Jed\’s Travels with the CIA (Crisis Induced Awakenings)

By Jed Diamond, Ph.D., LCSW
NABBW’s Male Menopause Expert

The trip began in Washington, D.C. where I was presenting new information from my forthcoming book on Energy Medicine for Men to the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology. We were then planning to fly to Ireland where we had friends, on to Spain, France, and ending in the Czech Republic where our son, Aaron, was living with his wife Helena.

What started out as a vacation turned into a Vision Quest with one mind-blowing crisis after another. I like Neuro-Psychologist Paul Pearsall\’s term “CIA,” or Crisis Induced Awakenings, to describe what I experienced on this trip. “I used this CIA code when I was in the bone marrow transplant unit,” Pearsall says. “A few of us made small cardboard badges, with \’Member of the Cancer CIA\’ printed on them, that we taped on our hospital gowns. I used this anagram to remind my fellow cancer patients and myself that our cancers were offering us the choice of our lifetimes. We could hope to survive our trauma or choose to become more consciously creative because of them. Our five week trip wasn\’t at the level of going through cancer, but it certainly had its challenges.

Airline Travel is Broken. Following the conference and four days exploring Washington, D.C. we were scheduled to fly to Shannon, Ireland on a Thursday. After waiting half the day at the airport and watching flight delays because of weather, our flight was finally cancelled. Hey, weather happens. But that wasn\’t the problem. We were to fly out on United but found out that United had just merged with Continental.

We ran into a nightmare that Kafka would have understood. When trying to find out when and how we could rebook, we were told that we had to talk to the United people, but the only United rep at the gate had just gone off duty and the Continental people couldn\’t help us because they didn\’t have the right codes to get into the United computers. It got worse from there and we had to pay for 3 extra night\’s hotel waiting to get a flight out which we were finally able to do, but had to fly to New York to do it.

I had heard that oil prices were forcing airlines to consolidate or go out of business. It was one thing to know, intellectually, that changes were occurring. It was another to be caught in the middle of them. I remembered Richard Heinberg\’s words from his prophetic 2003 book, The Party\’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies, “The world is changing before our eyes-dramatically, inevitably, and irreversibly. The change we are seeing is affecting more people, and more profoundly, than any that human beings have ever witnessed. I am not referring to a war or terrorist incident, a stock market crash, or global warming, but to a more fundamental reality that is driving terrorism, war, economic swings, climate change, and more: the discovery and exhaustion of fossil energy resources.”

Crisis Induced Awakening #1: The Party is over. Our industrial civilization with its dependence on fossil fuels is going under. We best disengage and develop our own local, living economies and support each other close to home. Flying here and there is going to get more chaotic and more of us will choose to stay within arms reach of our home town.

The Trains in Spain Were Mostly a Pain. We flew from Ireland to Madrid, then took the train to Barcelona. When I had been in Europe on summer vacation from college I remembered train travel as easy and fun. Of course those were the days when I travelled with my Europe-on-$25-a-Day guide and you could actually do it. I hadn\’t counted on the number of people who were travelling or the problems that could arise, just getting from here to there.

The first inking that things were not like they used to be was when we tried to get help on our travel in Madrid. We had to go to three information areas before finding the right room. Once there we had to take a number. It seemed that hundreds of people were trying to get from here to there. In addition to the language barrier (my high school Spanish was many years out of date and the little I remembered didn\’t help us a lot).

We finally managed to get to Barcelona but again had to wait in line for hours to get help ticketing us to our next destination. We were relieved to finally get our tickets, but were heart-broken when we found out that they were the wrong tickets and not only wouldn\’t get us from here to there, they wouldn\’t get us very far from here. We had to go back again and spend more time waiting for help.

I had an awakening to what it means to be a displaced person on the road. So many people were travelling and so many needed help, it was overwhelming the system. We got a little taste of what its like to be scared, away from home, and dependent on others for help, who themselves are stressed out.

I remembered a recent article that headlined: “More than 43 million people displaced as of 2010, U.N. says“. The article said that last year 43.7 million people around the globe had been forcibly displaced from their homes by conflict or persecution, the highest number in 15 years. The report went on to say that 7.2 million people had been in exile for five years or longer-the highest level since 2001.

Crisis Induced Awakening #2: More and more of us will face the prospect of being displaced in some way. We may be lucky not to live in a part of the world that is at war at the moment. But as industrial civilization continues to go through the transition to a more sustainable way of life, many of us will have to deal with being displaced or dealing with others who are displaced.

Even dealing with our own small displacements we found that we encountered two kinds of people. One group, despite their stresses, found the energy to reach out and help. I still remember the station attendant who let us use their phone to call our friends, the one who gave us box lunches to tide us over, and they guy who took extra time to be sure our tickets were right. I also remember the ones who clearly were overwhelmed and just wanted to get rid of us. They really didn\’t care if we got help as long as we were someone else\’s problem.

I made a vow to be more appreciative of the home I have here in Willits and to be more compassionate and caring to those who are trying to get from here to there and need a kind word, a dollar, or some food to tide them over.

The Bull Fight In Madrid vs. 40,000 People In the Street.

I couldn\’t believe Carlin wanted to go to the Bullfights in Madrid. “It\’s an institution and part of what happens in Spain,” she said. “While we\’re here, I want to see it.” Now Carlin is one of the most caring and compassionate people I know. I was surprised that she wanted to see big, beautiful animals killed for the delight of an applauding crowd. On the other hand, the killing would happen whether we were there or not and I figured it was a part of life I\’d rather know about than pretend it didn\’t exist.

We took the subway to Ventas which lets you out right at the Plaza de Toros. I have to say the stadium is impressive.

A Madrid bullfight consists of six bulls & three matadors with each matador being accompanied by two assistants. In a little over two hours the matadors will each kill two bulls. We watched 4 of the 6 kills. One matador was particularly impressive, while the others were less so. The stands were full of people, including a group of Japanese tourists who were suffering in the sun. What stood out for me the most wasn\’t the killing, but the banality of the whole spectacle compared to what we had seen on the streets the previous day.

Coming out of the museum, we heard music and saw a huge number of marchers on the streets. Soon the whole street was filled with people and we joined in. Later we learned that 40,000 people had been there and that demonstrations were going on all over Spain and in other parts of Europe. According to the Newspaper, “Spain\’s \’indignant\’ activists launched Monday protest marches culminating in a major Madrid rally June 24, showing no let-up just a day after rallying an estimated 200,000 protesters.”

The mood was upbeat, but the message was serious. The activists were angry over the destruction of millions of jobs, welfare cuts and corruption. They were tired of the rich using the power of government to make themselves richer, while the average person on the street was getting screwed.

Crisis Induced Awakening #3: Old institutions like Bull fights are on their way out while non-institutions such as people taking to the streets to take back their country are on the rise. Three days later in Barcelona I was moved to tears by street musicians playing in the heart of Antoni Gaudi\’s Park Guell and dedicating their music to the protests that were going on below in the streets. Later we learned that 50,000-75,000 demonstrators had rallied that day in Barcelona. Here in the U.S. we seem to be sleep-walking through the world-wide revolution taking place. When will we wake up?

The World and I Are One. If I ever needed a reminder that the world and I are one, I got it on this trip. Just as the world is going through a major healing transition so am I. The changes I was seeing in the world were telling me in various ways that the old system is unsustainable and can no longer go on “business as usual.” Our old energy source, fossil fuels, not only are in decline, but their use is incompatible with a healthy living environment (This is true of nuclear energy as well.) Major adjustments are necessary in order to move from the old to the new.

I realized this is true with me as well. There are many old personal patterns that are not healthy or sustainable and need to change. One I discovered was my relationship to sleep. All my life I have had trouble sleeping, or at least that is what I\’ve told myself. As a result I have gone to great lengths to be sure my sleep conditions are “perfect.” I have just the right bed. I live where it is extremely quiet at night. I keep the temperature nice and cool and my room very dark. Throughout my life I\’ve been afraid of not sleeping. I worry about not being able to function the next day if I haven\’t had enough sleep.

As we had to deal with the stresses of the trip I found it difficult to sleep, but I learned it had little to do with the sleeping conditions and everything to do with my state of mind. In Madrid we had the perfect hotel room for sleep: Quiet, dark, cool. I had the worst night of my life. In Barcelona, on the other hand, it was so noisy the bed rattled at night, it was hot and sultry, and we had to keep the windows open to the street lights to get any breeze at all. I had to let my mind relax, let go of my fears, and just enjoy the night. I slept pretty well, all in all.

Crisis Induced Awakening #4: Sleeping well is a state of mind. Like the changes going on in the world, it isn\’t what is happening “out there” that counts. It\’s how we hold what is going on out there in our consciousness. When I was worried that I wouldn\’t sleep, I didn\’t sleep, no matter how good the sleeping conditions. When I let go of the fear and relaxed into the night, sleep came for me in its own good time. Until then I could relax and enjoy just being alive in the night. Bye-bye fear of not sleeping. Hello peace of mind.

Sometimes Just Getting a Breath of Air Can Be Difficult. For most people, we don\’t think much about breathing. We just do it and take it for granted. But for people with breathing problems, it\’s something that is on our mind all the time. Early on in my life I had allergies and asthma which made it hard for me to breathe. I got shots for the allergies and medication for the asthma. I got used to having the problem and adapted, but there was always a lot of fear.

I grew up in Los Angeles and heard stories about kids with asthma having to be sent away to live in dry climates so that they could breathe. I never told anyone, but I always worried my asthma would worsen and my mother would send me away to live in Arizona with strangers. When I had an attack it was scary. I would begin wheezing and then would begin coughing and the more I coughed the harder it was to breathe. I had to try and relax, which wasn\’t easy when I was wheezing and coughing and trying to get air into my lungs.

On the trip I had a bad attack of bronchitis which re-created my asthma symptoms. I had trouble breathing and coughing made it worse. I was a long way from home and my fears were taking over. One night at my son\’s house in the Czech Republic I was at my worst. In order to keep from going into panic I found myself going inward into a heart meditation where I was able to comfort myself, relax, and breathe slowly. I found that I could relax, even enjoy my shallow breathing, let the cough come without fighting it, and know that I was going to be OK.

Crisis Induced Awakening #5: There isn\’t anything I\’ve experienced that is more frightening than the fear of not breathing. But I learned that the problem wasn\’t that I couldn\’t breathe, but rather the fear that I might not be able to breathe. I was able to relax into the reality that as long as I was breathing and getting air into my lungs, no matter how constricted my breathing, I would be OK. Fear is the killer. Finding creative ways to reduce fear was the answer. That was a big weight lifted off my chest.

I\’ll Die or You\’ll Die and Then I\’ll Die. Death has always felt too close for comfort. For many years my mother and father tried unsuccessfully to have a baby. Finally, they tried a new procedure of having my father\’s sperm collected and injected into my mother at the proper time (an experimental method, very uncommon, 68 years ago). As fate would have it my mother got pregnant, but was terrified that she would lose the baby (me) and told stories of how she walked gingerly along Fifth Avenue in New York doing her best to keep the fetus alive and well.

By the time I was born, my mother was 36 and my father was 38. They thought of themselves as “old” parents. Life was stressful for them and my father was out of work a lot. When I was 5 years old he tried to commit suicide. He survived, but spent years in a mental hospital. My mother wasn\’t depressed, but she was extremely anxious. She worried constantly that I would inherent my father\’s disposition to depression and would end up killing myself. She also worried constantly that she would die. When I graduated junior high I remember her telling me she didn\’t think she\’d live to see me in high school. She had a similar attitude when I graduated college.

It\’s probably not surprising that I\’ve spent a lot of my life worrying that I was going to die. I\’ve also spent a lot of my life worrying that those close to me would die and that I would die without them. I rarely would tell anyone, but I often felt overwhelming anxiety that I wasn\’t going to make it. I would often wake up and check my wife\’s breathing to be sure she was still with me. I felt ashamed of my irrational fear, but couldn\’t make it go away.

On one of my sleepless nights on the trip, I had one of those “aha” experiences. It was as though my heart opened up to this reality: “If your mother had died as she feared when you were young, it would have been tragic for you. If your father had been successful in his suicide attempt it would have been tragic for you. But it didn\’t happen. Your mother lived to be 80 and your father lived to be 90. The real tragedy is that you carry the fear of death with you every moment of your life. Someday you will die. Some day your wife will die. It will undoubtedly be a sad day, but it won\’t be tragic. It\’s time you let go of the fear.”

Crisis Induced Awakening #6: We\’re all going to die. That\’s not tragic. It\’s just life. Going through life carrying old fears is a waste of energy. Every day is a gift to be appreciated and honored. Every moment of breath is to be celebrated. Life is about learning to love–loving ourselves, each other, and the world around us. Fortunately we have the CIA to assist us on the journey.

I can\’t say it was a restful trip, but it sure was a healing journey. The world is going through a period of cleansing and healing. I feel I\’m going through something similar. I know I\’m glad to be home and be able to have a community around me to help get through this transition. I suspect it\’s going to be one hell of a ride and it\’s likely to be a long one.

Jed Diamond, Ph.D. has been a health-care professional for the last 45 years. He is the author of 9 books, including Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places, Male Menopause, The Irritable Male Syndrome, and Mr. Mean: Saving Your Relationship from the Irritable Male Syndrome. He offers counseling to men, women, and couples in his office in California or by phone with people throughout the U.S. and around the world. To receive a free E-book on Men’s Health and a free subscription to Jed’s e-newsletter go to www.MenAlive.com. If you enjoy his articles, he encourages you to subscribe. Jed writes to everyone who joins his Scribd team.

For more than 40 years Diamond has specialized in men’s health and has developed new and innovative programs to treat male-type depression and other problems that are common in males. For more information on Dr. Diamond’s work contact: Jed Diamond, www.MenAlive.com, Jed@MenAlive.com, Phone: 707 459-5505.