Healing After Surgery

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surgery
Melina wasn’t feeling very good for about a week and thought that she had come down with some kind of stomach bug. She kept taking Gas-X and Pepto Bismal and other over the counter products and yet nothing seemed to be working. Melina’s symptoms were getting progressively worse by the day. She was in such horrible pain by the following Thursday that her husband rushed her to the emergency room. After a lengthy wait she was wheeled into the operating room where they performed emergency surgery to remove her appendix.

Melina felt very apprehensive going into surgery, fearing that she could possibly die on the operating table. She was greatly relieved afterwards that her appendix was out and that she was still alive and no longer in horrible pain.

Melina felt as though she had been traumatized afterwards saying “I wanted to close in on myself and not let anyone near me except my cats.” She was also experiencing a tremendous sense of fatigue which was also accompanied by numbness and pain.

The body and mind experiences varying degrees of shock any time it is subjected to some form of trauma. Surgery is, in many instances, the best option to address various health issues and yet it is also experienced as an invasive trauma by the body and mind. The body cannot fully process this trauma on its own. People often experience confusion and disorientation after surgery. I have on many occasions looked into people’s auras after surgery. In many instances the person who has undergone surgery appears to be dissociated from their physical body. This inability to be fully present in their body impairs their ability to function.

I noticed a very unusual quality during the healing session when I began to work in Melina’s abdomen. It felt as though this part of her body were in shock. There was a very inert or nonresponsive quality to the visceral organs. The visceral organs gradually became more responsive as we continued to work.

Invasive surgical procedures have a tendency to break down our boundaries and the defensive armor that enables us to contain the feelings and memories that we haven’t been able to process. Melina told me later on that feelings and memories associated with past sexual trauma began to surface during and after the session.

The prospect of undergoing surgery fills many of us with a sense of dread and anxiety. The more radical surgical procedures such as curative surgery that involve being cut open and having parts of our bodies cut out can be as devastating as the sickness. The overwhelming sense of violation experienced by some makes surgery’s potential to traumatize is comparable to that of assault, accidents and combat. In fact, reports of post-operative anxiety and depression are common. Patients who suffer a heart attack, cancer and other life threatening medical issues posing a threat to their physical survival that evoke feelings of horror and helplessness may develop PTSD. And that may precipitate the emergence of painful or traumatic memories and feelings from the past.

Saving lives

There are times when surgery is an absolute necessity. A ruptured appendix that is not surgically removed can lead to peritonitis. Left untreated, peritonitis can result in sepsis, a condition in which infection spreads rapidly into the blood and to other organs, resulting in multiple organ failure and death.

Congenital heart defects are problems with the heart structure that are present at birth. These defects involve the interior walls, the valves inside the heart and the arteries and veins carrying blood to and from the heart. Corrective surgery has saved the lives of many children born with congenital heart defects.

Coronary heart disease is the result of plaque buildup in the arteries, which blocks blood flow and leads to blockages. Arteries that were once smooth and elastic become narrow and rigid, thereby restricting blood flow to the heart. That starves the heart of oxygen and the vital nutrients it needs to pump properly. In some instances, a blood clot will totally block the blood supply to the heart muscle, causing heart attack. A blood clot blocking blood vessels to the brain may result in a stroke. Coronary bypass surgery replaces damaged arteries with blood vessels from other parts of the body such as the legs or arms, restoring blood flow to the heart muscles.

Stroke

Stroke symptoms can vary depending on the type of stroke, where it occurs in the brain, and how severe it is. Sometimes symptoms of stroke develop gradually. An individual having a stroke, is more likely to have one or more sudden warning signs:

• Numbness or weakness in the face, arms and legs, especially on one side
• Severe headache that comes on for no apparent reason
• Confusion or difficulty understanding other people
• Difficulty speaking
• Difficulty seeing with one or both eyes
• Difficulty walking
• Dizziness

A stroke or “brain attack” is a medical emergency. Every minute counts during a stroke. Call 911. An ambulance staffed with medical personnel can begin lifesaving treatment immediately.

Treating Ischemic Stroke

An ischemic stroke occurs if an artery that supplies oxygen-rich blood to the brain becomes blocked by a blood clot. Medication is used to break up blood clots in the arteries of the brain. Anticoagulants may also be prescribed to prevent blood clots from getting larger and to prevent new clots from forming.

Treating Hemorrhagic Stroke

A hemorrhagic stroke occurs if an artery in the brain leaks blood or ruptures. The first steps in treating a hemorrhagic stroke are to find the source of bleeding in the brain and then control it. Surgery may be needed to treat a hemorrhagic stroke.

The types of surgery used include aneurysm clipping, coil embolization, and arteriovenous malformation repair. Aneurysm clipping or coil embolization is performed if the stroke is caused by an aneurysm. Aneurysm clipping blocks off the aneurysm from the blood vessels in the brain. This surgery helps to prevent further leaking of blood from the aneurysm. It also can help prevent the aneurysm from bursting again. Coil embolization is a less complex procedure for treating an aneurysm. The surgeon will insert a tube called a catheter into an artery in the groin and then thread the tube to the site of the aneurysm. A tiny coil will then be pushed through the tube and into the aneurysm. The coil will cause a blood clot to form, which will block blood flow through the aneurysm and prevent it from bursting again.

Arteriovenous Malformation Repair

Arteriovenous Malformations are a tangle of faulty arteries and veins that can rupture in the brain. Surgery to the AVM may be recommended if it is determined to be the cause of the stroke. AVM repair helps prevent further bleeding in the brain. The AVM is often surgically removed. Substances may also be injected into the blood vessels of the AVM to block blood flow. Radiation may also be used to shrink the blood vessels of the AVM.

Mending broken bodies

Emergency surgery is often required to stop bleeding, close open wounds, set broken bones, treat head trauma, facial, abdominal, pelvic and various other injuries suffered as a result of automobile accidents.

Cancer

One in three people will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime. More than a third of all cancers are diagnosed in people aged 75 and older. Poor diet, tobacco and exposure to sun, radiation, chemicals and other substances all contribute to the dramatic increase in the frequency of cancer.

In many instances surgically removing tumors is the most effective approach to cancer treatment, especially if the cancer is localized and hasn’t metastasized. Advances in modern Allopathic medicine have led to the development of newer specialized surgical techniques to eradicate or prevent the spread of various forms of cancer. Some of the new methods being used to remove or destroy cancer cells are blurring the line between what we commonly think of as surgery and other forms of treatment.

Laparoscopic surgery can safely and effectively be used in surgeries for cancers of the colon, rectum, liver, prostate, uterus, and kidney. It involves less cutting and less damage to healthy tissues. Laparoscopic surgery can help to reduce blood loss during surgery and pain afterward. It can also shorten hospital stays and allow people to heal faster.

Preventive or prophylactic surgery is done to remove body tissue that is likely to become cancerous, even though there are no signs of cancer at the time of the surgery. For example, pre-cancerous polyps may be removed from the colon during a colonoscopy.

Curative surgery is usually done when cancer is found in only one area or region of the body, and it is likely that all of the cancer can be removed. In this case, curative surgery can be the main treatment. Curative surgeries remove a sizable part of the organ where the cancer originated, and in some instances the entire organ itself. A certain amount of healthy tissue is removed along with the cancerous tissue to ensure that all cancerous cells are gone.

Laser surgery can be used to burn and destroy some cancers of the cervix, larynx, liver, lung, rectum and skin. Laser surgeries are generally less invasive, involving less cutting and trauma to the body. The laser can, in some instances, be directed inside a natural body opening without having to make an incision. The laser is then aimed directly at the tumor or cancerous cells in order to destroy them.

Cryosurgery is a technique involving the use of liquid nitrogen or argon gas to freeze and kill abnormal cells in pre-cancerous conditions such as those affecting the skin and cervix. It is also used to treat cancers of the liver, prostate and bone. Cryosurgery may be the best option for cancers that are considered inoperable and for patients who are not good candidates for conventional surgery due to age and other medical conditions. One of the greatest advantages of cryosurgery is that it kills cancerous cells while limiting damage to healthy tissues.

Cryosurgery is less invasive involving only a small incision or insertion of the cryoprobe through the skin. In some instances cryosurgery can be performed using only local anesthesia. It generally has fewer and milder side effects, requires shorter recovery time and is less expensive. Cryosurgery can be highly effective in treating cancers visible to physicians using imaging technology. It’s main drawback is that the microscopic cancers that are not visible to these technologies can be missed.

Curettage is a process of scraping the skin with a spoon shaped instrument to remove skin tissue. Electrosurgery utilizes High-frequency electrical current to destroy cancer with an electric current that runs through a metal instrument or needle. Electrosurgery is often done after curettage to control bleeding and destroy any remaining cancer cells.

Mohs micrographic surgery, also known as chemo surgery, is considered to be the most effective technique for removing Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma, the two most common skin cancers. Mohs surgery used to remove skin cancers by shaving off one thin layer at a time. A doctor looks at the tissue under a microscope after each layer is removed. The surgeon stops removing layers of tissue once all the cells look normal under the microscope.

Improving the quality of life

Cleft palate

A cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth resulting from the failure of the palatal shelves to come fully together from either side of the mouth and fuse during the first months of development as an embryo. Modern surgical techniques have made it possible to greatly improve the quality of life for children born with a cleft palate. Repairing the cleft palate improves a child’s ability to eat, speak, hear and breathe and create a more normal appearance and function.

Joint replacement

Chronic pain in the knees, hips and other joints can make it difficult to walk, climb stairs, get up from a chair, or carry on with other normal activities. Joint replacements can significantly relieve pain and increase mobility in the vast majority of people who get them.

Risks and complications

Despite the best of care, all surgical procedures have inherent risks of complications. Assessing these risks is an important part of patient counseling. Age, medical history and current condition all have to be taken into consideration. Surgical incisions are at times slow to heal and in some instances they do not fully heal. Other risks include fever, nausea and vomiting, wound infection, septicemia, blood loss resulting from hemorrhaging either during or after surgery, shock, clotting and pulmonary embolism and disfigurement.

Fatigue

Patients often assume that they can go right back to work after surgery. But the trauma to the physical body and the general anesthesia causes fatigue that can last for some time. Energy levels can take time to get back to normal. And in some instances a person’s energy level never fully comes back on its own.

Pain and other discomforts

Nearly everyone experiences aches, pains, bruising and soreness after surgery. The amount of pain one experiences often depends on the degree of invasiveness of the surgical procedure. One of the greatest advantages of the newer less invasive procedures such as laparoscopic surgery is that there is usually considerably less trauma to the body. The process of recovery is also much faster.

Partially collapsed lung

Patients sometimes complain that it hurts to breathe after surgery. A condition known as Atelectasis, a partial collapse of the lungs may occur after surgery when patients are not able to breathe in enough air to fill their lungs. Mucus normally cleared by breathing and coughing builds up in the lungs. That may lead to pneumonia, especially in older patients. Warning signs of atelectasis include shortness of breath and faster heartbeat.

Blood Clots

Blood clots are far more likely to occur after surgery, especially orthopedic surgery. People that smoke, that are obese or immobilized are at greater risk for blood clots. Blood clots often form in the legs, but can migrate to the lungs where they can cause potentially fatal pulmonary embolism. Patients need to be attentive to potential warning signs such as swelling in the affected leg and calf pain. Shortness of breath and chest pain may be an indication that the clot has moved to the lungs.

Reactions to anesthesia

Anesthesia is derived from the Greek word anaisthēsía meaning ‘loss of sensation’. Anesthesia makes it possible to perform surgical procedures necessary for the health and wellbeing of the patient that would otherwise be too unbearably painful to endure. Without anesthesia the patient might go into shock and die. There are however a number of complications that result from surgical procedures and the use of anesthesia.

Common reactions and complications associated with anesthesia include headaches, pain, bleeding, dizziness, feeling faint, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, hematoma formation, nerve injury, infection and embolism.

Headache

Headaches may occur as a result of the anesthetic, the operation, dehydration and anxiety. Most headaches will subside within a few hours. Severe headaches are more likely to happen after a spinal or epidural anesthetic.

Confusion and disorientation

People that undergo surgery often complain that they don’t feel quite like themselves. They sometimes feel tired for weeks or months afterwards. Confusion, disorientation and memory loss are common reactions to surgery and anesthetic. These symptoms are usually temporary, but may sometimes be permanent.

Nausea and Vomiting

Patients undergoing surgery sometimes become nauseous and vomit. A condition known as aspiration pneumonitis can occur when food, saliva, liquids, or vomit is breathed into the lungs or airways leading to the lungs. Vomit and other foreign substances aspirated into the lungs can cause inflammation and infection.

Anaphylaxis

Patients undergoing surgery sometimes experience anaphylaxis, an allergic reaction involving the entire body in response to drugs or substances used for anesthesia or surgery. Tissues in different parts of the body release histamine and other substances. This may cause the airways to tighten and lead to other symptoms.

Ischemic Necrosis

The use of anesthesia can sometimes cause ischemic necrosis, a condition that occurs when the organs and tissues fail to get adequate blood supply because of constriction or obstruction of the blood vessels. The lack of blood supply to a part of the body such as the heart, brain, skin or bowel can lead to tissue death in the affected area.

Cerebral Hypoxia

The brain needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients to function. Drowning, choking, suffocating, cardiac arrest and complications resulting from surgery may prevent the brain from getting the oxygen it needs to function. Cerebral hypoxia is a condition that occurs when there is not enough oxygen getting to the brain. The more complete the deprivation, the more severe the harm to the brain and the greater the consequences. Cerebral hypoxia can rapidly lead to severe brain damage or death.

The cells of the brain will start to die within a few minutes if they are deprived of oxygen. The disruption of the transmission of electrical impulses impedes the production of neurotransmitters, which regulate many physiological, cognitive and emotional processes. Patients who experience brain hypoxia may experience memory loss along with reduced physical mobility. It may also impair their ability to pay attention and make sound decisions.

High Blood Pressure, Heart Attack and Stroke

Stress, medication, pain and lack of exercise are stressors for the body that can lead to an increase in blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Residual anesthesia

Patients typically wake up after surgery once the anesthesia passes out of the blood stream. Many anesthetics used in surgery are fat soluble, which means they are absorbed by the fat cells in the body. Residual anesthetic stored in the fat cells comes out over time and may cause us to feel sluggish or drowsy for weeks or months afterwards.

The period of time that anesthetics stay in the body greatly depends on the aesthetic used during surgery. Anesthetics that have a relatively short life are metabolized and removed by the body quickly while others stay around for a while. Propofol which is commonly used as an induction agent is longer lived in the body. Versed or Midazolam, a drug used before surgery or certain medical tests to make patients sleepy, drowsy, or relaxed has been detectable in urine up to ten days after a procedure in which it was used.

Nerve damage

Nerves can be compressed, stretched, or severed by trauma or surgery. Symptoms of nerve damage may also be caused by surgery-induced inflammation. Symptoms of nerve damage include burning or stabbing pain, sensitivity to touch, numbness in the hands, feet or other parts of the body. The muscles in the arms or hands may fail to regain their previous strength.

Neurological deficits

Neurological deficits are functional abnormalities resulting from injury to the brain, spinal cord, muscles, or nerves resulting from surgery and other forms of physical trauma. Neurological deficits range temporary to permanent. Changes in the way that one experiences sensation include numbness, a decrease in sensation and unusual sensations. Patients may experience loss of muscle tone and control and involuntary movements such as tremors after surgery. The loss of coordination may interfere with one’s ability to perform complex movements. Patients may experience speech or language difficulties that impair their ability to write, comprehend written or spoken information or speak clearly. Changes in vision may include diminishment of one’s visual field, double vision and loss of vision.

Scar tissue

The body creates scar tissue in its attempt to heal. The formation of scar tissue causes visible changes in one’s appearance. Scar tissue may cause pain in the area where the surgery occurred. Scar tissue can sometimes impact one’s range of motion if it develops in the tissue near joints. Scar tissue causes visible changes in the appearance of one’s skin. Scar tissue typically is thicker, pinker, redder or shinier than the rest of a person’s skin. The degree of scarring depends on the following factors: wound size, depth and location, a person’s age and skin characteristics, including skin color or pigmentation. Scar tissue on the skin’s surface often fades with time, but it rarely fully returns to normal.

Adhesions are bands of scar tissue that bind parts of the body’s tissue together that should remain separate. They often appear as thin sheets of tissue similar to plastic wrap or as thick fibrous bands. Adhesions will sometimes develop in response to surgery, infection, trauma or radiation as the body attempts to repair itself. The body’s repair cells cannot distinguish between one organ or part of the body and another. Scar tissue will sometimes form to connect the two surfaces when one organ undergoing repair comes into contact with another organ or part of the body.

Adhesions typically begin to form within the first few days after surgery, but they may not produce symptoms for months or even years. Adhesions can occur anywhere, but are most likely to develop within the stomach, the pelvis and the heart. Abdominal adhesions occur in the majority of patients who undergo abdominal and pelvic surgery.

The majority of adhesions are painless and do not cause complications. However, adhesions cause a large percentage of small bowel obstructions in adults. In extreme cases, the fibrous bands surrounding a segment of the intestine restrict motion making it difficult to pass food through the digestive system. The constriction of blood flow may result in tissue death.
Adhesions may form within the membranes surrounding the heart, and that may restrict heart function. Pelvic adhesions usually occur after surgery and can involve any organs within the pelvis, such as the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes or bladder and are believed to lead to the development of chronic pelvic pain.

Indigenous healing traditions

We’re living in a society where we have been taught to disconnect from our feelings and physical bodies. Consequently, many of us lack the understanding and resources needed to process our emotions and heal deep emotional wounds. Unpleasant emotions and other stresses that we fail to process often manifest within the body. A large percentage of the digestive, respiratory and other conditions that manifest in the body are stress related. In many instances these conditions could be resolved through noninvasive holistic healing modalities. And yet many opt to suffer the unnecessary physical and psychological trauma of undergoing invasive surgical procedures such as having portions of their colon removed.

Indigenous people in various parts of the world lived close to the land in harmony with the forces of nature. Indigenous healers of the Americas and other parts of the world such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines allowed other forces or beings to work through them to facilitate healing that would not otherwise be possible. Some had the ability to close open wounds and extract tumors from the body. I’m fortunate to have trained with one of the last surviving traditional doctors among the Kiowa Indian tribe.

The old Native American doctors were very pragmatic in that they encouraged their patients to utilize both modern allopathic and traditional indigenous medical approaches to facilitate healing. I have on numerous occasions intervened during medical emergencies. I also encourage anyone experiencing a medical emergency such as a heart attack or stroke to pick up the phone immediately and call 911. We need to make the best use of the healing resources that are available to us.

I’ve worked with a wide range of conditions over the years. The presence working through me during the individual healing sessions facilitates a regenerative process within physical and subtle bodies. People with inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease have healed. Fibroids have in some instances dissolved. Cancers have also gone into remission.

The body – mind is not able to fully process the trauma experienced while undergoing surgery. It’s fairly common for people to experience varying degrees of numbing or deadening long afterwards. The resulting disconnect can prevent people from being as fully present in their bodies as they were prior to surgery.

Jenna was experiencing a great deal of difficulty after giving birth to her son via caesarian section. The incisional wound was healing poorly and she was also experiencing a great deal of fatigue and disorientation.

Jenna’s body healed as we began to work together. She regained her mental focus and became more present in her body. Jenna went on to complete her thesis and degree and in counselling psychology and has since built a practice as a psychotherapist.

Eda underwent surgery to correct the damage to her toes resulting from wearing high heeled shoes for many years. She expected to be off her feet for weeks afterwards. The healing sessions accelerated the healing process. Eda’s surgeon said that she healed much faster and better than expected.

Many of the people that have come to me after having gone through surgery were still experiencing pain, fatigue and a sense of disorientation. In many instances, the body’s innate healing power had become so compromised. Incisional wounds were healing slowly. The presence working through me during the individual healing sessions would alleviate the physical pain and accelerate the healing of the wounds while cleansing the body of residual anesthetic and other toxins.

Surgery often causes significant damage to the subtle bodies consisting of the chakras and layers of the aura. The subtle bodies help to facilitate the functioning of the various organs and systems of the body. Damage to the subtle bodies impairs the functions of the organs and systems. Damage is repaired within the physical and subtle bodies during the individual healing sessions.

This presence also facilitates the processing of trauma the held in the body along with any feelings and memories that may have surface. Emotions are processed, the deep underlying wounds heal and issues are brought to resolution. Emotional vulnerability replaced with a sense of calm and wellbeing.

People who didn’t feel quite like themselves are able to regain their natural resilience and get back on track in their lives. Many have told me that the sessions helped them to become more fully present in their bodies and to regain their physical strength along with their mental clarity and ability to focus.

©Copyright 2014 Ben Oofana. All Rights Reserved. This content may be copied in full, with copyright, creation and contact information intact, without specific permission.

Ben Oofana is a healer who began his training with Horace Daukei, one of the last surviving traditional doctors among the Kiowa Indian tribe. Call (913) 927-4281 to learn more or to schedule an individual session.

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The Disappearing Act

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walk awayThe disappearing act is something that has been around for as long as we have existed as a human race. We often hear of about parents disappearing in the personal accounts of those who were abandoned by their mother or father as children. The tendency to disappear has seemingly become more common among people in our present day and age.

Becoming involved with another person and then vanishing is a very hurtful and grossly insensitive thing to do. The people who do the disappearing are often so self-absorbed or immature that they don’t really consider how their actions affect another person. Of course there are instances in which the disappearance occurred not by choice in situations where one was imprisoned or drafted into military service. The remainder of this chapter consists of a dialog between Priya and I in which she shares her recent experiences with a Stephane, a man that showed up in her life a few months back and then abruptly disappeared.

Priya: My young husband passed away unexpectedly in 2012. I was just starting to get back into dating after a year of mourning his loss and had created a very short profile on OkCupid to test the waters. My profile consisted of two photographs and three lines. And then one day I got a message from this guy saying “I didn’t think it was possible, but your profile is even shorter than mine.” We then we started chatting back and forth.

Stephane had mentioned in his profile that he works as a psychotherapist. It was interesting because he started asking questions about me. I responded by saying “You’re the therapist …figure it out.” Much to my surprise, he came up with some pretty accurate insights. He guessed right off that I had just come out of a long term relationship.

We decided to meet after a flirtatious exchange. The first date felt very disconnected. Stephane appeared to be stressed out, exhausted and older than the picture posted on his profile. We met in a crowded bar and at the time he seemed to be more interested in watching the game. Two other guys at the bar were flirting with me. I thought that it was all playful and fun, but it seemed to really bother Stephane.

The first date didn’t go very well, but he said maybe should give it another try. Stephane was very quick to set up the second date. He wanted me to come down to see him in Brooklyn, which was fine because I love exploring this part of the city. This time he came across as someone who was very willing to open up. I assumed that had something to do with the fact that he’s a psychotherapist by profession. One thing I did notice is that he tended to overanalyze everyone and everything around him.

I could sense a lot of anxiety about Stephane, but I started to see his eyes brighten over the course of our conversation. There was almost this boyish look on his face as he began to relax. I loved the transformation I saw taking place in Stephane as he began to let his hair down, access his free inner child and just act silly.

At some point our conversation turned to the subject of loss. I then shared with Stephane about the loss of my husband. I loved that he was so open to hearing what I had to say. I had shared a very important part of me and felt that the fact that I was more vulnerable with Stephane made him more attracted to me. My sense is that a person is being intimate if they’re sharing a lot of personal information. I didn’t think it was possible to share that much information and still have an intimacy barrier. I hadn’t shared my loss with anyone before in my dating experience, so for me that meant intimacy. But looking back, I don’t think it was the case for him and at some level I sensed it. I should have listened to my intuition

I felt that we were growing closer after the second date. We kissed at the end of the date and he said lets meet again. I texted Stephane after a few days, but then I didn’t hear from him for a long time.

The experience of being intimate with Stephane stayed with me, making me miss my husband in a different way than before. Something about my interaction with Stephane was helping me to process the grief. The feelings continued to surface for a couple of days. I felt that it was healthy to access these feelings and I wanted more.

I texted Stephane and said “Hey, let’s get together.” Stephane responded by saying “Let’s do it.” He said “How about tonight?” I was up for it but then he canceled at the last minute. I was a little surprised because I thought that we had progressed further. Stephane didn’t make himself available for another date.

Bewildered, I sent Stephane a message saying “I really enjoyed the time that we spent together and if you feel similarly, I would love to see you again and often.” I received no response at all. I felt so disappointed and so I stopped texting him. A couple of months went by. One night I was out with my friends and for some reason I thought of Stephane. I had a little too much to drink and I texted him saying “Where the fuck have you been?” That captured his attention. And then we had this playful exchange. During the exchange he said “Me not responding doesn’t mean that I’m not interested.” I then replied with “Well okay, what are you going to do about it?” Stephane then said that he would love to hang out. I thought I would give him another chance and see where things wanted to go and so we finally did hang out again.

At that time I told Stephane “I’m in a place right now where I just want to be friends. I’m not looking for anything long term. The conversation is very good and I feel that we connect on many levels. That’s something I enjoy and I’m in a good place. So I would love to see you more often.” Stephane seemed to become very relaxed around the whole idea of no commitments or expectations.

What I was hoping for is an adult relationship in which two people are fully present for each other for whatever period of time. It doesn’t have to be forever or a year. It could be for a month. But at least they fully honor the connection. And I do believe that’s possible. I believe that you can be friends and share about your life and share your ideas to change the world. And you can also have an intimate sexual relationship. I thought that Stephane had that potential given the depth that he had demonstrated before.

At that point, we really started to see each other. After that date he invited me to his place. I ended up spending the night. We talked for five or six hours. We had another date where he came over to my place and again we talked for hours. After the second big date I started to feel like he tapped into this whole reservoir of pain inside of me. It felt like layers of grief were surfacing, because the depth of sharing was something that I had only previously experienced with my husband. Now I had shared with another man. Having done so was beautiful, but it also felt sad.

The date seemed perfect. I felt euphoric and was glowing afterwards. But then a day later I started to slip into a depressive state and mourn the loss of my husband even more deeply than before.

I slept with Stephane in a certain position that I used to sleep in with my husband. I could hear his heartbeat and it reminded me of my husband’s heartbeat. It reminded me of how my husband’s heart suddenly stopped and that evoked a whole range of emotion.

During our time together I saw Stephane transform from this stressed out individual into this guy whose eyes were sparking and full of youth. Suddenly he changed into this effervescent personality. I loved watching the transformation. We kissed, made love and it was so tender and romantic.

Along with the sadness came feelings of abandonment. Stephane had already shared with me that he’s the kind of person who cannot commit. He said at one point that it was very easy for him to walk away from a relationship. The whole time I kept fearing that he was going to walk away. I also knew that if I chased after him or tried to text him that it would sabotage this relationship and that he would put even more distance between us.

I went through my usual abandonment cycle which I feel with almost every guy, but this time I decided to do something completely different. Normally I delete the guy’s number so there’s no way for me to text him. Or I do text him, the guy runs away and then it’s over. This time I decided to take it to the next level. I decided to own these feelings by sharing them with Stephane, not to burden him or expect anything from him, but purely to share.

Stephane’s biggest fear is that someone will start expecting things from him, but that’s not what I was doing. I assumed that since Stephane is a therapist, he would understand what I was going through and we could be friends. And that he would also understand that I’m not feeling all these intense things because I’m expecting more from the relationship. So I picked up the phone and I called Stephane and told him what I was going through. In the moment he was very compassionate about it, saying “Hey, I wish I had the time right now to talk about this. I can’t right now because I’m at work, but let’s meet on Wednesday.

Tuesday came and I didn’t hear from Stephane. So I texted him and said “Hey, what’s going on? Are we meeting Wednesday or not?” That’s when I received a text message saying “Sorry, I think that our last conversation was a little intense. Understandably intense, but not at par with where I’m at right now. Sorry.” Stephane broke up on text and that was it. I never heard from him again.

In receiving that text I felt two things. It felt like a stab in the heart, but at another level I was almost expecting it. I felt the same things when I received the phone call letting me know that my husband had died. The abandonment wound is so primitive that at some level we almost expect to be abandoned. Every time a relationship ends I feel two things. I feel really sad, but I also know that it was going to happen anyway.

Sometimes I miss the fun parts of the connection I shared with Stephane. I miss the music we shared, the depth of conversation, the intellectual connection and the perceived emotional closeness. Now I feel that he was holding back a big part of himself. I don’t think he was really letting me in. And that’s why it was so easy for him to walk away. Why else would you be able to walk away so easily.

Ben: The thing that caused me the most grief and frustration when I first came to New York was this seeming inability of the people I encountered to form any kind of meaningful or lasting attachments. The tendency to disappear is indicative of deep interpersonal deficits. You can meet someone here in the City, share all kinds of deep personal information and feel like you’re really making a connection. But there are lots of people here don’t really comprehend that in terms of intimacy. It’s nothing for them to just disappear, because what may feel like a connection to you and I really doesn’t mean anything to them.

I feel fortunate to have spent time in other states and countries in different parts of the world. One of the things I value most is the experience of connecting with people wherever I went. It was so amazing to open up and share with someone I was meeting for the first time. There was a greater sense of continuity in that something good would usually come of the interaction. It may not necessary turn into a romantic relationship, but it often developed into a friendship or some form of connection.

Many people living her in the city lack a certain empathetic quality that would enable them to bond and form meaningful attachments. I see it on a personal level and in the people I work with. People we encounter or interact with can seem to be really present in the moment, but they cannot sustain this presence. They often just disappear. It’s just the way that many people here operate.

The disappearing act happens to some degree everywhere. It’s just much more prevalent here in the city. People in communities across the country and in other parts of the world often warn their friends and acquaintances about a potential love interest if that person has acted in ways that were hurtful and abusive. Word gets out and then the man or woman gets a bad reputation. The advantage of this is that it holds men and women accountable for their actions. People in a place like New York City can do all kinds of horrible things to one another and seemingly get away with it because there isn’t the extended social network to hold them accountable. It’s so much harder to hold anyone accountable here in a city of eight million strangers.

Priya: But what is commitment anyway? My sense is that it is about accountability to another person. It seems that a lot of people here are so scared of that. And they fear that they will be asked for something that they cannot fulfill. One of the things that Stephane said is “I cannot disappoint a woman. If I think I’m disappointing her then I will walk away.” At some level he perceived that by sharing what I’m going through that I was asking for some massive amount of support …something that he felt he couldn’t provide me. And so he already knew that he had disappointed me and that’s why he walked away. He behaved consistent with what he told me about himself. And that’s the same pattern he’s been playing out with women. This is what I understand based upon what he shared with me.

Ben: There are a lot of things about the environment here in New York City that cause people to operate on a very surface level. We’re bombarded with massive amounts of light, sound and other stimulus. And there are innumerable distractions. People are stacked above, below and on all sides of us. And that means that other people are constantly in our energy field. All of that static interference exceeds our processing capacity. Our state of disconnect is further exacerbated as we continue to spend more and more time on our smartphones and computers.
All the shit flying through our sensory channels leaves us saturated, thereby overwhelming our processing capacity. We can barely do the processing necessary to work through our own feelings and issues because our brain-mind is so overwhelmed by the sensory bombardment and all the other distractions that it is forced to contend with. Interpersonal relationships invariably suffer, because we do not have enough available bandwidth available to be fully present.

Priya: That’s so bizarre. I will create that bandwidth, because connection is why I’m alive. That’s why I’m here. How can you live without that? I don’t get it…

Ben: But you have a different orientation. Your orientation is to experience that deep intimate emotional bond or connectedness. Other individuals build barriers around themselves. They may hunger for the sexual hookup, but they don’t allow anyone into that deep personal space. They are avoiding their own feelings and issues. In doing so they are abandoning themselves and therefore they cannot be truly present with anyone else.

We operate with these assumptions that say everyone is looking to love and be loved, but in doing so we are setting ourselves up to be hurt. Much of the population is wounded in such a way that prevents them from being truly intimate with another human being. Many are threatened by intimacy. Matters are further compounded by the fact that they do not recognize their inability to bond as an issue that needs to be dealt with. And many of those who do recognize the issue do not possess the willingness or desire to do what it takes to heal.

Priya: One of the things Stephane told me was that he was really surprised that I kept texting him even though he didn’t text back. I responded by telling him that I knew that most people would feel rejected if someone didn’t text them back. I just had this intuition that we would be really good friends and that we have a capacity for connection. And that I thought that his unavailability was his problem and not mine.

Stephane’s response was “Wow, good for you that you thought that way.” I could have continued to think that way, but I was up to my capacity where I couldn’t indulge his unavailability any more. I felt like I was playing this role of drawing him out of his shell all the time saying it’s safe. I’m safe. It’s safe to connect. I considered texting him again, but I feel like I’m worth more than trying so hard to draw someone out of their shell. So I just chose not to. Maintaining a connection shouldn’t be so hard if it’s meant to be.

I come with so much connectedness that some people cannot bear it. They cannot be in my presence. My groundedness and connectedness makes them encounter the uncomfortable feelings they are avoiding.

Ben: The act of being fully present in our personal interactions can trigger a lot of feelings. One has to experience a lot of feelings in order to be fully present in their interactions with others. A large percentage of the population is not willing to do that.

Stephane, like so many other men in the city, may continue to move from one hookup to another. Or he may eventually find a partner who operates at a similar level of disconnectedness with whom he can relate on a superficial level that doesn’t force him to address his issues. It’s like they’re sort of together, but there’s no real depth or intimacy.

Priya: Stephane told me that he’s working primarily with returning vets and patients struggling with addictions. When I asked Stephane how he’s helped his patients, he told me that he primarily focuses on strategies to help them cope. I could see that his reviews were really good when I looked online, but then what does a patient who is so low functioning really know.

Ben: There are highly skilled psychotherapists that make a profound difference in the lives of their patients. But I sometimes feel cynical about psychotherapy, because I know of so many therapists who are just as damaged, if not more so, than the patients they are purporting to help. They may have an intellectual understanding of psychopathology and yet they’re not really doing the deep processing necessary to work through their emotions and heal their own dysfunction.

None of us are perfect. We are all wounded in some way and we all make mistakes. And yet I’ve felt horrified by the level of dysfunction in some of the psychotherapists who have shown up in my classes and that have worked with me individually. Sometimes they disappear because of their inability or unwillingness to face the issues. I’m thinking “Okay, so you’ve earned your degree and now you’re practicing as a psychotherapist. But how can you possibly facilitate healing within another when you’re not even doing the work necessary to facilitate your own healing?” One of the most important qualifications for those of us who work in any kind of therapeutic capacity is that we strive to live from a place of integrity by consistently addressing our own issues to the best of our ability.

Intellectual understanding will only go so far. I look into people’s auras all the time. I see people who have gone through years of psychotherapy. I see many instances where they possess a greater intellectual understanding of their suffering and yet they’re still holding so much trauma and other stressful emotional content within their bodies. Psychotherapy can be a very important aspect of the healing process, but it needs to be combined with other modalities. One also needs to be willing to do the deep emotional work.

Priya: At one point Stephane said that he didn’t have any interest in going back to address childhood issues with his patients. And that may be a reflection of his own unwillingness to address those issues and do the processing necessary to heal his own emotional wounds. That may also account for the fact that his approach is based primarily upon offering coping skills, rather than addressing the underlying issues. I’ve noticed that lots of people are not willing to go back to address childhood issues. I’m sure that’s not the only way to heal. There must be other ways.

Ben: Unresolved issues from our past are often the underlying source of our present day struggles. These issues have a tendency to play out in our present day lives. They need to be addressed at some point. We cannot fully heal until the wounds are healed and the issues brought to some form of resolution. That’s not all there is to healing, but it’s a very important part of the process.

Relationships will invariably bring our core issues to the surface. Much of the populace has spent the vast majority of their lives avoiding or disconnecting from their feelings, physical bodies and the issues they haven’t wanted to deal with. They’re afraid to experience their own feelings. And that’s why many people bail out as soon as a relationship brings their core issues to the surface.

I met a Chinese woman one evening while attending a class. I found the conversation with Jian to be very enjoyable, so I asked her if she would like to come along with me to pick up an order I had placed at Whole Foods. She then asked me if I would like to have tea. We ended up going to McDonalds for tea because it was the only place still open at that hour of the night. It turns out that we had a lot in common. We ended up talking about all kinds of things. And we kept taking until three in the morning.

Jian shared with me that evening that she had recently come out of a relationship with a man that she met in a bar. Before long he had moved in with Jian and she ended up becoming pregnant. Jian’s lover was apparently very cruel. He made a point of sending Jian a picture of himself with his new girlfriend shortly after he broke off the relationship. I felt very concerned at the time because I could sense her grief and I knew that she had been deeply hurt.

I really enjoyed talking with Jian and thought I had found a friend. Jian works as a nutritionist, so I had a sense that we could learn from and possibly help each other. I wasn’t all that physically attracted to Jian, but we shared so much in common and I really enjoyed the connection. There was a light playful quality to the interaction and it was a lot of fun spending time with and her. I hadn’t known Jian for that long and wasn’t yet sure how I felt about her, but was open to the possibility that there could be potential for something more at some point in the future. At that time I just wanted to be there for her as a friend. I would have also been perfectly content if the connection remained a platonic friendship.

Jian and I were supposed to meet again the following week. She woke up late that morning and then called to say that she didn’t feel like going out. She then invited me to come over to her place. We spent much of the day talking and drinking the amazing fruit tea that she makes from goji berries, longons and other various other ingredients. We exchanged a few emails afterwards and then she just disappeared. I sent one email telling her that I really enjoyed the connection and that I valued her friendship, but I never heard back from her.

Priya: So many of my friends here are struggling with these same issues.

Ben: The stress of living in a place like New York City makes it all the more difficult to remain grounded in our feelings and physical bodies. People who live in their heads can easily lose touch with their intuition and the empathetic capacity that would enable them to bond with another human being.

One sees lots of couples here in the city. Some people do find love in the city and yet so many others struggle to find someone special with whom they can share their lives. New York is full of men like Stephane who will show up in women’s lives and then disappear. These men want to act like they don’t have any vulnerabilities at all and so they play it cool. A lot of women end up pursuing unavailable men and then they devise all kinds of strategies for holding onto them in their attempt to make the relationship work.

There’s percentage of men and women on the dating scene in New York like the guy Jian was going out with that exhibit sociopathic characteristics. On the surface they possess superficial charm and good intelligence. And yet they tend to be so out of touch with their own feelings that it impairs their ability to empathize with the feelings, needs and considerations of others. They are pathologically egocentric and are incapable of love. Their sex lives have a very impersonal quality and are not well integrated. There’s an unreliability, untruthfulness and insincerity about them. They also lack remorse or shame when their words and actions cause pain. These individuals tend to possess a magnetic quality that draws others in, but they can be very wounding to those with whom they become involved.

There are actually a lot more men and women in the city who want more than anything to find someone with whom they can share a deep meaningful and lasting connection. Sadly, there are so many social barriers that are preventing people from engaging with one another. Many of the men I have spoken to tell me that the women they encounter won’t even give them a chance.

Women that have been hurt by unavailable men like Stephane often internalize the painful feelings. All of the stresses and distractions of being in New York can make it that much more difficult for them to process their feelings. Fears, hurts and other conflicted feelings held within often get projected onto men and that can make it difficult for women to open or trust. The deep emotional wounds that many women hold cause them to gravitate towards men like Stephane or those that exhibit sociopathic tendencies. And yet in many instances they’re afraid of the men who are truly desirous of a relationship that have the capacity to show up fully present.

Priya: There’s a lot of the fear among men and women in New York City. And that fear often shuts down the natural flow of interaction. Much of this fear has to do with a lack of trust of people’s intentions. People here often feel you want something from them. Even if you’re sincere and have the best of intentions, they still don’t trust you. And in many instances they assume that you have some kind of ulterior motive.

Ben: There are a disproportionate numbers of men here in New York that are afraid of commitment. And there is also a level of fear and guardedness among women that I have not encountered anywhere else. Many won’t make eye contact in public spaces, or they react very negatively if a man were to approach them. And yet many of these same women anguish over the fact that they don’t have a man in their lives.

I’ve met women and have sometimes spoken with them for hours in all kinds of settings. We seemed to have a lot in common and it felt like there was potential for friendship. But in some instances they were still unwilling to exchange contact information despite the fact that we shared many common interests and they enjoyed the conversation. If it were anywhere else we would have most likely continued the conversation. Others have expressed their desire to continue the conversation, but have often disappeared after exchanging a few emails.

Much of the fear, guardedness, inability to commit or just show up fully present stems from the fact that people have been deeply wounded at various points in their lives. We are all empathic to some extent. Those who are not strongly rooted in themselves may internalize the attitudes, fears, confusion and other mental-emotional baggage of those around them. These mental-feeling states then compounded by people’s inability to process their own feelings and bring issues to a place of resolution.

Noted psychotherapist Carl Jung spoke at great length about the individual and collective consciousness. Every city, state, region, nation, ethnicity and race has its own collective psyche. An element of fear, guardedness, mistrust or suspicion has become incorporated in the collective consciousness of people residing here in the city. We can easily get sucked into the collective mind if we’re not firmly rooted in ourselves. Operating from the collective state doesn’t really serve us, but sadly many people have a very limited capacity to step back and examine themselves and do the deep internal processing that would enable them to truly think their own thoughts and feel their own feelings.

We have all been hurt somewhere along the way. A fearful and guarded state of mind is more likely to become our default mode of operation when we fail to process what we’ve gone through and any subsequent feelings that arise. Allowing our fears to control us stunts our growth. And that limits the quality of all of our relationships by preventing us from being as fully present in our interactions as we could be.

South Asia has a whole different set of challenges, but one of the things I enjoy most about being in India and Sri Lanka is that there’s a greater sense of continuity in personal interactions. I meet all kinds of people along the way and find that I’m much more likely to see or at least hear from those with whom I connect again. There’s a much more reciprocal nature to my interactions with women in this part of the world. I have sometimes given my business card to women that I met along the way. In many instances they initiate by calling or emailing me.

Priya: I would initiate contact or show interest in men that I met because I didn’t know the social rules. I didn’t have a problem with that, but it seems dating here in the United States has developed all of these unspoken rules. Girls are not supposed to initiate contact.

Then there’s a lot of focus on keeping the dating interaction light and breezy. And there are all these other rules to determine how long we’re supposed to wait before we text so that we don’t sound too desperate or needy. People here in the United States have this strange obsession with neediness or clinginess. No one wants to be perceived as such, but that’s a defense against our own feelings of vulnerability. Everyone feels needy to some extent, but we’re so ashamed of these feelings that we punish ourselves. In many instances we devalue and then punish those who we perceive to be needy or vulnerable. We cut that person off, reject or throw them away.

Ben: That’s another thing I really like about being in relationships with women in India and Sri Lanka. It’s much easier to express one’s feelings of attraction and desire to spend time with another person. It’s okay to have wants and needs. I feel a much greater sense of acceptance. I can express what I’m feeling without fearing that the woman I’m engaged with is going to run away.

Priya: Having a communal orientation is a normal part of life in India. We expect to be supported and to support others. It’s normal to need other people and that’s not a problem. The main drawback is that people, and especially women, are not as self-reliant as they could be. Women are almost expected to be vulnerable and needy and are protected for that reason. And it’s okay to be needy. A woman certainly won’t be rejected for that reason.

I found myself wondering what I had done to attract this experience of being abandoned when Stephane disappeared. And that evoked feelings of shame. I was thinking that like attracts like and that maybe I have a little Stephane in me, otherwise why would I attract someone like that into my life. Maybe it’s an indication that I’m not as developed as I think I am and that I wouldn’t be attracting people like Stephane into my life if I didn’t need them to teach me these lessons.

Ben: We do tend to attract people and situations that reflect our woundedness and the issues that we need to be addressing. We also have to be careful with the new-age-isms or we end up creating a lot of additional confusion.

Much of South Asia is swarming with mosquitos. We don’t ask ourselves “What am I doing to attract this?” and then come up with some lengthy esoteric narrative to explain why we’re getting eaten by mosquitos. Part of the reality of being in South Asia is that we end up getting a lots of mosquito bites unless we’re doused with repellent, shielded with nets or have some kind of blood chemistry that repels the little airborne bloodsuckers. The disappearing act is a standard operating procedure for many people residing here in New York City. And that’s something we’ve likely to experience firsthand as we make ourselves vulnerable by being open and attempting to form attachments with other people.

Priya: I was offering Stephane a safe friendship where we could explore feelings. What happened in the end is a loss for both of us. Stephane and I could have helped each other. I could have gone further in the process of healing the grief of my husband’s loss. He could have processed the residual grief of losing his mother and dealt with his intimacy issues. We could have learned and grown in the process of sharing our experiences given the fact that he’s a psychotherapist and I’m so process oriented. That’s what attracted me to him and why I had continued to text him. Of course I stopped when I got to the point to where I was not honoring myself. While I will progress further in my healing, he will continue to operate at that same level of dysfunction.

Ben: Relationships challenge us, but in doing so they provide us with one of the greatest opportunities for personal growth. People with avoidant tendencies are driven by their fears and are therefore very unlikely to ever grasp these opportunities. We may see the woundedness of the other person and think to ourselves “If they would just… The problem is that we cannot fix another person. We need to put the focus on ourselves. And we do that by taking the steps we need to do to facilitate own healing.

I encounter so many people who are frustrated, hurt and sometimes devastated because one potential love after another has disappeared. It’s not that we have bad relationship karma or that we are necessarily doing anything wrong. We’re not damaged or defective. This is just the way in which many people here operate.

It’s important for us to work with the feelings of hurt, loss abandonment or disappointment that arise when someone disappears on us. The way we do that is to bring the person or situation to the forefront of our awareness and then notice what feelings arise in response to their disappearance. We take note of where these feelings are situated within our bodies and then we breathe softly and deeply while focusing our attention in the middle of these feelings and sensations.

Working with powerful healers and going through the vision quests has also helped me to process the feelings of hurt, loss and disappointment that arose when other people have disappeared. And some will reappear from every now and then. It’s just seems to be a part of everyday life here in the city. The losses are not so devastating as they were in the past. I experience feelings of sadness, disappointment and loss at times, but I’m much better equipped to work through any feelings that surface. I stopped personalizing other people’s lack of congruence and interpersonal integrity. It also brought me to a place where I feel a much greater sense of connectedness within myself.

Becoming more intuitive has also helped by giving me a better sense of the people I’m dealing with. I’m also more cognizant of the fact that the words coming out of a lot of people’s mouths don’t have a whole lot of meaning or significance. I’ve learned to step back to allow the people I interact with to show me through their words and actions if they have the capacity to show up fully present and to sustain the connection. And with this understanding I’m able to make a wiser investment of my time and energy.

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Ben Oofana is a healer who began his training with Horace Daukei, one of the last surviving traditional doctors among the Kiowa Indian tribe. Call (913) 927-4281 to learn more or to schedule an individual session.