I felt angry for my friend, that this doctor, a person in a position of power, would have such little knowledge or regard for the power of his own words, that he would share his hasty conclusion and his treatment biases with her in the blink of a beady eye. It would seem he had no understanding that his words would instill deep fear in her. I assume no one in the helping professions would knowingly set out to arouse fear in another. I can't know this for sure. The only thing I can know for sure is that words carry power. They can hurt or they can heal. They can inspire and create hope. They are probably as powerful or more so than the drugs and treatments this doctor believes in.
Everyday we use a lot of words, mostly without examining them very carefully. My friend's story made me think of "right speech", one of the Buddhist eightfold path. It reminded me of how important it is to consider what we say to others, to hold our words up to the light and examine them carefully as if they were small jewels or perhaps tiny granules of poison. I was reminded of how we can hurt people with our words without even noticing it. I was reminded of the energy and power of words and how we should handle these harbingers of joy and harm accordingly.
Then I thought about fear, how it can suddenly well up inside us, for any number of reasons. The situation my friend faced would incite fear in most people. I have spent time with the C word and it is a very scary place. So what do we do with that fear. Well my experience is that we hold on for the ride. We experience it in our bodies, if we can sit there, feel our hearts race and our body tremble. As much as we can we try to be present for that physical sense, to experience it directly. Sometimes we can and sometimes our minds race away. Sometimes we need to get up, have a walk, turn on some music, watch a funny movie; skillful means. I can remember when my daughter was young, our Naturopath commented about fever, "fever is good but you don't want it to overwhelm the body." My experience with fear is the same, that sometimes if the fear is intense we may need some relief from it.
And if you watch fear, it comes and goes, just like everything else, it is impermanent. We might think it is always there, but there is an ebb and flow to it. And mostly if we can just stay with it for the wild ride, we find that it either changes or it isn't exactly how we thought it would be. And if we are present for it, we can take the next tiny little step needed and keep moving and readjusting from the points along the path. And weirdly fear can be an opportunity, an opportunity to connect with others, to experience their caring and generosity of spirit, an opportunity to soften up a little, to recognize how vulnerable and frightened we all are inside, an opportunity to get to know ourselves and how we operate just a little bit better.
There is a sign I love in the parking lots of some of the regional parks around here. The signs read, "Thieves operate in this area." (like they have some kind of special permit or license). We are kind of like the park. You never know when fear will operate in your area.