpose of the symptoms, what are
they trying to tell you? It is like it has a
gift for you.”
“Even though you may hate the symptoms
– we all hate symptoms – but even though
we hate them and we want them to go away
and we do everything we can to make them
go away, which is good, we also want to look
at what the meaning is.”
“What is it trying to tell you about your life?
What is it trying to tell you about your life’s
purpose and meaning? And as you unfold
that and get more in touch with that and
express it more in your life, often times the
symptoms do get better. ”
“From a Process Work point of view,
I would say … instead of always trying
to repress the symptom, experiment.
Amplify the tremor or whatever your
most disturbing symptoms
are with just making them bigger and
feeling what they are expressing. ”
“Maybe you could dance it some; of if
you’re sitting in a chair you could move
various ways to express it. You could
draw it. And just feel – If this had a
message for me, what is it telling me?”
No one likes to have the symptoms
of Parkinson’s. They are horrible.
A usual response is to launch a battle
against the symptoms or to find ways
to suppress them through medications,
drugs, herbs, supplements or other
I am suggesting here to consider a
counterintuitive approach that is
embodied in process work:
- Acknowledge the sympt0ms
as gifts in disguise.
- Set the intention to explore
what they are really about.
- Listen to what your body is
Your body is not broken. It is
Robert Rodgers, Ph.D.
© 2008 Parkinsons Recovery
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