Seeking decompression

Published 04, Apr, 2017
Author // Dennis Battler

Dennis Battler: "My efforts in the gay community, in the self-development community and in the spiritual community occurred in a context of self-sacrifice, martyrdom and self-denial, foundational tenets of Christendom. Not this time."

Seeking decompression

Of the four options offered by online dictionary defining the word decompression, I choose #4,

“• a surgical procedure that relieves excessive pressure on an internal part of the body such as the cranium or spinal cord.”

The innate desire to fit in, to be accepted, welcomed and wanted remains a desire present in every person to varying degrees if we were to be honest. It is the main stay of psychoanalysis, religion, sociology, government, society, education, sports entertainment and the foundation of consumerism fueled and enflamed by advertising. Consciously and unconsciously the abiding drive underneath most, if not all of our actions pivots on this fulcrum.

Experience with dozens, literally, of various communities over a lifetime has revealed one consistency. Maintaining one’s place within the group demands adherence to the views of the stated or unstated ideology. Questioning the ideology may be permitted to a point, that point being well back of the edge where potential cracks in the group foundation lay.

Cracks are always present. The required unspoken agreement to not push up against them prevents their exposure. Espousing diversity and individualism, if examined closely and ruthlessly, continues the unspoken agreement to not expose the cracks of the foundation on which the group is built.

Group foundations always fundamentally require adherence to group think.

If this is true, again referencing experience it has been proven, the question becomes apparent that for the community of HIV men, women and trans people to de-stigmatize is to make HIV-positive equivalent to HIV-negative. Isn’t that the game of all self-help, self-improvement, self-maximizing promotions and positive psychology of the past 40 years? Belittle the stigma. Turn a negative into a positive. But we did that.

When the work to individualize is done at its deepest level, potentially taking years upon years, profound and lasting change is realized. Quite a task, given we live in an age of superficiality. Those adept at quick studies adopt acceptable language and attitude to portray being one’s self, one’s individual being, as yet one more persona. Will it stand up to being tested?

Ideas mirrored in the following article: 10 Things You Always Wanted to Ask an HIV-Positive Guy

The author’s age and tenor of attitude appear to ultimately take HIV and condom use, or not, in stride. Aligned with his ease of carrying on virtually unchanged. The time in which his experience takes place (in the present time of simple medication) would seem to influence his laissez-faire attitude, along with his youthful "no guilt" demeanour. Evidencing the gap between age groups and time zones of treatment.

"Half of life is lost in charming others. The other half is lost in going through anxieties caused by others. Leave this play, you have played enough!" ~ Rumi

Which brings me back to the beginning of this essay. Decompression. Relieving the pressure to fit in, stopping the game of charming others, and dropping anxieties caused by others, is surgical work of the deepest kind, We can play at, work at it, believe we have, dismiss the effort altogether, play ignorant or pretend we are ok. All valid options.

Personally, in years of working on validating self, of self actualization, a leap forward arrived today by time invested in a survey review I booked with ACT. Motivated by the $30 and 2 token TTC stipend, and an opportunity to voice my initial experience in September 2013.

Newly diagnosed, I was looking for information, support and a referral to a doctor with HIV experience. The intake person chosen by ACT staff to speak with me was on vacation for 2 weeks and the other intake person was booked for 2 weeks. No one was available and the reception person had no interest in offering any other options.

That was the best offered by the foremost HIV/ AIDS Agency – an experience matched by PWA where the person I was booked to see did not show up and no communication was made to me prior to my arrival for the meeting. Non-support reigned.

Hassle Free Clinic’s list of doctors taking HIV patients proved imaginary. Maple Leaf Clinic reception delivered this communication: “We have no Doctors taking new clients. One of our Doctors is giving up his practice.” A delivery with as much compassion as the communication of CATIE’s personnel, reluctantly answering their locked office door, the office I was directed to in the midst of this debacle of bogus support. No one had accurate information. No one showed up. No one could be bothered. No one cared.

Fucked again by the system.

Oddly enough, through this survey feedback session I recognized (again) what most interests me, Service and Support of Engagement and Expanded Participation. You know. That thing usually accompanied with the tag line “Exceeding your expectations.”

Bullshit. Exactly what marginalized groups such as gay men experience being refused to them, heightened by aging, heightened by HIV, heightened by financial limitations. Added together it can be devastating. Re-membering self, overcoming the blockade built by HIV and stigma feels to have come into place. Of the various pieces of the puzzle having shown up over the past month, this speaks most accurately …

“There is a powerful Greek myth about the young maiden Persephone who is abducted into the Underworld by Hades. It is a story of innocence lost. Many of us diagnosed with serious illness feel in some ways “abducted” by forces more powerful than ourselves. Persephone was told that if she ate anything while there she would need to stay, and while some versions say she was tricked into eating the pomegranate seeds, I prefer the versions where she makes this choice herself. As a result she is required to stay there, (in the underworld) part of each year and becomes the Queen of the Underworld. 

She moves from victim to sovereignty. She steps into her role as guide and companion to others who find themselves in that Underworld territory. She becomes the wounded healer. Her wholeness is in both body and soul. We are invited to this wholeness ourselves. When we meet illness with compassion and attention, it can become a journey of initiation into a way of being that deeply honours the paradoxes of life and treasures the tender and grace-filled vulnerability of our bodies.” -- Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE, author of The Wisdom of the Body, which explores the contemplative path as one way to return to wholeness.

Worth including on the heels of this story is a quote of Ingmar Bergman:


“I'll tell you something banal. We're emotional illiterates. And not only you and I-practically everybody, that's the depressing thing. We're taught everything about the body and about agriculture in Madagascar and about the square root of pi, or whatever the hell it's called, but not a word about the soul. We're abysmally ignorant, about ourselves and others. There's a lot of loose talk nowadays to the effect that children should be brought up to know all about brotherhood and understanding and coexistence and equality and everything else that's all the rage just now. But it doesn't dawn on anyone that we must first learn something about our selves and our own feelings. Our own fear and loneliness and anger. We're left without a chance, ignorant and remorseful among the ruins of our ambitions. To make a child aware of its soul is something almost indecent. You're regarded as a dirty old man. How can you understand other people if you don't know anything about yourself? Now you're yawning, so that's the end of the lecture.” -- Ingmar Bergman.

My past efforts of providing Service and Support of Engagement and Expanded Participation, actually produced results beyond organizational expectations that have since been unmatched. My efforts in the gay community, in the self-development community and in the spiritual community occurred in a context of self-sacrifice, martyrdom and self-denial, foundational tenets of Christendom.

Not this time. I have met my “illness” with compassion and attention. It has become a journey of initiation into a way of being deeply honouring the paradoxes of life. I am learning to treasure the tender and grace-filled vulnerability of my body and my life.

About the Author

Dennis Battler

Dennis Battler

“I’ve returned to my love for words. Twenty year’s pursuit of connection with my Realized Self, presented in mysticism and Eastern Practices, informs my writing. My intention? To expand consciousness of both self and the audience.

Life's learning? Life’s zenith rollercoaster is normal. There’s nothing wrong. Surprise. Single with Pets.”

Dennis lives in Toronto Ontario and has been living with HIV since 2013.