Psychotherapy, Executive Coaching and Consultancy, Counsellor in South London and Online
Hi, my name is Ajay Khandelwal and I am a psychotherapist.
Here are some thoughts about living through COVID as we enter level 2.
James Hollis, the 80 year old therapist says,
"Shut up. Suit up. Show up."
Nowadays we don't wear suits very much, and there is nowhere to actually go.
But we still have to make the decision to show up every day.
Mr Hollis has cancer, and he has lost an adult son, but he still shows up.
What is it to show up?
I've found the story of Beck Weathers illuminating on this subject.
He was a very driven and successful individual, always setting goals. This found expression in his obsession to climb Mount Everest. He was always training during his holidays, putting himself through punishing schedules. He found his preoccupation with climbing - which was all-consuming - provided him with psychological relief.
This worked for him, until it went catastrophically wrong.
In 1996 he fulfilled a lifelong ambition to join an expedition to climb Everest.
He suffered temporary blindness, and was caught in a storm.
He found himself stranded on the side of the mountain for two nights and almost died.
In his minds eye he visualized his family, and this kept him alive.
He was rescued by a stranger. KC Madan, a Nepalese helicopter pilot, flew up to 21,000 feet. This was a brave and magical act, as the air is too thin to fly about 17,000 feet.
When he came back down, physically and psychologically disfigured,
His wife, Peach, told him that she wanted to divorce him.
His had major surgery to make his frost bitten hands functional, and to rebuild his face.
Eventually, he returned to work as a pathologist, and a motivational speaker. He found new way of living.
He has scoured his experience for a deeper understanding.
I have found his insights extremely interesting for live after the virus. He has stopped setting goals, and just takes each day as it comes.
He puts his family ahead of external goals. His whole attitude towards life has changed.
His insights are not from a text book. They are from an encounter with something much bigger than him - a beautiful and dangerous mountain. The mountain gives the ego a kicking, just like the virus has given our collective egos a kicking.
This is an extremely disorienting experience, to say the least. Beck Weathers whole world collapses. However, he faces it squarely, and re-emerges a different man. The ego directed Beck Weathers dies on the side of the mountain, and a new, physically and psychologically injured man emerges. He has a zen like approach to life. He no longer travels to far flung destinations on a single minded mission. Instead, he travels inwardly, and in a looser and more flowing manner.
His voice and life are deeper and richer. Recently, he thought about learning to fly a plan, but Peach talked him out of it! He thinks about the stranger that saved his life. He enjoys the ordinary. I wonder if this what thinkers such as Bion meant when they talked about "O"? He lives from a new centre, with a sense of generosity and abundance. The depression he lived with previously has lifted. Jung would say that he no longer lives from an ego standpoint. Previously he lived at the peak of the mountain, just using a small part of his psyche. Now he has buried into his own personal Everest, what Jung called the "self", and can operate from a more profound place. Despite his bodily injuries his psyche has many more layers. He has turned his experience into a creative enterprise, writing and speaking, and finding a symbolic meaning from his tragic experience. Mr Weathers experience holds something for us all, during these times. Do watch him speak.