the unstoppable force…
Most areas of life operate in the realm of Right vs. Wrong, it’s how our society it glued together. There is a right and wrong way to respond to 2+2, to spell cantaloupe, and to react when approaching a stop sign in your car. Our society identifies our intelligence value and our relative cooperation with the world by utilizing this paradigm. It’s a system that has developed and evolved, and by enlarge, has served us all fairly well. A more intricate example might be the societal understanding that hurting another person is wrong, and the forces that be do what they can to make it right. The perpetrator of the wrong will get arrested, charged, and convicted if appropriate by those enforcing the right. In many ways, the concept of right vs. wrong has become an important under pinning of our society. But what happens when we need to deviate?
One of my current patients, who I will refer to as Wendy for privacy’s sake, is a 56 year old highly successful entrepreneur with a savvy business mind and an outspoken nature. She’s a strong woman with a plethora of determination and grit. She came to us about three months ago with a small challenge; she started seeing double, almost overnight. In the due course of medical exploration, she’s had MRI’s, CT scans, blood tests, chiropractic adjustments, and even acupuncture. She even visited an Ophthalmologist who recommended prism and/or permanent patching. Seemingly the most frustrating part for Wendy was that no one could offer an explanation of “why?”. Why was this happening? She was simply told “she was going to live” ans it was suggested she learn to live with her eyes. Her ability to make sense of her world had vanished, and she was left with seeing double, chronic headaches, and an overall frustration that most of us could understand. Luckily, she found our office before giving up entirely.
The first time I met Wendy was during her third Vision Therapy session, and was immediately interrogated as to my qualifications, experience, and therapeutic plan. Once that hurdle was overcome, we began to work on some simple activities that my doctor had suggested, most notably was a Vectogram.
My questioning started as it normally does.
Can you tell me what you see? Is anything changing (sliding the cards)? Can you be aware of the entire room rather than just what the circle might be doing? As you might have already predicted, Wendy was having none of my nonsense that day, and quickly quipped…
“Just tell me how it’s supposed to look, and I’ll tell you if I can make my eyes do it or not”. Wendy went on to explain that in the absence of an endpoint, her brain cannot travel a process because she doesn’t know what she is supposed to do. Translation, if it doesn’t align with her logical understanding of the world, she can’t see it happening.Off an on, we’ve been challenging her theory for several weeks. She wouldn’t budge. The real break through for Wendy came just this past week, when she was presented with a new challenge; my rebuttal. I don’t normally take an aggressive approach with patients, and as those who know me personally might attest, my personality would lend itself more to a passive side. However, there are times when patients get in their own way, and a metaphorical shove is the best medicine.
Wendy: This again? I just don’t see the point…
Robert: (Smirk) Would you rather do something that may not be beneficial?
Wendy: I just don’t see the point in staring at those stupid cards if nothing ever changes. You won’t tell me the right answer and this entire process is ridiculous.
Robert: If you’re not willing to let the changes occur, they won’t. So if that’s how you feel, perhaps we should be done for today.
A long pause ensued…
Wendy: I’m not trying to be difficult, and I’m sorry if it seems that way. I’m just not used to being wrong, and since you won’t tell me the right answer, my assumption is that I’m wrong. That’s frustrating.
The Vectograms were put away.
I’ve been around this game long enough to understand that perceptions are important; in fact, they’re everything. A patient’s understanding of what we do, what we’re working on, and why we’re doing what we’re doing are all paramount to a successful VT campaign. This fact was now front and center for Wendy. We sat and talked for the next several minutes about why VT is a process of visual exploration, and in order for it to work, she had to be willing to discover things. “This is not about the answer”, I told her. “Right and wrong are out the window. They have to be.” We went on to discuss the brain’s tug-of-war between logical influence and visual input and how that fight didn’t fit within the framework of right vs. wrong. The idea of re-wiring how her brain processed visual information, and part of that process may seem beyond her logical grasp, and that has to be acceptable. It’s how the necessary changes will take hold. This is entirely about the process.
Wendy left that day, and for the first time, offered a handshake. An odd gesture, in my mind, considering we’ve been working together for three months; but I gladly reciprocated. Later in the afternoon I received an email where she offered thanks for “caring enough to stand up to her”. Further, she wrote:
I’m just a hard headed old lady. Change for the sake of change is hard enough, but the process of change can be excruciating.
Looks like our talk worked. I’m pretty excited to see her next week.