Part 5 – Reaching the Climax

“Now, Burke, what I would like to do is play a little game with you. It is quite simple, really, and doesn’t require much from your part, except a little patience – or endurance rather. We’ll start really easy. As in every therapy, we’ll start with the superficial. Let’s begin with the most obvious and most base kind of pain.”

“What would that be?”

“At the beginning – and in the end – we are all animals. What is it you think we, as humans, have in common with animals?”

“We eat, we sleep, we defecate, we procreate.”

“Well put. In summary: We are physical beings. So the most banal kind of pain we can suffer is physical. There is no difference in the level of pain a dog or a man experiences when his leg is being pulled out. But not to worry, my friend,” he laughed demonically, “I’m not going to rip off your limbs! At least not yet.”

“I appreciate that, Norton. Pain or no pain, I’m not quite sure if I’d be ready to give up my extremities for a little experiment. I do value the symmetry of my anatomy.”

“But a ground breaking experiment this is, Burke! By the end of this I will have you asking me to cut off your hand for mere pleasure,” he laughed. “But let’s be serious now. Physical pain is inflicted quickly, but it ceases just as quickly as well. As long as we don’t lose perspective and we learn from our experience. I would like to ask you to pull out a single hair from your head now.”

“A single hair from my head?”

“A single hair from your head.”

He pulled out a single hair from his head, flinched for a second, then rubbed his scalp and smiled.

“Well done Burke. Now how did that feel? Was that painful?”

“A little.”

“In which way? Describe the process to me. At which point did it hurt most?”

“Well, when I pulled it out, naturally.”

“Does your scalp still hurt?”

“No, not at all.”

“Did the pain last long?”

“No, actually it was over immediately.”

“How did you feel before you pulled out your hair?”

“A bit confused, I guess. Maybe a bit nervous.”

“Very good, very good. Would you say you were nervous because you expected it to be painful?”

“Yes, I think that describes it.”

“So did it hurt just as much as you expected?”

“No, I’m not sure. No, less I think. Actually I cannot entirely remember what it felt like.”

“Pull out another hair then.”

He pulled out another hair.

“How did that feel?”

“A little sting, but it immediately ceased. I feel nothing now.”

“Pull out another hair.”

He pulled out another hair.

“Did it hurt just as much as you expected?”

“Yes, pretty much.”

“How much did you expect it to hurt?”

“Not very much.”

“Pull out another hair.”

He pulled out another hair.

“Do you still feel nervous before pulling out your hair?”

“No, of course not, why should I?”

“Exactly, Burke, why should you? You have learned from your experience that the little pain you feel from pulling out your hair ceases immediately. Hence it is nothing to be nervous about, or even afraid of. You have already trained your mind to ignore that little sting. You do not expect it to be there, and you do not remember it afterwards. What is not in our memory doesn’t affect us. And what our mind cannot grasp technically doesn’t exist – at least not in our personal universe.”

The other man smiled and nodded.

“Now pull out another hair.”

He pulled out another hair.

“And another.”

He pulled out another. And another. And another. And then another. He made him repeat that process so long until a small bald spot was starting to show on his head.

“Isn’t that satisfying, Burke, tell me!”

The other man continued to pull out his hair without being told to.

“It is,” he replied, “as if you are trying to catch something that isn’t there. You are so surprised every time by the absence of something really unpleasant that you just want to continue the process, hoping that at some point you might catch a glimpse of it again. It is exhilarating!”

“Good, Burke, good! I am delighted! You understand, you do understand, don’t you? Pain is anticipation and memory! And we can overcome those by training and learning from our experience. The confidence – the self-assurance – that pain always ceases and fades into memory and eventually into forgetting takes away our expectation and anticipation which takes away our fear, which again is part of our painful mindset.”

“I didn’t expect it to be this easy.”

“The principle, my friend, is very easy. We just have to wrap our mind around it. Of course, dear Burke, this is only the beginning. But I am glad to see you understand the notion behind it.”

They both looked at the little pile of hair on the table.

“And judging from this, I would say you clearly took some pleasure out of it.”





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