There is a saying “the way to hell is paved with good intentions”. It is interesting to think of self justified actions that seem to end up causing so much suffering. I watched a program on Australian Story this week on the recommendation of a friend after discussing my sister’s recent round of ECT.
The program which airs on ABC TV in Australia was on a man called Rory OGallagher who recently hung himself in a hospital after going into have treatment and being prescribed a course of ECT. Rory was well known to older Australians from the Aunty Jack show.. The interesting fact was that never once, during all the days he was friends with and performed with his colleague, Graeme Bond, did Roy open up to him about his mental health struggles. He had suffered ‘bi polar’ (swings from lots of energy to time mired in deep depressions) episodes for some time prior to this, a fact he never made known to his second wife either, although his children (who were interviewed) knew and perhaps not being close to her, never opened up to her about either.
The psychiatrist who decided on the shock treatment was interviewed for the program, he rightly felt sad and remorseful, and he was actually invited by Rory’s children to attend a performance they gave following his death to highlight mental health concerns. The family never blamed the psychiatrist.. I don’t know if I could have been so kind, but in truth Rory’s death was down to a multitude of factors not really inside the control of any one person but perhaps (but only potentially) Rory? That said he tried every external means to run from his inner condition and achieved a sense of well being for a time through active engagement in intensive sport. Sadly though he just never addressed his inner world. Maybe he just never felt safe enough to drop the mask.
I was also just listening to a program on the radio with a singer songwriter who was speaking about the number of deaths of children caused by the United States declaration of war in Iraq in response to the ‘lie’ of weapons of mass destruction. As the result of one tragedy (9/11) the powers that be felt that the defeat of one dictator may bring ‘good’. Such a decision just ended up causing a whole lot more evil : there are the deaths of soldiers sent to fight in that war, as well as civilians, there are the multiple cases of PTSD to both soldiers and civilians and then there is the destruction of a country and its infrastructure too.
I was also thinking a lot last night about Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hahn’s concept of right perception, and the idea that sometimes the way we perceive things is only from our own point of view and by necessity skewed.. We all know the subject of thinking and feeling and reacting through feeling toned perceptions is complex. At times we take actions we hope will turn out for good and instead they just end up causing a lot of difficulty or pain. Then there is the complex interconnected web of human relationships we move within and are influenced by.
Today I know enough to question my perceptions.. I also know to watch when I am reacting based on emotions. This kind of observation most surely doesn’t mean I still will not make mistakes and they may only be found to be mistakes in retrospect. Perhaps the whole of life for many of us rests on this kind of learning. We only get to see causes and consequences when we have travelled a lot further down the road and we also influence our relationships by all of the hidden things we bring to the table in each and every one.
Carl Jung and some of his followers believe that when we form any relationship it consists of energies flowing in several directions between what is conscious and unconscious in each individual. We do not always get to know the hidden subtext til a way down the line and much of what we see and ‘know’ is based on interpretation. We tell ourselves all kinds of things and then act on that basis, until we start to question what ‘stories’ we are actually telling ourselves. And then there is the deep hidden underground reservoir of feeling that floats under the surface, sometimes rising up and flooding things, sometimes seeping slowly away.
The upshot is that life and human beings as well as the human psyche is complex and sometimes, despite having the very best of intention we do end up harming ourselves and other people. None of us can probably claim the monopoly on wrong and right, and not everything in life is a conspiracy, often just more an outworking of mixed up human beings, causes, conditions and affects. Could it all be designed for awakening, could even recent events of social distancing be opening us up even more to our missing need to be more deeply connected in an honest and real from an inner place, open to the fact no one has a monopoly on ‘truth’? These are some questions I am pondering lately.