My hair is in place, but boy am I having a bad compassion day!

This is where I went wrong: I read an op-ed entitled “Self-Help’s Slimy ‘Secret’” by Tim Watkin in the “Washington Post.” Not a smart activity given that I already have major (MAJOR) issues with the way Rhonda Byrne has repackaged the law of attraction to blame everything (Katrina, Darfur, Iraq) on bad thoughts.

I can’t read the following sentences without my blood pressure rising and without accidentally visualizing a major toilet paper and egg job on Byrne’s Australian mansion (I’m that mature):

* “Imperfect thoughts are the cause of humanity’s ills.”
* “The only reason any person does not have enough money is because they are blocking money coming to them with their thoughts.”
* “You cannot ‘catch’ anything unless you think you can.”
* “You are also inviting illness if you are listening to people talking about their illness.”

Deep breathing, Therese, deep breathing. Excuse me one moment while I calm down and think a happy thought.

Today was an especially bad day to read that editorial because I had already invited my friend Eileen (who lives, breathes, showers, and pees by the Gospel According to Oprah, Rhonda Byrne, and Caroline Myss) over for a salmon dinner. According to Eileen, my diagnosis is a hoax, my medication is toxic, and any mental anguish is punishment for not mastering my thoughts.

Most of the time (okay .001 percent of the time) I can separate her beliefs from my recovery and say to myself, “She means well, she just doesn’t understand.” And .0001 percent of the time, that helps alleviate my deep hurt and anger.

But this afternoon, I’d like to poison her salmon fillet.

“Hmmm. What were you thinking about during dinner?” I’ll ask her as she gets up to vomit. “Because my piece tastes great–lovely thoughts that I have.”

I’m stuck in rage. This is a dangerous place. But really. Don’t you think two days of hurling might bring her around to my thinking that SOME THINGS JUST HAPPEN!

Hold on. I need to call my friend Mike before I spew any more venom unto the Internet.

I’ll put you on speaker phone:

“Mike, is it possible to share a meal with a person who continuously insults me with her belief system, who says cruel things like I’m to blame for my mental illness?”

“Yes. If you have compassion. Do you know what compassion means?”

“Not converting Rhonda Byrne’s home into an egg and toilet-paper omelet and skipping the creative ingredients when preparing Eileen’s salmon?”

“Compassion is understanding the lack of understanding. That’s what Dr. Hora (the founder of Existential Metapsychiatry) said.”

“Thanks. Catch you later.” Click.

Then more on compassion via e-mail: “The compassionate individual does not get provoked or impatient. He does not recriminate, judge, condemn, or react personally to other individuals’ various misconceptions about life or issues,” writes Hora. “He is a model of spiritual maturity, a radiancy of Love-Intelligence, clarifying whatever darkness comes before him. He does not demand that another individual get well. He respects an individual’s right to be sick or to make no progress at all.”

Mike and Dr. Hora are absolutely right. Today’s wrath is a compassion problem. Infuriated by Eileen’s lack of understanding, I am assigning way too much power to her perception of my health.

Guess what? I don’t have to care what Eileen–or Rhonda Byrne or Oprah or Caroline Myss–thinks about my mental illness! Alleluia! I don’t have to care! I simply have to understand and lovingly accept their lack of understanding. As the American social writer Eric Hoffer wrote, “Compassion is the antitoxin of the soul: where there is compassion even the most poisonous impulses remain relatively harmless.”

Speaking of toxins, I’d better run. I have a non-poisonous salmon dinner to prepare.

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