From Pain to Possibility
Episode 3: Lessons Learned : Deeply Caring
Intro: You're listening to From Pain to Possibility, with Susi Hately. You’ll hear Susi’s best ideas on how to reduce or even eradicate your pain and learn how to listen to your body when it whispers so you don't have to hear it scream. And now here's your host, Susi Hately.
Susi: The episodes in this podcast are about stories and experiences that lead to ideas and learnings that I get to share with you, some of my best practices of helping people reduce and eradicate pain and how I train others to do the same. It would be a fallacy and it would be a mistake to believe that all of these ideas and suggestions arise out of my successes, when, in fact, when I look at my almost 30 years of working with people and then my more recent decades of training others to do what I do, there have been a lot of missteps; a lot of mistakes; a lot of epic, awesome failures.
So this episode is my first edition of Lessons Learned, and I think it can be as valuable, and perhaps more valuable, than some of the positive success type of learning that I've had. I had a business mentor once say to me that problems will always exist. The thing is, is you don't want to have the same problems this year as that you had last year. So my hope is that by sharing these issues that I have and these episodes of lessons learned that you can learn from some of my mistakes and really see the opportunity that they have provided me to rethink and reframe, refine and refresh to really help me move forward.
Now, along that line, before I get right into the one for this episode, is that I've never had a belief that I've really failed, because failure has always been part of an opportunity. And this is, perhaps, from my athletic background, where I was an elite lightweight rower when I was a kid, and we lost races and we won races, and so there was failure in losing. And so I got to learn something about losing. Same thing with all the other competitive activities that I did. So I've never really seen failure as being totally and 100 percent awful, that has stopped me in my tracks. Very quickly, after the failure, I was able to refine, rethink, reframe, refresh.
So with this, let's get into the episode.
One of my greatest skills as a teacher and as someone who helps people get out of pain, as someone who trains other teachers and healthcare professionals how to get rid of pain is that I care really, really deeply. It has been something that has sustained a space between myself and a client to really help them process. It's enabled them to learn and question and integrate. I know that it is a powerful place that has enabled presence and that has enabled relationship that's essential for healing. And as we all know, our greatest skill can also be our greatest weakness; or as Deb Adele in her book Yamas & Niyamas says, it can be mastery overdone; or as I like to say, we can have this great skill be a strength out of context at times.
So one of the problems with deeply caring is when I care more deeply about a client's health and well-being than the client cares for themselves. I am optimistic by nature. Always have been. I see potential. Some may say that I'm naïve, and they would not be entirely wrong. I certainly have had streaks of naivete in my younger years, for sure. And I used to believe that with enough support and with enough love, people could see just how great they really are. You know, I smile, and I guess I am even laughing, because even as I'm saying that, I have to admit that I'm a little embarrassed. I can think about even relationships outside of my work that that’s certainly happened, much to my current dismay.
There's no mistaking why this podcast is called what it's called, From Pain to Possibility, because I really do believe that healing is possible, that we don't have to be bound by the labels of our condition. And there's one really, really key reason why that is, because I have had clients after clients be diagnosed with one condition and then three weeks later be diagnosed with another condition and then three weeks later be diagnosed with yet another condition. And so the previous diagnosis was replaced by another one. It's not like they had three more good diagnoses. It was that, “Oh, no, no, no. It's not that; it's this. Oh, no, no, no, it's not this; it's that.” So we don't actually know sometimes what's actually going on.
And I've also seen some extraordinary examples of people who do have conditions that have been, perhaps, accurately diagnosed, and yet they're able to manage them so extremely well. Here are three examples. I can think about a client right now with rheumatoid arthritis. Had crazy, crazy flares, crazy flares, consistently throughout the week. And then she started to listen more closely to the whispers, to the yellow lights that I like to talk about. She learned to decode some of the indicators that she was going to have a flare. And then her flare has progressively reduced. Didn't mean that her rheumatoid-arthritis diagnosis went away. No, no, no, not at all. But how the flares were in her life were very, very different.
Same thing with clients that I have with disc protrusions. Yes, there is a segmental instability there where there is a disc protrusion. And as we improve movement, as we prove functional capacity, then as we improve movement, as we improve functional capacity, the way the forces are dissipated and absorbed and transferred through the body can be a lot more effective. So then that segmental instability doesn't have to express itself, because the rest of the body is moving so well. So it's not that it's never a problem again, but if they listen closely, if they can grow their awareness, when they can tell that their bandwidth is getting smaller, they'll recognize that they're getting to a place where a flare or a spasm or a something can occur. So, again, I'm not making the condition go away. I'm not making the structural limitation or the physiological experience go away. But I am helping them recognize the symptoms and the communication going through their body.
A third example is psoriasis. And much like the other two, when someone can listen to the whispers, when they recognize how their food intake or what they drink or the stress level in their life, how much sleep that they get, when they start to recognize all the correlating patterns related to the flares associated with their condition, their skin begins to heal.
The bottom line is none of us actually know what's possible, no matter what the condition is. And if we can just take the time, if we can have the courage to listen, if we can listen more closely to the whispers, to what our body and our mind are really saying, so much is possible, and we don't have to suffer needlessly.
Yes, I mean, you can hear it. I'm passionate about this, right? I've seen remarkable things occur. And I'm sure even you listening, you have friends, you have family, maybe even yourself, you have recognized some really cool things out there, that despite someone having a label of a condition, they live very differently than what they say—the capital T— “they” say is possible. You know that change is possible. And this depth of conviction can be both powerful, and—here you have it—can be incredibly suffocating. So I've really had to learn how to be in this space: tremendously powerful, tremendously suffocating.
One of the ways that I've learned how to direct it, I've learned through the teaching professionally, because one of the things that can happen for me is that when I train professionals in what it is that I do, there's oftentimes I feel like there's a lot of high stakes. And so when I feel like there's high stakes, then I can ramp up a little bit.
I believe that yoga is one of the best things that we can offer people because that's just my bias. And I think that yoga teachers are an incredible service to the world. And yet a lot of yoga teachers really, really doubt themselves about what's possible. We are in an industry where it's believed that yoga can only be a hobby, that you can't make a living at it. And yet I know I have trained teachers that that's just not true, that it's absolutely something that we can make a living at. It's absolutely something that can make a difference for people, that you can do some really great work.
So it can be high stakes for me when someone comes into a program, because I really want them to succeed. They've bought into my program. They've bought into me because they hear my message, they see what I’ve accomplished, they see what my other grads have accomplished, and they want a little bit of that for themselves. However, if they don't have a fundamental deep caring for themselves, I have gotten myself into trouble time and time and time and time and time again, trying to get them to care for themselves.
I remember a teacher, for the first half of the first year of my program, who, during video reviews that she was filming of herself, teaching a client would never show up on video. So for half a year, I was coaxing her to show up on video, because I can only provide feedback on teaching if I can actually see the person teaching. So it became kind of frustrating. But also because back then, I didn't really feel the frustration I was having, I was just trying to get the person to believe, to believe, to believe, to believe, to believe. And I laugh now, and I laugh more at myself in this situation, but I really wanted the person to get it.
Then there was another teacher who never finished any of the degrees. I think there were two or three of them—I can't remember now, but there were at least two, possibly three—that she attempted to finish at university, never did. And she told me this, and then as we were rounding the corner, nearing the end of training, she really created some incredible opportunities to not finish my program. And I—I, get this—I was unwilling to have her not complete my program, and continue that pattern that she had. It sounds crazy, I know. I know it sounds crazy. But that was where I was at back then. And it was not good. She did get it, but really, I should have let her quit. I should have let her fail, because later on, I find out that it was all very hard for her. I found this out through secondhand knowledge, and you have always got to be careful about secondhand knowledge and secondhand stories. But I heard things that she had said about me, which were not very positive, even though at the time, she was so grateful that she completed the program. But alas, whether or not that secondhand knowledge was true or not, it was hard for everybody. And at the end of it, I just decided for myself that I really had to stop caring so much.
And I went through a little bit of a phase. And this happens for people who have a very, very strong tendency one direction is they just decide to shut the door on that character trait and say, “Okay, I'm just not going to be that way anymore.” Well, that doesn't work very well, because if that's your inherent character, it's going to come out anyway, through some means. So over the years, I really had to sit and feel the energy of that characteristic of myself, that creative, caring, deeply caring sense of self.
So here is what I've done over the years, when I really started to see how destructive that energy could be, and I knew in my bones and in my heart and my soul that I did not want it to be destructive. I wanted it to be awesome. I wanted it to be supportive. And when I looked at arenas in my life, like with my private clientele, and other arenas in my life, where it came out in just a very beautiful way, I sat back and I asked myself, “What is different in the situations where this characteristic is really powerful in a good way? And then, what's happening in the situations where the characteristic goes completely sideways and is actually destructive?” And I took some time. A lot of time. And today I still take time.
Now, though, these days is because I'm clearer on my tendencies, I actually am a lot more transparent, like I am with this podcast, but also with the people that I train, particularly the teachers and the health professionals that I train. I let them know ahead of time. I let them know that I deeply care. And they all say to me, “Oh, yeah, yeah. We know you do.” It's not like it's something that people don't know about me. And then usually, like, a laugh starts to come up and they say, “Oh, yeah, the things we've heard about you.” So I have a reputation that I'm a hard ass in some circles, and I have a reputation that I will not let you fail. In a way that's not like I'm just going to hand you your certificate. Not like that. But if you say to me, you want to have something, I will go to bat for you.
Now, not so much anymore, because I know that that's actually not going to help. It's kind of like the monk and the butterfly in the cocoon parable, where the butterfly is pushing through the cocoon, and the monk comes along with a hairdryer, or something of the sort, and warms the cocoon so the butterfly doesn't have to work so hard to get out of the cocoon. I used to be the monk with the hairdryer. Now I just watch the cocoon. And there's complaining, and then there's friction and all of that, but I have to let the butterfly bust through the cocoon. I need to let that butterfly figure out that piece. Yeah?
So it's really terrific because now I can be a lot more open and transparent. I can let people know, you know what, in this program, for me, it feels like the stakes are high because I really want you to experience the possibility of having a great life, of being able to make a big difference with your clientele, to be able to make a living doing this because it is possible. And then as quickly as I say that, I also add, I just said that you can have the possibility of a great life, and what I am not saying is that you don't have one. What I'm saying is, is that it could even be more.
So there's lots of conversation and lots of clarity. And the reason why I do this, the reason why I'm open with my trainees is that I ask them to be open with me. I ask them to be vulnerable and to feel, because an inherent tenant in my principles of helping people heal is that there is presence and awareness as a fundamental principle in the healing relationship between a professional and a client. So the more present that I can be as a professional, the more aware my client will be. It's just the way things work. So the more presence I have, the more awareness that my client can step into.
So a lot of the process is helping my trainees become more and more present, which requires a certain level of vulnerability, which requires a certain level of feeling. So if I am withholding that from them, then I am not teaching them what it is that I am inherently wanting them to learn. So I can share this from this space of, this is what I am learning, and if you feel like I am suffocating you, then you've got to let me know because I am learning, too.
And then through the process, what becomes really fun is we start to really see the characteristics that make each of us so terrific at what we do. And we also see when those characteristics become mastery overdone or strengths out of context or truly a very debilitating and destructive weakness. Same characteristic, just how it's channeled.
So the bottom line is this: we each have these innate characteristics that are incredibly powerful in whatever job it is that we have. So whether you are in a healing profession or whether you are in an entirely different profession, you each have a skill that is highly valuable and highly powerful. And if you can see how the use of that skill, that characteristic, can become destructive, then you can really get to know who you are and how you are and how to channel it better to not get jaded. That's what you want to be careful about—to not get jaded—rather, to allow yourself to step into the possibility of the commitment to excellence and a mastery of your craft so you become a better and better and more-refined version of yourself so you can really contribute to your community, into your world, to the very, very, very best of your ability.
So here is to honing your craft. Here is to refining who you are. Here is to enabling your greatest skill, your greatest characteristic, yourself to really come through.
If this has been inspiring for you and you want to get to work on really honing this characteristic, then I invite you to join me at a Therapeutic Yoga Intensive. All you need to do is come and join us at functionalsynergy.com. Go to the Support page and send us an email, send us a note and say, “Hey, I am interested in digging in and delving into my very, very best characteristic. I'm interested in the Therapeutic Yoga Intensive.” And we’d love to have a conversation with you and to help you on your way.
Have a great practice, and happy exploring.