A couple months ago, my neck and shoulder muscles burned every day, and my right shoulder joint hurt when I moved it, even carefully. My doctor said it sounded like a rotator cuff injury, which would likely require surgery. That not being an option at this time, the pain had me looking for a massage therapist who might do short chair massages more often to give me lasting results—at least to cure the burning muscles even if the rotator cuff was beyond help. I found Andrzej (Americanized to ‘Andre’) through the natural health products store.
When Andrzej started ‘listening to my body’ and asking about something that might have happened to me when I was 14–likely related to my father–I was tipped off that this therapy was not going down a traditional path. I complied and mentioned something my father said that had stuck with me as a grudge over the years. Andrzej began telling me how it has affected my body and self image. Emotional patterns explained my physical distress to him better than how I confronted my keyboard and mouse. I didn’t run for the door; I liked his massages and was willing to go with the ‘woo woo’ stuff for a while.
Then I realized that he was also saying things I did believe, as if he was a very perceptive, deeply experienced psychotherapist. The woo woo was still there, and getting deeper as we gained trust in each other because now I was impressed with (what I judged to be) his rationally grounded insightfulness. So while I didn’t always trust in the details of his story, I was beginning to see that it was healing for me to consider the story as possibly true, along with all the other possibilities such as my posture at the computer.
My rotator cuff has, in fact, miraculously healed, and the shoulder muscles only bother me occasionally. I am open to recognizing triggers for those episodes in my emotional waves as well as in my physical habits. My healing seems tied to Andrzej’s care about my wholeness and not just isolated muscles. And quite frankly, his version of reality just doesn’t sound as strange as it once did.
I happened to catch This American Life on NPR a week or so ago on my way to an appointment with Andrzej, for its show called The Invention of Money. This show first explained how money wasn’t really something of hard value that makes its way from one hand to another the way it seems when we buy a quart of milk, but rather money is a story requiring widespread agreement, and when belief shifts, huge sums of money can literally appear or disappear in thin air. They gave two examples (originally from Planet Money): one about how the Federal Bank created more than a trillion dollars in new currency to prop up failing institutions (separately from the government bailout) when so much money simply disappeared in the recent financial crisis. You really should listen to this surrealistic story, as if your economic life depended on it.
The other example was how the Brazilian government tried a radical experiment with its currency system in the 1990’s which resulted in curing the country’s runaway inflation. They created a fictional currency based on a ‘real unit of value’ that would always remain stable, called the URV, and then daily published the rate of exchange between the URV and the nation’s official out-of-control currency. People came to believe in the stability of the URV while still coping with the official currency, and then magically, inflation came down. In 1994, the country was able to roll out the new Brazilian currency, the ‘Real’, and the imaginary system became one with the official system. You have to listen to the show for this to make sense, but my purpose here is to suggest that there is value in agreeing to believe an unlikely story solely because the possibility it creates is important, or even magnificent. Or maybe because it’s the difference between hope and no hope.
Next week there is a virtual conference called the Healthy Money Summit . It’s hosted by Vicki Robin who co-authored the 1992 best seller Your Money or Your Life, which has made a deep impression on me. Many smart and radical thinkers are going to be discussing alternative realities for exchanging value in our economy. I’m going to tune in to some of these (FREE!) teleconferences and see if I get inspired by their visions. Change can happen fast when enough of us choose to believe a new story.