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  • Dr. Ted Klontz

Random Thoughts - October

I wonder why we call them sunrises and sunsets when they actually aren’t? What else would we call them?

On a recent trip to the sacred Black Hills (still “owned” by the Indigenous people by the way, according to our own Supreme Court), I was reminded to never underestimate the curative nature of the gift of nature.

I was talking with a friend who was commenting on how six months after a knee replacement, that they couldn’t conjure up how painful their bad knee had been. I wondered how that works. Memories of physical pain fade, while historic emotional pain seems to linger and in some cases, actually become worse and more painful to the point of disablement over time.

I was sitting with an incredibly successful man. Money, right religion, prestige, honored by co-workers, community, cohorts, with multiple houses in exotic places, perfect kids, perfect wife, perfect family, all active and in perfect health, a perfectly blessed life. One of the attributes he credited for his good fortune was his unflappableness. He told me that if I were to ask anyone who knows him that would be THE adjective they would use. I was sitting with him because there was something basic missing, he said, and he had no idea what.

Alcohol had been a close friend, and since he had recently ended that relationship, he couldn’t find the contentment and peace that he felt he should be experiencing. He said he would be the poster boy for the “Imposter Syndrome”, a concept about which he had just recently heard. His on-stage, role-playing, performing self was picture perfect. He said that he feared that if anyone caught him out of character and out of costume, they might want nothing to do with him. This included family, friends, business associates, community, pastor, etc. He said that even if he were presented with the opportunity to share who he really was, he had no idea what he would talk about because he didn’t actually know who he really was outside of his role(s). Since he had heard that this “Imposter Syndrome” is a world I play a lot in, he had sought me out.

Pretty early into our discussion, he shared that he had no awareness of having any feelings about anything whatsoever. No fear, sadness, anger, or joy. I silently thought, for just a moment, “lucky him,” as I was recalling what a pain in the keister it is to have an emotional experience with everything. He had flattened out and paved the rollercoaster ride of emotions that are a normal part of life. (Science suggests that the average person has more than 160 different feeling states every day, some iteration of angry, sad, happy, afraid). I remembered I had once done the very same thing and achieved the very same state of basic emotional numbness. Alcohol, work, money, status, and exercise had all been methods he had used to flatten his path, and they all worked until they didn’t anymore.

I used just one. Work. Living with an active case of emotional awareness is like sailing a small boat across the big sea of life. What he (and I at one point) had achieved was equivalent to crossing that same sea on a gimongueous ocean liner with hundreds of built-in stabilizers that smooth out the water so that it becomes like a sheet of glass. Great for business, unflappable robot, not so great for the “being-human” part of life. Great at fixing. Terrible at relating.


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