Mock the Pain therapy

An exorcism during which you ululate, lurch, gnash, caterwaul, writhe and bellow: "'Stressed' is 'desserts' spelled backwards!"

By Rob Brezsny
September 14, 2000 2:12AM (UTC)
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We're now tuning in to a lot of stress out there among all you enigmatic, charismatic, melodramatic creatures. We feel your smoldering agony. We sense the extravagant load of fear, rage and frustration you lug around with you everywhere you go.

But we may have the cure for what's eating away at your happiness. It's called Mock the Pain -- a wild and hairy therapy program that four out of five witch doctors say is the trickiest possible treatment for the searing primal angst that has been festering in you for years.


Ready to give it a try?

To begin, curl yourself up into a fetal position, make your breathing shallow and tense all the muscles in your body as tight as they'll go. Include your obscure, little-used muscles, as well as those you might not even be aware you have. The hundreds of muscles in the face are especially important. Tense every muscle in your body for a count of 10. Hold. Hold. Keep holding. Keep holding. And release.

Now, even as you momentarily relax this full-bore constriction, try to keep a massive amount of residual agitation active in the background. Give the command to your subconscious mind to remain on high alert, as if you were in the midst of terrifying danger. Search your memory for distress that might inspire you to conjure up a flow of tears.


For instance, you can visualize a person who hates you. Picture all the terrible flaws he or she attributes to you. Summon the memory of the worst betrayal in your life, the most traumatic violation, and rehash the anguish you felt. Envision the frightening scenario you're most likely to dredge up when you're feeling weak, the alarm that pops into your mind most naturally. But exaggerate it with graphic details far beyond the vividness you usually endow it with.

Now, while holding these scenes in the forefront of your awareness, work yourself up into the most galling discomfort you're capable of. Scrunch up every muscle in your body, every nerve -- even your blood. Turn yourself into a taut bundle of astringent dread. Hold for a count of 100. Hold. Keep holding. Keep holding. Now, from the depths of your torment, take a deep breath. As you exhale, allow yourself to unleash a low, suppurating whine.

Just before you run out of breath, shape the whine into the following magical spell: "'Stressed' is 'desserts' spelled backwards." Take another breath and again emit a pitiful, desperate moan that climaxes with the incantation "'Stressed' is 'desserts' spelled backwards." Draw yet another breath, and spurt another "'Stressed' is 'desserts' spelled backwards," infusing it this time with bitterness and rancor. Begin to uncoil yourself from the fetal position, all the while spilling "'Stressed' is 'desserts' spelled backwards" from the abyss within you.


Now stand up -- straight and tall. Bend and stretch and reach for the sky. Stick out your tongue and cross your eyes and twist your face into the ugliest expression you can summon. Wave your arms and leap off the ground and wiggle your butt ferociously. Take five fast breaths and unfurl a yowling "'Stressed' is 'desserts' spelled backwards" in protest against all of the wounds life has forced you to endure. Feel nothing but your own juicy, red, oozing, unscratchable pain. Shake your entire body uncontrollably while slobbering and mussing your hair. Lurch, gnash, writhe and contort yourself with all the creativity you can muster. Shriek, "'Stressed' is 'desserts' spelled backwards."

Tickle yourself aggressively in the armpits. Raise up the middle fingers of both hands and give yourself a double-barreled "Fuck you!" Kick your own ass. Wail, "'Stressed' is 'desserts' spelled backwards." Spin around in erratic circles as you thumb your nose at the world. Hurl imaginary rocks in the direction of heaven. Punch the air crazily. Faster. Harder. Wilder. And now unleash the caterwaul of a hurricane lashing an erupting volcano. Ululate the cacophony of an earthquake in a forest fire. And then scream, "'Stressed' is 'desserts' spelled backwards," until you have emptied yourself of every last hemorrhaging shred of angst.


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Aquarius | Aries | Cancer | Capricorn | Gemini | Leo | Libra | Pisces | Sagittarius | Scorpio | Taurus | Virgo
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ARIES (March 21-April 19): My mom bequeathed to me a set of impeccable social instincts, the fundamental rule of which is: Never go on any adventure where you're the most interesting person. Blessed by my innate drive to remain entertained at all costs, I've developed a fondness for going to parties where I'm the least interesting person. It's humbling and nerve-racking, but highly educational. I recommend this practice to everyone, and especially to you right now. It's downright hazardous for you to be a know-it-all these days. Yawn not, Aries! The moment you do, you'll know you're in the wrong place at the wrong time.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): I think I'm falling in love with the way you're falling in love with possibilities you've always denied yourself before. My own sleeping urges are stirring as I see you fighting to unleash your dormant passions. Oh baby. Keep it up. Don't stop. I get chills whenever I hear you thinking, "I'm finally ready to go after the fantasies I've been afraid to want. And I'm actually willing to change myself if it'll give me the power to make those fantasies real."

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Tune in to the part of your body you're most at odds with -- the place in your anatomy that bugs you or hurts you or makes you mad. I believe it's time to work on your relationship with this alienated portion of your sacred temple. First thing I'd like you to do is write a letter to it. I'm serious. Start with "Dear Nose" or "Dear Butt" or "Dear Belly." Tell it exactly how you feel about it and why. Don't censor any of your tortured feelings. Wait two days and then write another missive -- a love letter this time. Give it your blessings. Profess your love. No matter what discomfort or shame or inconvenience this part of your body has caused, say to it with sincere ardor, "I forgive you."

CANCER (June 21-July 22): The left-brain/right-brain controversy is passi. All the action these days is in north-brain/south-brain research, which is my area of expertise. When it's functioning at its peak, the north brain is the generator of high-quality bullshit -- some of which may be sort of true and some of which may be sort of false, but all of which extricates you from the logical rationalizations that have frozen your problems in place. The south brain, at its best, frees you from your inhibitions with graceful precision, allowing you to become wild and unpredictable in socially effective ways. I'm bringing this up, Cancerian, because your access to both your north and your south brain has never been greater than it is now.


LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): You can bulldoze hills this week, Leo, but you can't relocate mountains. Keep that law in mind as you study the following corollaries. You'll be rewarded for a touch of sensitive voraciousness but dissed for crass displays of raw greed. Being a feisty catalyst will attract new allies, but acting like a smartass control freak will bring fresh adversaries. Luck won't win you the lottery, but it could help you seize a hard-earned new privilege. In conclusion, dear, avoid all-or-nothing delusions and become a crafty maestro of nuance.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): I'm a pretty cheerful person, but I do get upset about the undertone of melancholy you perpetually carry around. Nothing I say in my horoscopes seems to persuade you to give it up. You cling to it tenaciously, as if it were a treasure you couldn't live without. Oh well. Maybe your brooding serves a holy purpose I can't discern. But even if that's true, I can't believe you need so damn much of it. Look, Virgo, I'll make you a deal. Find a way to leach 50 percent of that sadness out of your psyche, and I'll show you a kind of optimism that does not diminish but actually enhances your critical thinking skills. (P.S. Please note that I'm not asking you to turn into a New Age bliss-ninny. I freely acknowledge that holding a reserve of mournful doubt is healthy.)

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): A growing number of fundamentalist ministers, as well as the pope himself, are on record warning of the dangers of alternative spiritual practices. An Australian named Father Luke Joseph spoke for many when he told his flock that they risked eternal damnation if they dabbled with meditation, yoga or aromatherapy. And yet I say unto you Librans, in my capacity as Archdruid of the Flaming Jewel Church of Educated Rapture, that you will risk at least temporary damnation in the coming weeks if you do not mess around with experimental approaches to divine communion like meditation, ritual, ecstatic prayer, sacred dancing and extremely pragmatic displays of compassion.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): I know Scorpios who provoke the very worst in people; I know Scorpios who bring out the very best. Lately, though, many of you who provoke the worst have been acting more like those who bring out the best. And you who habitually elicit the best have been doing an even finer job than usual of drawing out the talents and resources of your collaborators. All my astrological instincts tell me that this is more than a passing trend. I predict that in the months ahead, the majority of your tribe will discover even deeper secrets of symbiosis and synergy. The really tasty developments will begin late this year or early next: Your allies will be inspired to help you as you've never been helped before.


SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): In honor of your new power over yourself, I'd like to reward you with a host of fresh titles. With deep appreciation, I hereby name you Senior Vice President of Visionary Horse Sense. From now on you shall also be known as the Deputy Director of Green Lights and Purple Hearts. Consider yourself, as well, to be the new Puzzle-Master Supreme, Chief Custodian of Secret Weapons and Field Commander of Free Lunches and Poetic Licenses. Congratulations, boss.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): I'm not the kind of astrologer who would issue an irresponsible command like "Quit your job and find a better one." Nor would I ever make a presumptuous prophecy like "You will soon change careers." My style is to suggest that planetary rhythms in the coming months will conspire with you to reinvent your relationship to work. To the degree that you bust your butt trying to find the most supremely enjoyable way to bust your butt, so will you be rewarded with upgrades in your job -- including unexpected plums, pearls and perks. To rev up your imagination, maybe you'd like to read "Job Finder's Guide 2000" by Les Krantz.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Eighteenth-century slave trader John Newton had a wrenching epiphany en route to America with a load of kidnapped humans. God shouted, "Wake up, fool!" Newton turned his ship around, sailed back to Africa and freed his captives. To honor his metamorphosis, he wrote the stirring hymn "Amazing Grace." L. Frank Baum is another study in radical reformation. Early in his career, while working as a newspaper editor, he called for the extermination of Native Americans. Later he mellowed. The books he wrote about a magical kingdom, beginning with "The Wizard of Oz," are celebrations of cultural diversity. The redemption that's now available to you, Aquarius, is not as dramatic as it was for those two men; your blindness is not as profound. Still, it'll be a thrill to witness the conversion of your deepest, darkest ignorance.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): I will not be responsible for the hearts you inflame in the next four weeks, Pisces. Nor will I accept any blame for the pajamas you rip, the soft underbellies you lay bare or the bottom lines you spank. Furthermore, I won't provide a single excuse for the Freudian theories you disprove, the reverse psychologies you spawn, the nervous divers you send plunging off the deep end or the outrageous gossip you provoke. I do plan, however, to be highly entertained by your exploits. And I will regularly pray to the Goddess of Sweetly Messy Fun, asking her to ensure that all the uproars you galvanize will be lovable.


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What captivates your imagination more, your joys or your sorrows? Write

Rob Brezsny

Rob Brezsny's weekly astrology column appears on Salon as well as on his own Web site and in print publications worldwide. Brezsny's novel, "The Televisionary Oracle," was released earlier this year. He lives near San Francisco.

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