Look for the shiny parts

March 20, 2012

This post is about the wise advice I received from my Osteopath today on how to find emotional resilience. What started out as a tweak here and there ended up feeling like an emotional and spiritual counselling session and I feel compelled to share.

Warning: This post contains metaphor, vulnerability and voodoo.

Early in 2011 I started experiencing pretty bad pain in my right wrist, both forearms as well as weakness in my upper arms. This was partially brought on by a shift in workstation but was also related to a huge and stressful transition in work.

After a workstation assessment it went away but this year it came back with a vengeance. The pain in my wrist was so bad at times that I would wrap a bandage around it just as much for comfort as for support. Picking up my girls became a chore. I was starting to feel demoralised.

I did the diligent thing and completed a ‘self-report for pain form’ at work. To their credit they jumped into action. I had my station reassessed, I got a new keyboard and a special mouse pad was ordered. There was this one lady (I’m still not sure what her role is) who came in to ‘assess’ me. I had just arrived and was feeling a bit sorry for myself. I was already in pain. She asked to observe me and a split second later she said: ‘Oh, well I see what you’re doing wrong’ and proceeded to tell me how I should be doing such-and-such this way.

I felt like I had just been told it was ‘all my fault’ and had to fight to hold back tears. I couldn’t wait for her to get out of my office. I have now got a very small window on what it must be like for people who live with chronic pain. It makes you grumpy. It makes you vulnerable. Your resilience is down and frankly, I just didn’t really like humans very much.

So I made an appointment with my Osteopath. I went to her about two years ago for completely unrelated issues. (Chronic congestion and a sore hip from a running injury). I only went to her because she was so highly recommended by a friend of mine. Turns out this person, let’s call her Debbie, because that’s her name, is probably a natural healer. I bet she could have chosen any kind of craft and she would have healed people with it. Cooking, massage, hair stylist, you name it. Any client or customer of hers would probably have walked away feeling better.

So I met with her today and explained in brief what has transpired in the last two years. In a nutshell: Stressful job, stressful transition, next job, stressful conditions, surgery, stressful transition, two blissful months off, new job, increasing stress, culminating in sore wrist, arms, shoulders.  ‘Hmmm….’ she said. ‘Let’s have a look’.

If you’ve never had an Osteopath session, I should explain. But it’s hard to explain. She just kinda holds your ankles for a second and then she said… ‘oh yes, wow. Your whole right side isn’t working.’ She moved to my shoulders. ‘Ok, yup, let’s get started.’ Essentially she just slipped her hands under my shoulders and stayed there for what felt like ages.

I tried to relax. I tried to calm my mind, which is so hard to do. The best way I know how to do that is to focus on my breathing and the sounds I can hear. Thoughts come and go, like invaders, but I tried to ‘notice’ them in a detached sort of way and not ‘engage’ with them.

After an eternity she shifts her hands to the base of neck and it feels like there are lights flickering on the other side of my eyelids. It’s really distracting, but then she shifts her hands to the back of my head and the only way I can describe it, is that the view changes and becomes calm. Things stop flickering and I relax more deeply.(Like, I said, voodoo)

Later she holds my wrist and it starts tingling. We talk a little. ‘That’s enough’ she said.

We sat there and she gave me a piercing look.

‘You are still holding on to things from your old job’ she said. ‘Whenever you talk about it, the atmosphere shifts in the room. And there’s more. I get the sense there are things you don’t want to talk about, that you don’t want me to ask about it. You haven’t fully regained your resilience, which is why you are in pain now. ‘

I feel incredibly vulnerable and tell her that she is right. My eyes start leaking a little.

Apparently the way Osteopathy works is by starting with the healthy bits and then nurturing those. ‘We look for the shiny parts’ she said. ‘Look for your health. When you are stressed, look for your health, build on that and be grateful for it.’

‘The shiny bits’ I said. ‘Yes’, she said, ‘It’s always there (she stretches her arms out) It’s just here. You have to trust that it’s there. Notice it when you can and appreciate it. It’s part of the divinity of life.’

‘It works the same way emotionally. And when you do start from the shiny, healthy parts, it will help you turn the page, or even close the book.’


Naturally I felt exhausted afterwards.

But tonight as I’m reflecting on this sage advice, it was hard not to start thinking that if all I need to do is ‘notice my health, find my shiny parts’ then really my problems are all my fault. That if I could only be grateful, count my blessings so to speak, that all would be well.

But another way to look at this is to say that accepting things as ‘my fault’ essentially means is that I am accountable, fully accountable for my actions and the outcomes I achieve in my life. This then also means that solutions are ‘my fault’ as well.

In other words, I AM responsible for my life, the problems and the solutions. I’m sure this will be sounding pretty obvious to some of you. But when I really think about this, it feels pretty powerful.

So that’s my advice, always look for the shiny parts.


(I debated leaving this as a draft, but think I’ll publish and perhaps tidy up later or add to it. I’m sure my thoughts will evolve further)


One Response to “Look for the shiny parts”

  1. Wendy said

    This post has me thinking a lot about moral and ethical relativism, but I’m not sure how I can spit out what is in my brain in a coherent and concise way. Watch this space…

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