Dr. Steve Rissman, ND
“It’s about whittling. It’s about taking something and whittling and whittling and getting it sharp and perfect. Then you’ve got something.” James Victore
I always choose Feb 2nd, Groundhog’s Day, also known as Imbolc, Candlemas, and St. Brigid’s day, as my day to make decisions. For example, I had a career decision that I needed to make, so I set Feb 2nd as my deadline for knowing the outcome of my decision. I choose this particular decision day because it is a contemplation of the return from the underworld, the metaphor of Persephone’s descent to Hades and rise back to this world (okay, it may be evident that I don’t know my mythology, but it works for me). It is the day of decision of whether to hunker down for more winter’s rest or to prepare for the storm of Spring’s rising. So I thought I’d write a bit about decisions this month. And it is something with which many people struggle, especially in this plentiful world in which we have so many choices, so many options.
One of the key issues with making decisions is the conscious fact that when we choose something, it narrows life. All the possibilities are no longer an option. My son recently brought this up with me. His perspective was that kids have so many rules to follow, restrictions and boundaries. His perception was that adults could do what they wanted. I thought about it and expressed to him the juxtaposition of “options’. The world is full of possibility for kids. As we grow and find interests, we choose to spend our time devoted to fewer interests, though perhaps with more depth. As men, the maturing process narrows the field of who we are. We become less amorphous, more solidified. As a stem cell becomes more differentiated with each division, the other options are eliminated. I find it interesting that when mature cells lose their specificity, as happens in cancer cells, things go awry, with dis-ease. Similarly, when a man doesn’t choose his life, he becomes amorphous and loses his way in the world. He loses the individual expression of himself at a fundamental level, such that, without guidance to carve his life, he wanders.
In life, you will be presented with a set of doors. Unclear about which to choose, just pick one and know that adventure will follow, one that hones and consolidates who we are.
Decisions create form, which define us, more and more throughout life. That thought can be frightening, even crippling for many. When we choose a life partner, it eliminates the possibility of partnering with one of approximately seven billion others. And we ask, might something better be out there? When we commit to a career decision, we take classes or in some way are educated to specialize our understanding, skill and/or perspective, which is a limiting process. Indeed, the root word for “elimination” comes from the Latin, limen, which means “threshold.” Crossing a threshold, much like stepping out of the groundhog’s burrow, takes courage, because while new possibilities arise, bringing new opportunities, let’s be honest, it potentially narrows our world as well.
Many people in our world can’t tolerate the thought that “saying yes to one also means saying no to the other”. I find this to be especially true in those men at the threshold of life, who are tightly held to the belief that we can be anyone, do anything. At some point, there is need to let that go and consolidate our life. As I explained to my son, it takes inner security, grounded-ness and a bit of faith, in order to mature and become solidly who we are.
Later, as we age, the ground gives way, and we become less solid, less certain of our ways, less physical body, and perhaps more ethereal. But that discussion is for another day. In this month of February, I’m challenging men to choose and become. Think about the year ahead. Within you, who do you want to see rise up, following springtime sunshine and snowmelt? Chances are, the decision has already been made- you already know. You know the direction you want to go, but fear and intimidation may be holding you back. One of the most influential men in my life, once told me that life will show us doorways. And when it does, open a door and walk through. When presented with another set of doors, choose again. The process of picking a door and walking through is like whittling. We start with an undefined chunk of wood, and whittle away, creating our life. Go on, choose a door, and walk through.
Dr. Steve Rissman is a full-time associate professor in the Department of Health Professions at Metropolitan State University of Denver, teaching in the Integrative Health Care program. He teaches Clinical Pathophysiology, Men’s Health, Men Across Cultures, Men and Anger, and several other classes. Dr. Rissman has studied, taught and worked in the field of men’s health for over twenty years and has led the way in lighting the path for young men embarking on the journey to better know themselves. In a new facet of his professional life, Dr. Rissman is the primary investigator in a research project looking at qualities of great men- men who know their purpose in life and hold a larger vision for what is possible.
In his practice on his farm, north of Denver, Dr Rissman works with men/boys confounded by behaviors related to anger/rage, anxiety, and depression in their lives.
Having grown up on a farm and spending a great deal of time in the outdoors, Dr. Rissman has a deeply rooted curiosity for the laws of nature, particularly the science of disease process. Consequently, he has an extraordinary ability to illicit the story of one’s unique dis-ease process and to perceive what needs to be cured in each individual man/boy, using psychotherapy, botanical medicines, therapeutic nutrition, homeopathic medicines, and other insightful methods intended to help lead men through the abyss of dis-ease toward a rich, purposeful life.