At this interview Susanne gave me permission to use her real name, so I have done so here as well as gone back and removed her pseudonym in previous interviews.
Susanne was moved to Hospice yesterday. She is much weaker. Based on the continuing deterioration of her condition, it does not appear that there has been any observable response by her cancer cells to their promise to stop dividing and to either be disposed of or to return to normal tissue. This implies that we have never actually communicated with the cancer cells, but only with Susanne’s mental representation of them, which has always been far more likely.
The other possiblity is both less likely and more grim: We have been communicating with the cancer cells and they have been lying. If that were the case, we would have to ask why. Are cancer cells by nature devious and dishonest? If so, why would they need to lie about it in this case, since nothing was likely to stop a late Stage IV cancer? Are these cancer cells lying for her own good, to humor her, because somehow death is her highest good, but she just is incapable of dealing with the truth? This is not only a far-fetched but a cynical interpretation.
The first explanation, that we have not been communicating with Susanne’s tumor or with her cancer cells, but rather with her mental representation of them, is far more parsimonious. She wants to forgive them and she wants them to desire forgiveness. She has asked for this and she has received it. Susanne does not want to see some part of herself as amoral or uncaring at best or relentlessly malicious at worst. To do so is to die fighting with herself, to be embroiled in inner conflict, and it is very, very clear that Susanne does not want to spend the remainder of her life in internal conflict. She wants her cancer to go away but not at the price of waging war or even giving the cancer cells ultimatums, a possibility that was presented last interview but not addressed in this one.
Instead, Susanne used this interview to strengthen her connection with the part of herself that is most central and sacred, and she did so in an amazingly beautiful way, through sharing a dream that ties her life together in many ways.
Susanne: I would like to invite my soul to the Tumor Conference.
Soul, would you please tell us about yourself and what you are doing?
I am everything that makes Susanne Susanne! I am everywhere! I am everywhere! I am not just inside Susanne! I am dancing with Spiral! I do all the things that Susanne can’t do right now, like dance and play the piano. I love music and moving with the dance! I have been dancing with Spiral for Susanne’s inner balance and I’ve danced so that she can stand upright again.
Is Susanne not able to stand upright, soul?
She even manages to pull herself upright in the bed without help.
What do you think about the Tumor Conference, soul?
Soul, how would you score yourself 0-10, in each of the following six qualities: confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing? Why?
Confidence: 10 I have been through experiences like this with Susanne before.
Compassion: 10 Because we’re all one.
Wisdom: 10 I’m wise!
Susanne has a self-aspect from a dream she had – a very wise old woman:
“I had been entrusted to look after a foal. We had a garden on a terrace. We put out mattresses on the terrace for the foal so it could settle down there. It could jump about the garden and move around but it could rest on the mattresses if it wanted to. Every morning and night the vet would come to give the foal an injection. The foal was afraid of those injections. So I would get up and be with it before the vet would appear. It would be shivering with anticipation of the injection. I would take the head of this foal into my lap and caress its head. (cries.) Then it would calm down. Then it would be able to bear this injection much better. I would stroke the foal after the injection. The foal would lift its head and turn toward me (cries). I looked into this foal’s eyes and saw the face of a beautiful old, wise woman. She had such confidence and depth and wisdom in her eyes. We just looked at each other and caressed each other. I was reminded of my mother but also of myself, as if I was looking into a mirror. It feels like recognizing myself. It’s like seeing myself as if I had already been that old wise woman.
Associations: I also had that feeling when I had that sarcoma in my leg when I was twenty. I never understood it, but the foal is me too. I was so afraid when they would come rolling in with these bottles of chemotherapy. Both the foal and the wise old woman are both very dear to me.
Soul, what do you think about this dream?
I am both the foal and the old woman and Susanne too.
From your point of view, Soul, why do you think Susanne had this dream?
The one thing that I did want to tell her is that she will always find herself again.
And when she does find herself, soul, who and what will she find?
She finds herself as a young foal, full of fear. But she also finds herself as an experienced old, wise woman who knows the path and into whose hands she can give herself and whom she can trust herself, just as we can trust Spiral.
So it seems we need to invite the wise old woman to the Tumor Conference.
What shall we call you?
If at all, I might have the name Maria because we are all one – Susanne, her soul, Spiral, her mother, and me. We are the female power.
Is there any gift of healing that you would like to give to Susanne now?
Our present is our support and our love.
Is there any gift of balance that you would like to give to Susanne now?
Our very female balance that also expresses itself in the Spiral, in the sign of infinity.
Is there any gift of transformation that you would like to give to Susanne now?
Yes, we also support the transformation of all of the tumor cells into restoring themselves into the healthy state they had before.
Tumor cells, have you been listening to what the wise old lady just said?
What do you think about that, Tumor Cells?
We really have to keep at it so that this torture for Susanne does not continue that much longer.
How would Susanne’s life be different if she naturally scored like you do in all six of these qualities all the time?
Then she would feel freer and move much more freely the way I can.
If you could live Susanne’s life for her, how would you live it differently?
Very much the way she lives but with all our equanimity, lightness, and our freedom.
If you could live Susanne’s waking life for her today, would you handle Susanne’s cancer differently? If so, how?
We would encourage her to have confidence in her self-healing abilities, as she has before in her life.
Soul, if this cancer were a wake-up call from you, what would it be saying to her?
To wake her up to her many talents. We have shared life with her. We will heed the motto of Spiral and we will accompany Susanne to a new, yet old life with health and balance.
Claudia: Soul, do you also feel terrible that Susanne can’t do this job now in September?
No! There will be so many more jobs!
I had come to this interview with the intention of asking Death to participate in the Tumor Conference, since it is the Elephant in the Living Room. Its exclusion seemed absurd to me, since Susanne had been transferred to hospice and staff doctors were offering no treatments. But this raises important issues not only about the interviewing process, but about life and death. Whose interview is it? Whose life is it? Who decides how they want to live and die? At what point do others have the right or the responsibility to address the Elephant in the Living Room? Is it avoidance or collusion in denial and repression not to do so?
My sense is that Susanne is fully aware of how close she is to death. However, by nature she is an optimist and believes that as long as there is life, there is hope. She wants to support that belief in these interviews. In addition, IDL interviewing is by nature minimally directive and interpretive. Direction during the interview is largely left to the individual being interviewed and interpretations to the self-aspects that are interviewed.
So this was the course of the interview, despite my own bias, that far from negating life or being pessimistic, interviewing death embraces a broader definition of life while denying that there necessarily exists a polarity between hope of recovery and the acceptance of the reality of death.
Notice that Susanne has not been inclined toward chemotherapy at any point, and the only voice in these interviews that has supported it was the Tumor itself in an early interview.
At the beginning of this interview I noted that Susanne does not want to spend the remainder of her life in internal conflict. Is there a way that she could see her cancer cells as relatively inaccessible, unresponsive, and uncaring and still not throw herself into internal conflict? Theoretically, yes. In order to do so Susanne would need to clearly distinguish in her own mind between the cancer cells themselves and her mental representations of them. Only then could she wage war on the cells and still avoid internal conflict by “loving” her image of her cancer.
Humans are not used to making such distinctions. We are conditioned to having our mental representations and the things they represent be the same. Most of the time this works, but when we are in conflict with a disease or person and we do not make such a distinction, the result is that we war within ourselves. When we hate someone we end up hating the part of ourself that person represents. When we hate cancer we end up hating the part of ourselves that the cancer represents.
Internal conflict is not always a bad thing; it is part of waking up. However, unconscious internal conflict and internal conflict within the context of the Drama Triangle is generally not helpful if not a bad thing. Right now Susanne does not want either and cannot afford the energy expenditure such conflicts require.
However, if we are to learn something from these interviews, hopefully it will be deeper than a conclusion that Susanne was either valiantly and courageously optimistic and loving or that she was naive, delusional, and in denial. Hopefully we will come to understand that if we are to meet our own death with equanimity when the time comes we need to start now to learn to separate our mental representations of things from things themselves so that we can fight the good fight with the latter, when necessary, while still minimizing internal wars that kill us. Such changes in perception are more likely to change outcomes when they are preventative rather than when they occur during full-blown crises, where destructive processes have considerable inertia, as is the case here.
This is a post-graduate level skill, and while there are many ways to learn it, Integral Deep Listening is one of them.
I will be unavailable to conduct interviews for the next three weeks, as I will be out of town. Hopefully Claudia and Mirko will continue to do so.