How Phil Discovered Higher Forces
Barry was once a huge skeptic of the idea of Higher Forces. He shared his story in a 3-part series of articles where he explained how he was able to come to have faith: because Phil modeled it for him.
“I had always thought of Phil as a bit fanatical,” said Barry, “but he had never tried to shove his ideas down my throat—he didn’t try to influence me at all. At my darkest moment, he showed absolute faith that a spiritual system was at work, teaching me what I needed to learn. If he wasn’t a fanatic, where did this faith come from? I decided, as usual, to ask him directly. We had an unforgettable conversation.”
When Barry asked me directly where my faith came from, it marked a turning point in our relationship. My patients never asked me that question; it was too personal. I could tell what they were thinking. Whenever I expressed confidence in the spiritual system, they looked at me as if I were a well-meaning eccentric. Later, after they reaped the benefits of that system, they looked at me as if I were some kind of clairvoyant genius.
Both looks missed the point. I am just a human being who has learned to trust what life brings me.
A THIEF STEALS PHIL’S HEALTH
I admit that my life has been a bit unusual.
All through school and psychiatric training, I was bursting with energy and enthusiasm. Then things took an unexpected turn. As I was beginning my psychiatric practice, I started to get tired—not the everyday fatigue that comes from overwork. This was a bone-deep exhaustion far beyond anything I’d ever felt.
I would feel all right during the week; but when the weekend came, I’d collapse and sleep until Monday. Then, one Monday morning, I woke up and the thief was still there. I could barely get out of bed. I took off a week from work—the first time I’d ever done that in my life—but at the end of the week, I felt even more exhausted. Something had to give; I tried to buy off the thief by giving up exercise and my social life. But that wasn’t enough.
The only thing I was allowed to do was to continue my practice—albeit at a much lower level of energy. Life now consisted of seeing patients and then going back to bed. For months, I told myself this was only temporary. Finally, when things hadn’t improved at all, I began to wonder if I’d ever recover.
With some hesitation, I dragged myself to an internist. I went to an old medical-school classmate of mine who was an excellent physician and all-around nice guy. He was all ears when I told him the story. When it was over, he told me what tests he’d run and what some of the possibilities were. Every single test—and there were a slew of them—was normal. He suggested we redo them a few weeks later. We did and the tests were still normal, but I was even worse. After that, there was a subtle change in his manner. It wasn’t an I’m-glad-to-see-you smile. It was the kind of smile you gave someone on the subway who you suspect just walked out of Bellevue.
I was about to become very familiar with that smile. I saw it on the faces of an untold number of specialists I went to, trying to track down what was robbing me of my life force. It didn’t bother me that they had no idea what was going on. What bugged me was their conclusion. Since they couldn’t explain it, in their minds it must not be happening at all; which meant they thought I was some kind of a madman.
WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, GO INSIDE
After I don’t know how many consultations, I decided I would seek help only from those who believed something was actually happening. I quickly found out that there was only one person who fit that description: me.
Looking back, that was the first hint that the illness had a purpose. It had already shut me off from most of the outside world; I spent almost no time outside my office or my bed. But the realization that there was no one out there who could help me felt like another door had closed. Make that two doors; this was also the time period when I lost confidence in the therapeutic model I’d been taught. There was nobody out there to help me with that, either.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but this loss of connection to the outside world was the most important thing that had ever happened to me. Life was forcing me to enter an inner world I never would have chosen on my own. At first, I resented losing my connection to the world outside. I felt like life had passed me by. But before long, I realized the inner world was the real source of life.
Besides seeing patients, my other activity was sleeping. . . . I should say, trying to sleep. Sometimes I’d toss and turn for twelve hours. I had no fever, but I’d feel a strange heat, almost like I was being liquefied. This happened every night. Something was relentlessly trying to reach me from the inner world.
And it did.
A NEW SPIRITUAL SYSTEM IS BORN
The evidence came in the sessions with my patients. As I struggled to create tools they needed, the information I needed seemed to appear from nowhere. It certainly wasn’t coming from anyone in the outside world, nor was I figuring it out in my head. Answers that I didn’t know I knew were coming out of my mouth, as if I were a spokesperson for some other force. I couldn’t prove it, but I could feel it.
So could the patients—even the most resistant ones—once they started using what I came to call The Tools. These were patients who had been rejecting every interpretation I gave. Working with them was like carving marble with a plastic spoon. But once I began to give them tools, everything shifted. The change agent was no longer me; it was the higher forces they evoked with the tools. It was humbling and inspiring at the same time.
As debilitating as the illness was, it led me to what I needed, access to the inner world and tools to evoke the higher forces buried there. It began to dawn on me that my patients and I were functioning within a spiritual system. In it, every event in our lives was designed to train us in the use of higher forces. My “event” was a chronic illness with no apparent cause or cure.
For me, this system was far from theoretical. I was a living graduate of its training program. Barry had asked me how I knew that life would teach him what he needed to learn. The effects of my illness gave me the answer. I now knew that we live in a deeply caring universe that has a purpose for each of us. I had felt its love working in my own life in a way I couldn’t have imagined. How could such a universe not teach us what we needed to learn?
That was the answer to Barry’s question.