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A TMS/PPD short story by physician Anton Chekhov

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Forest, Apr 17, 2012.

  1. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    I am not a literary maven, but I have to say that I love Anton Chekhov's short stories. Chekhov was an old-fashioned physician and a brilliant observer of human nature. I discovered him through a radio interview about a book where the author interviewed 125 of the best authors of our time and asked which books and authors spoke most powerfully to them. In this important list, Chekhov came out as the 8th most popular author of all time, and his book of short stories came out as the 9th most beloved book of all time. I love a good short story before bed, so I bought the book and have been amazed at how much insight the man could pack into an incredibly short story.

    A bio of Chekhov, is provided by the author of the book I described above:
    Recently, I was reminded of the following story when it was forwarded to me by a TMS therapist. I think that Dr. Chekhov drew on his intuition and experience as a doctor when he wrote it. It shows how incredibly powerful our intuition can be when it comes to recognizing mind-body illness and how much good an old-fashioned doctor with good bedside manner can do when it comes to recognizing PPD/TMS, especially when they don't have spurious MRIs to distract them. This also came up in the recent thread about the cases of mass hysteria in Le Roy NY.

    I think of TMS has having three tightly interwoven sources: childhood stress/trauma, current stress, and personality traits. What I like about this story is that not only does Chekhov get the mind-body connection, but he also begins to form a portrait of the TMS personality and how that personality can interact with the world to create stress and pain.


    I mentioned, above, how I see this story as a portrait of at least one type of TMS personality and how that personality can create internal tension. Do you see some of the same personality traits reflected in your own personal tension and pain? Or do you see the clerk's tension as arising more from his situation (current stress) rather than his personality? And, because this forum is about recovery, do you think that the clerk could have done anything to keep everything in perspective? Clearly, by finding a way to relate better to his fears and emotions, he could have saved his life. That's definitely a skill worth learning, for any of us!
    sewmuch and veronica73 like this.
  2. sewmuch

    sewmuch Member

    What a story - and great point of discussion. I was chuckling as it snowballed but also recognizing that sometimes we want so badly to fix situations and continue to perceive they are not fixed, even when we have done what we can, that we keep on fixating. (The general probably thought the man was stalking him!) I think it is a combination of personality traits and perceived stress and fear.

    A long time ago, I read a quote that said something like "Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone." To relate to this story, I think you have to try to right a situation, apologize, make amends, do your best, etc, but you also have to then let go. It is essential to forgive yourself, accept you are human and not perfect, and learn and go forward. Holding tension, regret etc from past events, reliving them over and over does not change them. The key is to recognize where that point of release is.

    I am reminded of The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz, a wonderful short and powerful book. In summary:

    1. Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.
    2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
    Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
    3. Don’t Make Assumptions
    Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
    4. Always Do Your Best
    Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

    I am also reminded of one of my favorite Zen stories:

    Two traveling monks reached a river where they met a young woman. Wary of the current, she asked if they could carry her across. One of the monks hesitated, but the other quickly picked her up onto his shoulders, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other bank. She thanked him and departed.

    As the monks continued on their way, the one was brooding and preoccupied. Unable to hold his silence, he spoke out. "Brother, our spiritual training teaches us to avoid any contact with women, but you picked that one up on your shoulders and carried her!"

    "Brother," the second monk replied, "I set her down on the other side, while you are still carrying her."

    We often continue to carry things with us long after the event has passed.

    Thanks for posting Forest. It is always good to read stories and parables that can help us recover and grow. If you find any about worry about the future....now those are the ones I need most!!!
    Forest and veronica73 like this.

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