The Tiger and the Breadcrumbs

Another guest-post from Dr. Neil Neimark, M.D. He again provides a wonderful message.

There is a wonderful story told by the great Sufi poet Nasrudin, of the tiger and the breadcrumbs.

One day, Nasrudin is seen in his suburban home spreading breadcrumbs outside of his house. A neighbor passing by inquires, “Nasrudin, what are you doing?” “Can’t you see?” says Nasrudin, “I’m spreading breadcrumbs outside of my house in order to keep the tigers away.” “But Nasrudin,” replies the neighbor, “there are no tigers in this neighborhood.” “See,” says Nasrudin, “it works!”

On some level, the lifestyles we choose work for us, even the apparently unhealthy ones. On some level, they help us to deal with our unwanted, uncomfortable feelings, thoughts and regrets. On some level, they help us avoid our pain, sorrow, fear and conflict. They help us to “mood-alter”. They keep us numb. They keep us from having to deal with our unresolved issues: our loneliness, our uneasiness, our loss.

If we feel uneasy, we may cover up our uneasiness by becoming a “work-aholic,” using our power in the company to avoid the powerlessness we feel in our personal or family life.

We may choose a fast paced lifestyle in order to avoid deeper, more meaningful relationships. After all, if someone really got to know us, they might “find out” how inadequate, alone or afraid we really feel sometimes.

Now, here is the really distressing thought: we may actually choose illness as a lifestyle. Let me say that again: “we may actually choose illness as a lifestyle.” “How could that happen?” you might ask. If the only time we received love and attention was when we were sick, then on some level, the “payoff” for being ill, is getting the love and attention we don’t know how to get appropriately.

After all, when we’re sick, we get to feel as lousy as we really feel. John Bradshaw, the recovery expert, says, “Needs and feelings can be changed into bodily sickness. When one is sick, one is usually cared for. When one is sick, one can feel as bad as one really feels. Sickness works.”

In order to achieve the level of physical and psychological health you deserve in life, please ask yourself, if you are making lifestyle choices to “mood alter” your anger, sadness, hurt, fear or powerlessness.

Now, think about other healthier ways to deal with the uncomfortable thoughts, unresolved feelings and irrational fears you may be holding on to.

Because our physical health derives most directly from our lifestyle choices, I will devote one more newsletter — next week — to exploring the deeper layers of the Iceberg Model, so that you can begin to break through unconscious, self-defeating choices and begin to experience the freedom that comes with conscious awareness.

Till next time, be well. In body and soul,

Neil F. Neimark, M.D.

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