rossman rossman

Listening to your symptoms


"Continue communicating with the image. Do you feel willing to give it what it wants or needs?" They may or may not at that point, but early on what you're trying to do is help them open up the lines of communication. "What's going on here? How can we live in a greater sense of harmony with eachother? What's needed so that you can function in a healthy way within me as a whole person?" That's really the goal of the dialogue. It can be quite spectacular what people learn... but sometimes it's very simple and obvious. They've known something for a while but they haven't acted on it. Somehow when they connect with the image, they're able to make those changes. The dialogue can be especially powerful if they notice symptomatic changes while they are dialoguing. Very often, for example, a person with pain will notice the pain decreasing while he or she is involved in the dialogue...or the pain may go away entirely. So they realize that the pain is really connected with the image.

Can you say more about the negotiation phase?

I think negotiation skills are very useful here. The first thing you want to show is that you have a genuine interest in understanding what the other party is about. In any negotiation if you can understand what the other party wants, what they're willing to take, what they're willing to offer, your odds of conducting a successful negotiation are much increased...whether negotiating with a person or an image. Whether it's Israelis and Arabs, Labor and Management, or people and their symptoms you want to create a place where people can say what they want and need...what they have to offer. You want them to come together in a spirit of cooperation. You don't have to go in and agree to do whatever the image wants. And you shouldn't go in saying, "I'm going to blast it out of here."

I haven't seen that work well.

Neither have I. Because whatever it is, it's a part of yourself and if you act with violence toward it, it doesn't help. Go in with the attitude: Let it be what it is...let it say what it wants to say...let's find out what this thing is doing here, what it wants. And let's go from there. For most of us in this culture this is a kind of crazy idea-that your body could express something intelligently through a symptom. But, of course, that is what it's doing.

Do you have any concluding remarks regarding symbolic imageries and listening to your symptom?

I think the key things are to let the image be what it is. Allow the image to appear to you. Let yourself be honest about feelings and how they come up. Let yourself ask the questions that you want answered. And realize that listening to your symptom may enlighten you on any level from the psychological and emotional, to the physiological and anatomical. Sometimes, people will get remarkable information about the physiology or anatomy of their body, even though they don't know it on a conscious level. And other times, the imagery dialogue will provide information about family and social relationships. My experience has been that listening to your symptom leads to knowledge and understanding. That, at the very least, helps a person feel more connected to what's going on...and at the most can increase mental and physical healing.

The Listening to Your Symptom protocol was created by Martin Rossman, M.D., and Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.

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