I was recently on a catch-up call with my friend John. He’s a very cool man with whom I share a lot of common history. It’s just that the events of our individual stories took place a few thousand miles away from one another.
The bottom line: We played hard in our sports and did the damage we did. Full stop, end of story.
We could have spent hours rifling though our injury catalogs, highlighting greatest hits, comparing and contrasting war stories, getting into competitive scar exhibitionism, and more.
And we didn’t.
While we don’t suffer from a shortage of such tales, we share a strong preference for deep connection beyond the realm of aches and pains.
There’s nothing wrong with sharing these things, by the way. The occasional bang-up, illness, and episode of bloodletting is oh-so-human, and sometimes the stories that go with them are the stuff of legend…
And the physical limitations that come with injuries and illnesses are very real and need to be responsibly attended to and treated.
Where things can get dicey is when we fall into unconscious patterns of identifying with our physical ailments to the point they become surrogates for our being, how we see ourselves, and yes, our very identities.
We human beings can get lazy in our communications, falling easily into talking about the weather, the kids, complaints about work, the government… The list goes on and, of course, includes bending the ear of anyone willing to listen to (or merely remain silently tolerant) or trade stories from our well-curated ailment galleries.
One of my friends calls these kinds of conversations “organ recitals.”
It’s not that they’re bad or wrong…
It’s that when they go on autopilot, things can get weird. Rather than creating real human connection, organ recitals can lead to a strange brew of sympathy, pity, and separation.
What’s to be done?
One of the things John mentioned was putting a conscious fence around the ailment indices. He shared that, when breaking bread in a middle-aged crowd, he invites those at the table to each take one minute to share their maladies. That’s it. One lap around, then the topic is – quite literally off the table – for the rest of the evening.
Personally, I love the idea of that practice!
Here are a couple of other things to play with:
Checking in with yourself to get clear about your motivations. (Might you, for example, be looking for help, seeking – as mentioned above, pity and/or sympathy, searching for connection, avoiding one or more emotions, covering vulnerability, etc.?)
Establishing which part (or parts) of yourself want to share the information – then checking in on their motivations. (For example, an Inner Child seeking love and/or attention, or an Inner Adolescent seeking to stand out as special, etc.)
Again, the intention is not to shut down expression or make discussing health issues taboo. (We have more than enough of that kind of thing bouncing around the culture!)
It’s to bring unconscious behaviors to conscious levels in the interest of deeper connections and meatier, more satisfying conversations.
Let me know how it goes!