December 2017 Whole Woman Newsletter
Serving Self or Others?
Winter is finally arriving in New Mexico. The trees have shed their last leaves. Frosty mornings, steaming breath, and rosy cheeks after our morning walks are proofs that we may yet have a winter after a very slow start.
I love the seasons.
Each is perfect in its own way, and quietly and elegantly marks the passage of the months and years of our lives.
Yes, it can be uncomfortable when the weather is hot, cold, windy, rainy, or snowy, but we can choose to grumble about the inconvenience or let these experiences sensitize us to the exquisite variety of nature and the cycles of life. The choice is ours.
We live in an odd time.
In the US and in many other parts of the world we are seeing a profound schism in society.
One way of thinking of this bifurcation is that there are those whose lives are ordered by service to others and those in service to self.
While this notion has superficial appeal, as do most binary, black and white ways of thinking, the reality is far more complex and consists primarily of shades of gray between these extremes.
Nonetheless, the self/others lens has its uses, both for understanding the world and assessing our own sense of meaning and purpose.
In 1946, Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl published, Nevertheless, Say "Yes" to Life: A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp, later re-titled Man’s Search for Meaning.
Frankl’s horrifying experiences in Auschwitz and other camps became the foundation for his psychological work after the war.
In the camps, he spent his time trying to understand why some inmates survived and others perished.
What he learned was that the ones who survived had a compelling reason to do so. Whether it was a positive reason such as finding loved ones or completing a life’s work, or a negative one such as revenge did not seem to matter.
But what Frankl observed over and over was that those who lost that sense of meaning, the light went out of their eyes and in the extremity of their conditions, he knew they would be dead within two weeks.
This is what he learned about the power of meaning.
When liberated from the camps, Frankl went on to build an entire school of psychotherapy on this principle.
One could make the case that the drug epidemic in the US and elsewhere is a symptom of a social reality in which we are bombarded with media of all types highlighting the glamour of financial success, be they athletes, actors, musicians, or business moguls.
Yet for most people who lack the talent, drive, education, ego, or vision to achieve this kind of financial success, they see no path to the glamorous world that the media implies is the goal of life.
There is an old joke of the city person driving out in the country asking a crusty old farmer for directions, and the farmer replies, “You can’t get there from here.”
Is it any wonder that the majority of humanity who experience “You can’t get there from here” find themselves feeling lost, hopeless, and turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, television, anger, violence, or any of the myriad other ways humanity has devised for numbing the pain of what they experience as a pointless existence?
This phenomenon occurs from top to bottom in our societies. We frequently read in the news the sad tales of those who either pursued or were born into success and found it to be empty of meaning.
And we see the stories occasionally in the news, and more commonly on Facebook, of small services making a big impact in the lives of others.
We also see in the news every day, the dark results of those in service to self. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with service to self, as we do have to provide for ourselves after all, the larger question is, How are we serving others?
Serving the self alone does not satisfy our innate hunger for meaning.
And, it can give rise to dangerous behavior.
We don’t have to look very hard for examples. Cigarette companies intentionally lied to the public for decades about the health dangers of smoking in order to protect their financial interests. The oil and gas companies have known for more than half a century of the potentially devastating risks of climate change, and who instead of diversifying into renewable energy sources, spent hundreds of millions obfuscating the facts and influencing the political process, again, solely to protect their own interests.
In many ways, I believe women as a whole are better wired for service. Perhaps because of our role in the reproductive process, most of us spend a large portion of our lives in service to our children and families.
This bias is seemingly both a blessing and a curse.
A blessing in that the rewards of caring and service are deep and profound. But the personal cost of that service can be physically and emotionally devastating.
And, if after the years of effort of raising children, they become estranged for reasons of their own, which has become all too common in current culture, the sense of loss can be overwhelming.
But in spite of the risks of service not being reciprocated, serving others is its own reward, and the key to a spiritually and emotionally rich and meaningful life, regardless of the magnitude or lack thereof of financial reward associated with that service.
And yes, we also have to take care of ourselves. It is a delicate balance at times. We struggle with this all the time at Whole Woman. Our first priority is keeping women out of the hands of a medical system that is often ignorant, dangerous, and unscrupulous in their treatment of common women’s health challenges.
To continue this mission, we have to keep the rent paid, the phones on, food on the table, and provide for a time when we can’t or no longer wish to carry on the work and can hand it off to others.
This requires constantly promoting our work. And yes, we have to charge for it. But our benchmark in pricing is always, “Are we delivering value well in excess of the cost?” And, if a customer does not perceive that we have delivered value in excess of the cost, we have a generous refund policy.
In many respects, the biggest impediment to the Whole Woman mission is not the medical system itself.
It is the cultural “conspiracy of silence” that inhibits women from talking about their conditions with friends and family members. A woman who has learned from her own hard experience that the common pelvic conditions Whole Woman addresses exist, that practical and effective methods for stabilizing and reversing them also exist, and who shares that knowledge, information, and wisdom with other women serves both herself and others.
We know that not every woman can hear or relate to the Whole Woman message of self care. We know that some women are just so locked into the medical paradigm that they cannot give credence to the Whole Woman work.
We are not here to judge. We all make our choices in this life and we all suffer to a greater of lesser extent from the adage, “There is none so blind as she who will not see.”
But cultures change. And they change through the actions of individuals.
We see this today through the #MeToo movement where women are finally speaking out against the decades of sexual harassment and degradation most of us have suffered at some time in our lives.
When the time is right, it only takes one spark to ignite a firestorm.
In this season of giving, I hope you will remember to share both what you have experienced and what you have learned from Whole Woman with the women in your life.
A seed planted in the mind of a daughter or niece, or one word at the right time to any friend or family member can steer her toward a journey of exploration and empowerment. And you may turn her away from the passive and helpless surrender to an uncaring medical system and potentially a lifetime of post-surgical suffering.
Thank you for exploring this issue with me, and Lanny and I extend our most heartfelt wishes for a healthy and happy holiday season for you and your loved ones.