The Opposite of Navel Gazing
August 27, 2015 | By Laura MacKay
As in looking up and really seeing for the first time
The Brown Method™ step therapy could be mistaken for the kind of “navel gazing” that people like to accuse traditional talk therapy of, fairly or not. But it couldn’t be farther from that—and not only because there’s relatively little talk involved. It’s because, in the end, it’s about embracing all of humanity. Really.
You Start with a Simple List
As you’ll see if you read Addiction Is the Symptom, it’s true that the heart of Dr. Brown’s process entails spending a whole lot of time, pen in hand, on an amazingly long (but not detailed) listing of the pain and upset and resentment of your life and how you felt about it when it was happening.
However, once you complete the process—which involves filtering every last bit of that crap through a new lens—you have among other things a new understanding of and compassion for yourself that extends to everyone around you.
The resulting self-knowledge, release of resentment and shame, empowerment, and feeling of connection go a long way toward preventing relapse and, further, healing addiction.
An Out-of-Mind Experience
“The human condition” is a broad notion, encompassing all that is unique to being human. It’s studied in philosophy, psychology, sociology, theology, and other fields—all the fields that make up the humanities. The phrase has always brought to my mind the bittersweet coexistence of highs and lows, the discomfiting awareness of mortality, the search for meaning, the beauty, mystery, and comedy of bodily experience . . . and a general sense of all being in the same big boat.
Even as we are individually bound to the human condition, there can be an abstractness to it, I think. It is a challenge to bridge the gap between personal experience and the collective human experience. To do it in a way that is not merely intellectual. In the field of the heart.
But the Brown Method gave me a deeply felt understanding of two things. One, the core tragedy: that most of us are trapped in our own minds, in a cage whose open door is right in front of us. Two, the core reality: that we really are all the same on a spiritual level, all perfect and beautiful. The latter is the human condition unbound.
You might say I had an “out-of-mind” experience. One that allowed me, for a moment, to view from above my own cage—and, while I was there, everyone else’s. In this unbound space, the gap between self and other disappears. You may not be able to stay very long, but you can’t forget you were there.
“There’s Something Powerful Going on Here”
Before I completed Dr. Brown’s step process, I interviewed several of Dr. Brown’s former clients for a testimonial video. I remember sitting across from Carolena, who had completed the process very recently. At one point (and this did not make the final cut), she said emphatically, “All one. All one!” She was glowing, and her manner seemed to say, “Do you get it? Do you get it?!”
When she left, the videographer and I exchanged a look: whoa. Not as in, “That woman is crazy,” but as in, “I thought this was just a self-help book, but there’s something powerful going on here.”
I didn’t get it, but I wanted to. And now I do. Not every minute of every day, but I’m working on that.