August 1, 2009

The Guilty Teacher

Guilt is the teacher, love is the lesson, and the internet is the school superintendent conducting mass layoffs.Guilt is the Teacher, Love is the Lesson: A Book to Heal You, Heart and Soul by Joan Borysenko, PhD (Warner Books, 1990, ISBN 0-446-51465-9)

This book was written by: Joan Borysenko, PhD, a therapist who says that she "had sometimes used powerful mind/body techniques to permit me to do too much and run too fast [....] removing the fail-safe mechanisms that nature had provided"(p. 3). Without the fail-safe mechanisms, she got into a car accident where "my nose had been literally destroyed—opened like the hood of a car and nearly torn off my face—when my shoulder harness failed to catch"(p.2). Dr. Borysenko is also the author of Minding the Body, Mending the Mind, a reference source so valuable that it is cited on pages 11, 13, 55, 76, 99, 102, 131, 140, 174, and 178.

What is in this book: An examination of the healing power of guilt, an often misunderstood force that can move mountains and cause festering sores. Actually, herpes causes festering sores, but guilt can shape those sores into forms that are personally meaningful for us, as was the case with "Peter, a forty-five-year-old patient [...] with recurrent herpes lesions on the buttocks"(p.123). Peter was abused as a child in a strict and religious household, and "when Peter caught herpes as the result of an extramarital affair, his reasonable healthy guilt was overshadowed by unreasonable religious guilt [....] He was sure that the herpes was a punishment for his sins. And his body produced an amazing demonstration—breaking out in herpes lesions that mimicked the pattern of his original beatings, a recall of the original psychospiritual trauma"(p.124).

What is not in this book: New Age claptrap. "Enormous misconceptions and oversimplifications have arisen in New Age thinking,"(p.149) and ideas like the Law of Attraction are actually "a warmed-over version of Western spiritual pessimism"(p.150). This spiritual pessimism prevents us from learning valuable lessons by trying to heal our guilt. "To commit ourselves to healing our guilt is to seek, find, and celebrate our essential humanity in a world that too often seems to be a place of purposeless suffering"(p.6). Once we discover our true nature, we get to yell at retards.
"I once had a Christian spiritual teacher who helped us understand humility through a conversation with a slightly retarded member of our congregation named Mike"(p.188). This teacher "turned" on Mike "with surprising force" and accused him of being full of himself. Then the teacher explained to Mike that "when you complain about not being smart, you are turning down your own unique, God-given place in the scheme of things, and that’s downright egotistical!"(p.188)

Would you recommend this book to a Jewish Mother? Yes, even though they already know that "shame is the master emotion" and that "shame is an adaptive, submissive state that favors survival but creates fear and helplessness"(p.67). This book can show them how to more effectively wield both guilt and shame, which they do out of love. (We’ll thank them for it later.)

Drago, meet Dragunov; boxing gloves are for pussies.Would you recommend this book to Lieutenant Marion "Cobra" Cobretti? No, he only wants to teach you that crime is a disease, and he is the cure.

What was interesting about this book? Dr. Borysenko’s in-depth examination of human nature caused me to re-examine some of my prejudices. I was particularly moved by her story of how "my husband, Myrin, and I had a dispute with our landlord and his wife, who seemed to distrust us on the basis of our long hair [....] The landlords told the judge that our pet guinea pig, 'Squeaky,' was part of a fictitious rabbit colony kept in the cellar by 'two crazy medical scientists' for experimental purposes!"(p.147)
Not wanting to repeat the mistakes of Dr. Borysenko’s landlord, I have realized that it’s okay to trust women with long hair. I’m still wary of women with short hair, though. They look too dykey.

Special Award: Bitterly Books would like to present Dr. Borysenko with the Rachel Ray–Hannibal Lecter Fantasy Award for the Furtherance of Knowledge in the Fields of Sandwichcraft and/or Manslaughter for describing her vivid dream:

In the dream, my mother and I are floating on a raft in the deep end of a large swimming pool. I swim to the other end where several old women are gathered. One is in her nineties and is obviously a woman of great spiritual wisdom. I want to introduce her to my mother so she can share her wisdom with us so I excitedly swim back to the raft to tell my mother. By the time I get back to the wisdom woman, I find her lying close to death by the edge of the pool. Her chest has been opened and the meat carved off like the breast of a turkey. The other women in the pool are eating sandwiches of her meat. I am incensed, disappointed, and bewildered. "Why didn’t you open a can of tunafish?" I scream. "We prefer cold turkey sandwiches" is the terse answer.(p.108)

(Note: This award should not be considered as any type of endorsement, condonment, or approval from—and is not offered in collaboration with—either Rachel Ray or Hannibal Lecter.)

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