I tried to ignore it, but the pain in my ankle wouldn't go away. It had started as a twinge but then grew in strength until each step felt increasingly uncomfortable. I couldn't recall twisting or injuring it in any way and was at a loss to explain the cause. Mooching around the house I hardly noticed it, but as soon as I went out and walked any distance my ankle began to complain. I found myself limping slightly and tensing the muscles in my leg to compensate.
Eventually I went to see my doctor who diagnosed a pulled ligament and recommended resting my foot as much as possible. But how could I do that when I had to walk the dog twice a day? Peppar was just over a year old and full of energy. She would go crazy if she didn't get the chance to run, sniff and play with other dogs. My partner's work schedule meant that I was the one to take her out morning and afternoon for her daily exercise - a three-mile walk by the river.
I wondered if some manipulation might help and decided to make an appointment with a physiotherapist. Before seeing him, however, I scheduled a Voice Dialogue session with my friend Michael. I thought that we could do some body dialogue and talk to my ankle to see if it was trying to tell me something.
As is often the case, what happened was not what my Rational Mind had mapped out! As Michael began the facilitation, I became aware of a general tightness and tension in my body. We decided to talk to the part of me that was causing it. I moved my chair over and out came a part that called itself my Resistor.
Michael welcomed him and asked what purpose he served.
“I put a break on the selves that would otherwise run away with his life,” said the Resistor.
“What parts are they?” asked Michael.
“Those big powerful guys over there.” The Resistor nodded to the other side of the room. “His Controller, his Rational Mind, his Pleaser, his Organiser, and above all, his Pusher. They are all very headstrong. I have thick steel cables attached to them but it takes a huge amount of energy to rein them in and anchor them down.”
“What would happen if you weren't around to keep them in check like this?” enquired Michael.
“They would completely take him over and cause him all sorts of problems. In fact they would probably end up killing him!” replied the Resistor.
“How much of John's energy do you take up doing your job?” asked Michael.
“About 90%. They pull really hard, like kites in a strong wind. I have to be constantly vigilant to stop them from taking off and flying away with him. For example, his Pusher tries to infiltrate every aspect of John's life. He can’t even leave him in peace when walking the dog. He sets constraints - a certain distance has to be covered in a limited amount of time - so that the walk turns into a route march. He also gets John to use the walk to review his dreams from the night before as well as create a ‘to do list’ for the day ahead. Every minute has to be productive. He just doesn’t let up!”
“That's amazing. I'm just wondering whether you have anything to do with the pain in his ankle,” Michael enquired.
“Of course I do. It's a result of me digging my heels in and attempting to slow that Pusher down.”
“I see. So you’re trying to get him to walk more slowly?”
“Exactly. He has been striding out like a man possessed. He needs to get that Pusher off his back, relax and use the time to enjoy the river and its wildlife. He should just amble.”
Two days later with the words of my Resistor fresh in my mind I had my appointment with Euan the physiotherapist. He examined my ankle and confirmed that I had indeed pulled a ligament and now had some secondary problems as a result of walking awkwardly.
“But I have no idea how I could have done it,” I said.
“It could be a result of repetitive strain”, said Euan. “Have you done a lot of walking recently?”
“As a matter of fact I have, ever since we got our new dog,” I replied.
“Do you walk on a smooth or uneven surface?” he enquired.
“On the towpath, which is mostly uneven.”
“I see. Show me how you walk.”
I strode around the consulting room.
“How long do you walk the dog every day?”
“In total about ninety minutes, maybe more.”
“Well, I'd say that striding like that on an uneven surface is the cause of your problem.”
“So should I stop walking and rest my ankle?” I asked hesitantly.
His answer gave me goose bumps. “Not at all. You should keep on moving your foot or your ankle will seize up. But instead of striding out like that, just amble.”
Like all dogs, Peppar is a very sensitive being and picks up small changes in my energy. She is also very bright and a fast learner. I quickly taught her to sit, stay, come and drop. To my great frustration however, the one discipline she didn’t master was to walk to heal on the lead. No matter how many times I pulled her back and said “Peppar, heal!” she always tried to forge ahead.
It was only when I followed Euan’s advice to walk more slowly rather than stride out that I understood why. My verbal command to “heal” contradicted the non-verbal energy of my Pusher, which for her was actually signaling, “Go, go, go!” As I have practiced separating from my Pusher during our walks and consciously accessed my calmer, more relaxed selves, Peppar has started to walk to heal - and my ankle has healed.
The learning for me as I grow older is that I have to get into a different relationship with my Pusher or the impact of his energy on my body will cause me ever more problems. As I reflect on this, I am reminded of the advice my grandfather gave about how to get things done without “overdoing it” and becoming stressed out. “Make haste slowly!” he would say with a knowing smile and a twinkle in his eye.
Or in the words of my Resister and of Euan, “Just amble.”