Reflections on Living

Month: October 2016

Symptoms are Impossible to Ignore…Because They are Terrible Gifts




Symptoms feel terrible, but they are a gift.

We don’t ask for it (nor should we), but they knock on our doors. Psychological and emotional suffering such as anxiety, fears, depression, flashbacks, rumination,  compulsions, and voice hearing tell us something is happening to us. They are the sirens that tell us there’s a fire inside.

The signal is not the problem. The fire is.

For example, a woman who has been depressed for three years says that her problem is chronic low mood and lack of motivation. When in fact her symptoms of depression are a signal reflecting back to her a real problem of being in a domestic violent relationship.

Or a man in his forties who has been anxious all of his adult life. He was beginning to think that this was what normal modern day living was meant to be, only to find out once he began to listen to his symptoms, he realised that this was part of an unaddressed traumatic experience of being molested as a child by his uncle that he had burdened in him due to fear and shame. All these years, he had done his best not to talk about it, as he didn’t want to bring shame to his family members (including his Uncle).

Physical illness is easier to imagine than the metaphorical world of our emotions. Think of a person afflicted with leprosy. Renowned British surgeon Dr Paul Brand, who spent his life working in this area was the first to observe that leprosy did not cause the rotting away of tissues, but that it was the loss of the sensation of pain which made sufferers susceptible to injury. In other words,  the problem with  leprosy is the absence of the ability to feel pain. (See his book with co-author Philip Yancey, The Gift of Pain).

Perhaps what we first need to do is to take a stance of what Thomas Moore calls “Honoring symptoms as the voice of the soul.”

Even though the meaning of the word soul is illusive, we all know what it means when we say to lead a soulful life, compared to a soul-less life. Tending to soul means to lead a life that we are truthful. When we are truthful to our selves, we are truthful to others. When we are true to ourselves, we find God. Truthfulness enlivens.

Resist our natural tendency to eliminate psychological symptoms as the main problem. First, listen to what it’s telling us. Is there a fire?

In the words of Stephen Gilligan, symptoms are terrible gifts.

Put out the fire first, not the signal.

Happy World Mental Day to everyone!

Daryl Chow, Ph.D.

10th Oct 2016.


Creating Movement in Your Life: Put Your Horse Before the Cart 

People often mistake that

  We need to feel confident in order to do something with competence;

  We need to feel loveable in order to love;

  We need to feel good before we do any good;

  We need to know before we act, and

  We need to find the passion before we become good at a something.

It certainly helps if we do. But often, we are mistaken. We have put the carriage before the horse.


Often times,

  We simply need to become competent at something in order to build confidence;

  We need to give love in order to feel love;

  We need to do some good before we feel good;

  We need to act in order to know, and

  We need to follow our curiosity before we find our passion.

In this case, we have put the horse before the carriage. And this allows movement.


We are to learn not just to think on our feet, but to think with our feet.

There is wisdom in our feet. We are not designed to be sedentary creatures. We are designed to grow, and growing takes place when we move, both in our inner lives and our mortal flesh.

I look at my 3-year-old daughter. She thinks with her feet by trying things, even if it means that she might get a scolding or two for testing our limits.

Composers, movie directors, performers, writers and storytellers know the importance of creating dynamic movement in order to an experience to come alive.

We are designed to move and be moved. No horse with the carriage in front is going to get very far.


footnote: I gave a shot at drawing. Not the best, by I hope it does the job. 

© 2023 Full Circles

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑