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Getting Steamed:

A Case of Psychic Invasion or

Is it Co-Dependent Affinity?

Henry Reed, Ph.D.

I'm sitting in the steam room. I usually just allow my mind to drift aimlessly while I relax. On this particular afternoon, however, I find myself getting all worked about the dentist.

A couple of months before, when I went to the dentist for a checkup and to get my teeth cleaned, the hygienist wanted me to gargle with a fluoride solution after the cleaning. I hesitated, saying I wasn't sure it was safe. She waved my objection aside, and the dentist too assured me that it was quite harmless and really important that I do it. So I went along with it. A few weeks later, when I get the bill, I see that they've raised their prices and added ten bucks for the fluoride gargle. That ten bucks was the real reason behind making sure I gargled! I was upset about it and stewed about how the dentist was really into finding ways of increasing his revenues. I complained to my wife, thought about finding a new dentist, then wrote out a check.

I thought I had forgotten about it until that afternoon in the steam room. While sweating it out, I found myself involved in a fantasy of confrontation. In my fantasy, I even took my complaint to the state board regulating dentists. He's endangered my dental health, I say to the board, by negligently letting our communication deteriorate so that he no longer has the credibility to get me to follow through on his medical advice. He suggests I should have a crown, for example, but I don't believe him, I'm not going to do it, because I bet he's saying it just for the money, but what if I really need a crown, then I would be out of luck, my tooth could get worse. I figure it's his fault that I don't trust him any more. Yeah! So let's get him, lynch him! Let's teach him a lesson with a royal bite.

I'm very clever at coming up with a strategy, I believe, that really gets him back, that really pins the blame on him as it should be put, really nails him.

Maybe I've nailed him, but I realize I've also got myself all steamed up while having this fantasy, it's got me so upset I can't stay in the steam room any longer. I have to get out sooner than I ordinarily would.

As I leave the spa, I'm pleased with my idea about how to get the dentist but upset with myself for getting so worked up. I didn't need the steam to get so heated, just my own mental machinations were heating me up enough. What a waste, I thought, of a good afternoon in the steam room, for I didn't get to stay in there very long because I had gotten overheated and worked up thinking about the dentist.

I also can feel the tension in my body. I recognize the emotional space of righteous indignation and behind it a sense of mounting desperation that no matter what I do, I will not be able to change the dentist's treatment of me, no way to right the injustice. Perhaps even wanting to cry because of a frustration that just won't let up.

Yet the whole thing seems odd. Why should I let the dentist get to me so much, and right now, at this moment, out of the blue? It's been over a month since I paid the bill. I thought I'd forgotten it. What reminded me of it, what got me into all those feelings again, what got me all steamed up?

For some reason, which I still cannot identify, I wondered to myself if my mood was the result of some one else. I think of Mr. T., who will be my first counseling client that evening. I had not seen him in several years and I didn't know why he had made this appointment to come back into therapy. I didn't know what shape he would be in. I wondered if he was in a space where he was blaming others and feeling victimized. I wondered if what I was feeling about the dentist was truly only my own feelings or feelings that were being fueled by Mr. T. When I think this thought, the idea of it makes me feel better.

Later that afternoon I tell my wife about the dentist, and I get all worked up again. She wonders aloud why I was so worked up over this guy. She reminds me that the dentist has always been a jerk. I'm reminded of Mr. T. once again, and feel better.

Finally, it's time for Mr. T's appointment. It's good to see him and I'm full of curiosity about what brings him and we sit down and I listen. He tells me about he and his wife getting mugged by some blacks, women primarily, as they took back her bicycle from a kid who had taken it, how his wife was upset with him for not defending her better and has been on his case ever since, how he's being sued by someone out of his past for something having to do with his boat and how his tenant is not paying rent and let some fixture dump on Mr. T.'s head, causing cuts.

All through this story telling, Mr. T. did not use a single feeling word, yet he described each incident in surprising detail. "Alexythymia" is a diagnostic category for someone who seems incapable of giving verbal expression to feeling. One of the symptoms of this condition is that the person will describe in infinite detail the situation that evoked the feeling, what the other person did, what they did in response, what each said, etc. The idea is that the listener, on hearing all this, will just know what the person is talking about, will know what the speaker must have felt. I realized that Mr. T wasn't in touch with what he felt. It was almost as if he was telling me all the details of these incidents to get me to know what he was feeling. He wants me to be aware of his feelings, to be aware FOR HIM of his feelings, to feel them for him.

Suddenly I was reminded of my dental fantasy in the steam room. Of course, I knew how Mr. T. felt--just like I did with regard to the dentist. I felt that I was an innocent victim, and especially that I could not get the aggrieving party-the dentist--to recognize and acknowledge his negative impact on me. The dentist was hurting me but didn't know it and when I tried to tell him he shrugged it off, and I felt pressured to get his attention in some fashion. The temptation was to ignore the whole thing, it was too much trouble, and maybe I was making too much out of the situation, a mountain out of a molehill. Yet I saw how worked up I could get.

I realized that the reason I had the fantasy in the steam room was because I was picking up on Mr. T.'s situation and feeling his pain and victimization and out rage, feelings he couldn't allow himself to have. I had unfinished business with the dentist, I had feelings myself that I had not fully acknowledged and honored within me. These feelings dwelt within me waiting for some thing to trigger them. Mr. T.'s own situation was the trigger, that and the fact that my unconscious mind had tuned into him, awaiting his arrival for therapy that night, wondering how he was doing.

I shared my dentist story with Mr. T. He recognized my feelings, and agreed that they were like the feelings he had in his predicament. I explained that my situation with the dentist and his story have some points in common: there's a victim present, but no one recognizes the person is there; the victim has feelings and is stepped on but no one will recognize it; the victim is unconsciously needing recognition, but can not recognize his need on his own, and certainly can not speak out and claim it; and any claim that is made falls on deaf ears.

I explained that I had the same trouble as he. I wanted to overlook the way the dentist had treated me. I made excuses for the dentist and his assistant. Times are tough, they need the money, etc. etc. I didn't want to go through the effort of confronting the dentist, I didn't want to be a problem patient, to seem petty. I complained, but I hadn't really stopped and looked at my self, honored my own feelings and needs. I certainly hadn't stood up for myself. I was feeling righteously indignant rather than effective.

But I needed to stand up for myself. First, I had to do it within myself, saying to myself, "Yes, I recognize that you are feeling betrayed, abused, and yes, I care about that. I accept that you feel that way, and if possible, we want to do some thing about it." Just acknowledging those feelings inside me helped, even if I would not be able to make the dentist hear me.

Mr. T. seemed really pleased that I had seemed to have picked up on his feelings, and that I would have had similar ones of my own. He could use my own confession as a model on which to begin to get in touch with his own feelings about his situation.

After our session, I wondered some more about my "co-dependent affinity" with Mr. T.. I realized that beyond what we had discussed, there were still other feelings that we had in common, feelings that could have provided the telepathic bridge. I thought especially about the feeling of being overwhelmed. That day I had just written down a list of things to do that probably would never get accomplished--a list that produced a feeling of being overwhelmed. I wondered if I would ever get my book written. I had many things hanging over my head in life right then and that type of overload was very similar to Mr. T. He had this house he's been remodeling for years and his wife has been after him to clean up the construction site they live in, that he has trouble getting the energy to work on the house after a hard day's work, worried that he will never finish. He keeps very busy, but accomplishes little.

It was a fascinating lesson to see how two minds could get on the same wavelength, and one person's feelings could resonate with another person's, making a potential upset, a suppressed reaction, come out into the open. One person's feelings fueled another person's feelings, silently over the telepathic air waves.

The reality of ESP makes a direct attack on our notions about boundaries. What kind of boundaries do we have around our minds? Can your thoughts affect mine? Can your feelings influence my feelings? Clearly Mr. T.'s feelings had fanned the flames on my suppressed resentment.

A lot of people say that they are very sensitive about picking up on other people's feelings. Some report they can walk into a room and immediately feel sick or depressed, as if they sponge up the negative feelings in the air. At least in that situation you can see the people that are blasting you with your energy. In the steam room, I wasn't aware that my feelings were being fanned by some one miles away. The psychic connection was operating invisibly.

Does being psychic mean being sensitive to a fault, vulnerable to being overwhelmed by other people's emotional turmoil? Does it mean that we'll often experience other people's feelings as if they were are own, yet we won't even be aware that this psychic, empathic resonance is going on?

What does boundary mean if your feelings can affect mine? The reality of telepathy has made me think long and hard about that question. I know that ESP can occur between two people without either being the wiser. Telepathy can be a silent link up, one person's feelings coloring the other person without either party knowing its going on. Psychic sensitivity can make it only too easy for one's feelings to become dependent upon how other people are feeling, to being driven--compulsed, as it were--by other people's reactions.

Actually, that sounds kind of familiar...where how someone else reacts to stuff affects how I feel, so that I almost want to control how they react, just to keep a handle on my feelings. Sound familiar to you?

There's a word going around a lot these days-CO-DEPENDENCY. It started from the fact that a person who is married to an alcoholic is usually a collaborator in the social aspects of that disease. The co-dependent person isn't addicted to alcohol, but is into control, for example, and the alcoholic's unpredictability serves the co-dependent's need to worship being in control.

They've extended the concept of co-dependency to include spouses or family members related to any one with any kind of sub stance abuse problem, and now even ex tended it to mean anyone who places the center of their being external to themselves, making being in control a very important issue to them. Being co-dependent means that one's feelings will depend upon a coordinated response to events outside oneself, to the feelings of other people.

Co-dependents can be rescuers, worried about other people. They worry about and rescue other people as a way of dealing with their own unrecognized anxieties. If they read in the newspaper about an accident, they lose sleep that night worrying about how the relatives of the people in the accident will cope with the disaster. The co-dependent thinks little of oneself because their center is outside, in the lives of others. They have no personal boundaries, other people's troubles are their troubles. It's not that they are do-gooders, in the true sense of the word.

Co-dependents don't do good for others because of a desire to help, although they would claim that they do. Instead, they do good out of a compulsive need to chase and quelch their own inner anxiety, as a way of indirectly keeping in control over their own unacknowledged needs and bad feelings.

Now this is more than simply a figure of speech when we say that these people take on the troubles of the world. It's especially more than a figure of speech when these folks happen to be psychic, or have active ESP ability. Imagine what would happen to someone who feels a need to rescue the world if that person be came psychic, could have telepathic labor pains for all the struggling people in the world. Such a person would really be in a plight.

I think that there are many such people, more than we can imagine. I suspect that co-dependency is catching on so big because it affects so many of us. Actually, co-dependency may be the development of psychic ability that has not found its proper context within a healthy perspective on the appropriate needs of the self. We co-dependents tune into to other people's needs as an indirect way of learning about our own, we respond to other people's needs as an indirect way of responding to our own. If we have any psychic ability, the reach of our minds for appropriate people to react to extends pretty far.

Whether through direct contact, intuitive functioning, or telepathic ESP, a co-dependent experience will be based on an affinity between the two parties, something that we have in common. The commonality is what provides the link-up, even if the linking is telepathic. It is hard, however, for us to usually catch the linking affinity. For one thing, we get too hooked into the other per s situation to notice that we might also have a similar situation. Also, it's to avoid tuning into our own stuff, anyway, that motivates us to tune into the other person's problem.

In disturbing psychic experiences, the person is caught in the disturbance because the psychic link-up is serving the person's repression of their own inner disturbance. The co-dependent is "possessed" by another person's problems as a way of making sure that the co-dependent never has to confront his or her own stuff. That makes it almost impossible, therefore, for the co-dependent to discover exactly what is the affinity that makes for the bridge to create the psychic contact.

If we could reverse that tendency, however, we would have a lot to gain. If we could use instances of spontaneous ESP, where we become troubled by someone else's misfortune, to probe what was the hurt within us that made us so sensitive to that issue, we could heal that hurt. Then we could direct our sensitivities in more constructive ways.

I've been searching for examples in real life that demonstrate the action of affinity. It's Edgar Cayce who speaks of the idea of affinity. It has to do with why we attract to ourselves the type of psychic experiences that we attracts like. I can find many people who have disturbing psychic experiences, but they usually can find nothing in those experiences that remind them of any issues they are grappling with themselves. They have trouble identifying the affinity, seeing into themselves the hidden upsettness. As Freud would say, the disturbing psychic experience is doing too good a job disguising the origin of the pain to motivate the person to look within...that's it's job any way.

Also, to suggest to the person with the disturbing psychic experience that there's an affinity involved, well that usually upsets the person...they think you're saying it's their "fault," or that you're accusing them of being "crazy," or "just imagining" the whole thing. But that's not what it's about. It's about introducing them to themselves, getting their needs met and freeing their psychic sensitivity to explore more creative outlets.

My recent experience "getting steamed" is a good story to demonstrate the affinity idea. It's kind of a dinky experience. It's not like I woke up in the middle of the night choking only to learn the next day that someone living across town was choked on a chicken bone and died. In that instance, I'm willing to bet that the psychic who woke up in the middle of the night tuned in on that particular accident because it resonated with that person's own stuffed-up feelings, of pushing back some hurt that was choking the person. The chicken bone swallower's trauma allowed the co-dependent psychic an outlet, outside the psychic's own self, to experience the choking sensation. If the co-dependent psychic were to become aware of their own choked up feelings, and do some thing to nurture them selves, it is doubtful that they would ever again wake up choking when someone else swallowed a chicken bone.

My own experience was mild, but I think it makes a good point. What is perhaps most dramatic about it is that we can see it as something that probably happens to all of us without us ever being the wiser. Perhaps my story of getting steamed will stimulate you to recall a similar experience of your own, or help you to be on the lookout (whatever made me think it was Mr. T. in the first place, anyway?), or wonder.... Mean while, I need to write a letter to my dentist!

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