Welcome to the next in the Healing Series of blog posts. These posts are basically to explore non meds/supplement ways of healing for those of us with sensitivities, but actually have turned out to be far more than that and today we will be looking more closely at the emotional side of chronic illness. I don’t mean that being ill makes us stressed, which of course it does. Neither do I mean that stress causes illness, although that’s part of it, but it goes nowhere near deep enough. I mean that hidden and overt emotional states that are mostly subconscious so we are not aware of them actually cause physical illness and symptoms and need to be ‘dealt with’ before some people will get well.
Is It Emotional?
When I first started this newer way of looking at healing, not least because I couldn’t seem to get myself well in the same way as I could help hundreds of others to achieve it (SO frustrating!), I promised myself I would be open to anything the ‘Universe’ wanted to send me as clues and I would not use my intellectual health knowledge to block me. I also realised quite simply how terrified of reactions I had become, no doubt because of the migraine and mouth pain which had been excruciating, necessitating morphine, a couple of times. Nothing like pain at that level to make you fearful and to start looking for other ways into your body! Suffice to say, fear is a real driver of pain and illness and, unsurprisingly, things just got worse and worse the more fearful I felt.
I decided to try and take control a bit and wrote a timeline of what had happened when. That was my first convincer that there might be more to this than meets the eye. I discovered that every time I had had a major stress or trauma in my life, not long after, I developed a new ‘intolerance’ or sensitivity. It started with IBS and continued from there. I made the connection between stress/trauma and my sensitivities and symptoms. Aha, I thought: a clue. I promised not to ignore them. So, I started reading up about those links and discovered a huge field of writing and medical research/practice I previously only had very rudimentary awareness of. The very act of reading about the subject, seeing others say what I was coming to realise and, more than that, seeing others had got well by working on the issues turned out to be part of the healing process.
In essence, I now see my symptoms as having an emotional trigger rather than physical much of the time. I see my sensitivities as a conditioned learned response (like a Pavlovian dog) that my brain has decided to use for some reason to protect me (I don’t have to know why) but I need to change my food beliefs now to something more positive. Note: this is not to say there is nothing physical wrong; there is BUT having NCGS/Coeliac disease/leaky gut etc etc should not be causing this much hyper-sensitivity, so, as far as I am concerned, there is something else in tandem going on, and that’s what I am focusing on.
That change in belief has taken away a lot of the fear that there is something very physically wrong with me and has allowed me to become less of a victim and more in-tune with what my body is trying to tell me. This sounds airy-fairy, I know, but trust me. This knowledge is a powerful thing.
I am not out of the woods by a long chalk yet, but I am a very different person to the one I was at the start of last year. I am no longer negative, fearful of the future, feeling out of control or like a victim. I am well most of the time. My symptoms, when they do start, can be ‘talked down’ a lot of the time now by asking my body what it wants me to know (I know this sounds daft!) and dealing with it and when they do persist, they are (so far!) much less severe. I am a size 8, avoided every infection and lurgy going over Christmas despite everyone having it around me (I hope this is not famous last words..!), I am a calmer, more peaceful person, although still given to flares of emotion (I am half Italian; that’s my job!) and hopeful for the future. I am in a good place.
The point of the exercise for me at the start was to feel better and let go of the grip illness had on my life. I feel i have achieved that so am happy. I just have to work on identifying any emotional or belief triggers, if you like, of the food sensitivities specifically now. I say ‘just’ but I’m sure this will take a lot of work and time to achieve, if this approach indeed will work for them; we will see!
The Healing Plan (so far!)
Here now then are the main parts of the therapy programme I have worked out for myself in case it helps you too. This is a huge post, for which I apologise, but I felt it was important to keep this all together so that people don’t miss out important bits trying to find relevant separate posts, so do forgive me…
The first thing I would advise on a practical level is to explore this area of psychological illness yourself if you need to. There are hundreds of books you could read, all of them no doubt useful, but some of my favourites have been:
The Biology of Belief, Dr Bruce Lipton, a classic in this field
You Are The Placebo, Dr Joe Dispenza, really opened my eyes to the power of the mind in causing and curing illness; I just couldn’t dispute the evidence after reading this.
The Divided Mind, Dr John Sarno, quite technical but I recognised myself so much in this at one point, it made me cry! It gave me hope.
TMS Illness (Or MindBody Syndrome)
This latter book, actually, is by the founder of the field of TMS medicine – tension myosotis syndrome – which is now sometimes called mindbody syndrome. This might not mean much to you, but it really concentrates on how emotions cause pain syndromes and many other chronic illnesses. Dr Sarno started by dealing with back pain – as a mainstream back pain consultant he got frustrated with the poor results using surgery, steroids etc etc and instead turned to using a simple method of concentrating on the emotional rather than physical pain which resulted in the physical pain disappearing, much to his great initial surprise. Sounds too simple but I have done it and it has really helped.
I can now talk my pain down sometimes by acknowledging it is emotional rather than physical in origin. No, I would never have believed it either… Anyway, his earlier book The Mindbody Prescription is a lot easier but is more on back pain. That doesn’t really matter, actually, because it is applicable to many illnesses anyway. It’s certainly a shift in thinking, I grant you, but actually I went to see a TMS practitioner for diagnosis and she almost laughed at the classic TMS nature of my issues: bone pain as a child, PCOS and severe period pain from teens, IBS, migraine, mouth pain, swelling throat, restless legs and allergies – all common TMS illnesses apparently! In other words, she was in no doubt at all I had TMS illness. I agree with her. I will come back to TMS in a bit…it gave me hope and a different approach anyway, which I welcomed.
You will see, in fact, that the prescription for TMS Illness is simply to read and read about it until your belief about your illness changes. The prescription is the reading. How cool is that?
Of course, for some it is not as simple as that, but it is an important part of the healing process so I suggest you do it. In essence, I believe the process is a akin to neuroplasticity brain changes, like we treat stroke victims who have to build a new neural pathway to replace their dysfunctional one. The more we tell our brains something, the more it changes. And, it is when the brain changes that we turn on and off our genes. That is the basis of epigenetics. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Be consistent. Piddling about with this type of approach doesn’t work. It has to be consistent and done for long enough from what I can tell so far. It is not an easy quick fix for most, no matter when you read the seemingly miraculous overnight successes in the books. Shame.
A different approach from TMS is Meta-Health. This is quite controversial and I have a lot more to read up on this yet, but it makes a lot of sense to me so far. If we are open to agreeing that chronic illness can be caused or at least exacerbated by emotions or psychological stress/trauma often at a subconscious level so we are not aware of the impact they have, how does one find out which events caused which symptom? I’m not sure you actually need to know but I started looking into this for a stubborn skin symptom as I thought it might give me some clues. It’s fascinating! In essence, they believe that certain organs and body tissues link to specific emotional states and even to specific symptoms and senses. Again, I found it hard to get my head around, but I promised myself not to block anything, so…
Here’s an example for you. Take skin eg. eczema. In Meta-Health terms, this is an epidermis rather than a dermis problem. So far, so good. The epidermis is linked to the sense of touch. Logical. The belief is that some loss of touch either recent or in the past (could be sexual, parental, loss of a relationship, even the loss of a pet or getting lost somewhere) is the most likely trigger for skin problems like eczema. I had assumed it would be something like not feeling protected (skin is our biggest protective organ etc), but, in Meta-Health world, it is caused by another form of separation anxiety. You see my point. I have no idea if that is right but you work on it anyway. Fascinating.
What you need then is a list of the organs and emotions, don’t you? I haven’t found a brilliant one yet but the best I have found so far is:
Meta-Health – Decoding Your Body’s Intelligence by Johannes R Fisslinger (fab name!).
There is a UK Meta Health site – actually geographically very close to me – I may be paying a visit! In fact, they have a good series of 4 articles, including one on eczema which is what started me off on that subject. I need to do more research on this area of new medicine but it’s potentially very exciting!
This I found to be really important. I have found if I read and hear other people’s success stories about them overcoming severe illness, often miles more severe than mine, then I start to believe I can do it too. I listen to a success story, or do something on this every day. Faves on this are:
Pathways to Pain Relief, Anderson and Sherman. This is written by two former Dr Sarno physicians about their cases. Again, lot of back pain because that’s what they specialise in, but inspiring never the less. There are loads of such stories – for the very reason I have said above – in the Sarno books anyway. Two others I liked include:
They Can’t Find Anything Wrong, Dr David Clarke
The Great Pain Deception, Steven Ray Ozanich
From a different non-TMS approach, one of the first success stories books I read was:
Secrets To Recovery, Alex Howard. This is a collection of stories of really ill ME patients, including Alex himself, who all used nutrition and psychological approaches combined (as I am now advocating) to get well after sometimes years in bed. After I read this book, I joined the online Secrets To Recovery site and now listen to loads of the stories as part of my therapy. I am now also following some of the psychology treatments recommended and have adapted them to what I need. I shall tell you about some of those in a bit.
3. Find Unconscious Issues and ‘De-Charge’ Them
In the last in my series, I recommended you start looking into your heart with compassion meditation and heart sutra meditation. Did you do it? If you did, you will no doubt have found some issues are there. But what do you do with those emotions? It’s one thing to find them, but it’s quite another to know how to release any negative charge they might still have in relation to causing your ill health.
The problem with emotional causes of illness is that they are mostly unconscious (or subconscious; means the same really). Think of the iceberg metaphor. Most of what you are aware of emotionally is the 20% above the water, which means 80% of it is deep down under the water and you have no clue of the impact they could be having on you. Yep, I resisted that one too. Bear with me.
If we assume all the psychologists are right and that unrepressed, hidden or somehow ‘undealt-with’ emotion causes real physical pain and chronic illness, we somehow have to bring them to the surface to be ‘set free’. Well, that’s how I think of it anyway. I have found two methods here that work for me.
Sometimes – and for some people – you can simply start talking to yourself about a particular subject – a symptom, a thought, an illness, an emotion, a past event or whatever – and your mind will just talk back to you if you listen to it! I found this hard until I started doing a form of EFT/EMDR trauma release called WHEE. (I will return to EFT in a moment. Suffice to say I just reacted too strongly to it and had to use WHEE first).
Incidentally, now I am more in tune, I can actually ask the question what is wrong when a symptom appears and get an answer. For example: my oesophagus swells up. Previous belief: I must be reacting to something, probably tap water or citrus. When asked, the emotional cause most often that appears in my mind is un-shed tears, sadness. The lump in the throat, I presume, but quite literally in my case. I look at what has happened before the symptom started, bring it to mind, think about it, use the techniques below on it if need be, promise to resolve whatever has upset me and go and do it right then, or just ask it to go away as I am dealing with the emotion causing it and, more often than not now, it goes down.
The symptom is acting as a message from my subconscious mind to tell me something is wrong that I should deal with OR it is acting as a distraction technique to keep me from thinking about something that my mind is protecting me from. (All of this will become clear when your read the TMS stuff, I promise!). Are you following me?
Another example, in case: my jaw pain flashes acutely. Previous belief: I have had corn. I am reacting. Emotional cause: you are gritting your teeth against something. I release anger, frustration or whatever I think is right and it goes. Mostly. This is SUCH a relief I can’t tell you.
A final one: my ear swells up and fills with fluid. Previous belief: I have had garlic or something I am reacting to. Emotional cause: I don’t like what I’m hearing, I am overwhelmed, shut up! I think about what might have upset me that I heard or remove myself from noise and it settles.
All of these are regular ones. I haven’t got to migraines yet or some of the other symptoms as it has taken quite a while to be able to do this after a few months of working on it. I’m sure this will not be the case every time, but it’s nice that it works sometimes at least!
WHEE (Wholistic Hybrid of EFT and EMDR) is really easy. It is a technique invented by Dr Daniel Benor, who has been in the psychology field for many years and who found this technique the most effective and gentle in the end. I have to agree with him. It worked for me in the early days when nothing else would.
In essence, all you do is do the so-called butterfly hug where you fold your arms across yourself and alternately tap each arm and talk to yourself about whatever you are trying to deal with. It is a combination of EFT (emotional freedom technique) and EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing), which both have a history of enabling people to release and deal with emotions and traumas. In fact, P used to use EFT and EMDR regularly in his hynotherapy practice. It worked on me and for most then; I forgot about it!
It is much gentler than straight EFT I’ve found. The beauty of it is that you can do it anywhere in a hidden manner as soon as you feel a symptom or emotion coming on. I tap my tongue behind my teeth, alternating left or right, all over the place, in queues, in the car etc! I have used it many times to stop a symptom developing now. It works most of the time, certainly to some degree or another. This has been my main convincer that emotions and thoughts are involved.
It’s hard to explain so I would advise you watch a free video by Dr Benor, where he shows how it works. I actually started with YouTube videos from Bea Resnick who does self-talk videos using WHEE. I began my WHEE/EFT journey by doing self talk from Bea every day for about half an hour. It helped to start shifting my mindset. I have been in touch with both Dan and Bea, who are both very gentle and kind people. Bea actually does a whole book of self talk scripts that she sent me and I worked through the whole thing twice over a few weeks. That seemed to be how I needed to start. I tried going straight into EFT but was having nightmares, symptom reactions etc so I had to step back a bit.
Anyway, the point is that I think doing the WHEE is a good way of simply talking to yourself and has the added benefit of helping you de-charge any negative emotions that come up at the same time. In essence, if you are familar with EFT, you do the same thing but without the points; just use the alternate tapping instead.
A clue to how I use it..
Next time you find a symptom starting just start tapping and say ‘even though I can feel this x starting – and say a lot about it here, what does it feel like, how long have you been having it, what do you think is going on, or say you don’t know what it is about, just chat with yourself!- I know I am OK and safe, say something positive to yourself and even picture something that makes you smile.
Keep going, chat away some more being as specific about how the issue makes you feel now, in the past, for the future etc. It’s the thought linked to emotion you are trying to bring up and work on. Keep repeating whatever sounds right. Then shift the words more to:
even though….blah, blah, blah…I now choose to see that this symptom is emotional and there is nothing physically wrong with me, I choose to let this symptom go now, I choose to release all associated emotions and beliefs..I am grateful that my body is showing something is wrong and I am dealing with it now, I am looking at the underlying causes of my symptoms and I no longer need these physical messages and signs, thank you anyway. I am safe, I am OK, I am healing.
There are zillions of ways to do this and you don’t need to get too caught up in what to say and how to say it. What ever sounds right for you. It changes for me every time. Just let your mind take over and say whatever comes up; it’s your subconscious brain you are talking to here so let it speak. Use the EFT resources below to learn more about how to do the statements etc if you need to and then just use WHEE instead of the tapping.
OK, some of you are probably way beyond me and into EFT straight. I am not going to reinvent the wheel but I will give you my favourite resources and what has helped me the most. Again, I think the real success behind EFT and the like is because of the ‘talking to yourself’ nature of it. Your subconscious is involved and it is a way of accessing it. It’s also repeat work so can only help to change neural pathways and ways of thinking – neuroplasticity at work. Remember: if your way of thinking changes, so does your brain and so do your genes. IT’s important.
First, learn all about EFT and how to do it right from the founder himself Gary Craig.
Follow the free tutorial programme at EMoFree.com. Gary gave his technique free to the world and who knew it was going to be so enormous!
For me, I have found that tapping along with other people is more beneficial than doing EFT on my own. This is called ‘borrowing benefits’ and is a known way to increase the power of EFT. I agree. I do find the WHEE easier to do on my own though as it is so accessible.
Brad Yates is a popular online EFT video coach (US). I like him. Here is a link to a load of his healing videos which I do regularly. Look on the right hand side and there is a load there where someone has done a list of them.
David Childerley has millions of followers on YouTube and he set up www.mygenie.tv where he has thousands of tap-along videos you can access for a monthly fee. He is a UK EFT coach and I like his laid-back attitude. Also, I found he has some specific tap-alongs on food issues generally; one on food sensitivities that I do daily. I can’t say I believe every thing he says in it, but it’s close enough for me. You have to pay for that one I think. If you are interested it is in the A-Z called EFT Choices Technique 3.
His wife, Michelle, has actually done a freebie one which is very different and focuses on safety and peace. This is not as daft as it seems because one thing that keeps cropping up is that food sensitivity and over-sensitivity of any type is all about a lack of feeling safe from somewhere. Remember: you don’t necessarily have to recall the event where you felt unsafe; I just assume it’s there and work on it. I like it anyway and do both David’s and hers as they come at it from different angles.
Personally, for changing food beliefs, I would do Michelle’s and the choices technique 3 daily. For general healing, also follow David’s free Self Mastery 30 Day Challenge free on YouTube or his 7 Days To Freedom series of videos on the website, especially if you’ve not done much EFT before or need a push towards healing and opening up your mind. The food specific one, in reality, is all about how to let go of a limiting belief and conditioned response, which is what we have in some ways. Have a go anyway.
So, those are how I learned to ‘talk’ with my subconscious mind to try and get closer to what was behind my illness. There is another way, too, that I found very powerful.
4. Start Journaling
You hear loads about journaling and how writing things down helps you get to the bottom of stuff. There is a load of research actually that suggests people who write in a diary every day have less illness! But, there are good and not so good ways to do it. There are three faves here:
TMS Wiki. This is a completely free online TMS Illness programme to follow and it is excellent. The basis of it is reading stuff, watching videos, success stories and a lot of journaling of specific types. It’s done by people and consultants – from mainstream medicine mostly – who have done it and got well. Inspiring stuff.
Expressive Writing: Words That Heal, James Pennebaker is a fabulous book which takes you through a whole programme of different journaling techniques. You would think there is only one way to do that but you would be wrong. It’s fascinating what comes out when you ask your body a different way or a specific question. For example, I just couldn’t bring stuff to mind on the TMS Wiki at some points but using other techniques in this book unblocked me and it all came splurging out. First, I didn’t know anything was there and, second, it was not what I expected at all. Just goes to show.
The simplest way to start journaling is to just write. I did the Morning Pages as described in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way which is really good too. Just go and get yourself a nice new journal and pen and start. Just write anything down for 3 pages without stopping, even if it’s just ‘I can’t think of anything!’ and keep doing it every day. Eventually, your subconscious will start revealing itself.
On that actually, I must say that the point of identifying and releasing emotions and subconscious messages is not so you can be re-traumatised all over again! If you need help as you suspect there are deep things you need help with then get some. I have done that myself. Sometimes you need help to see the wood for the trees. For most of us, just writing emotions and thoughts down, ending on a happy note (important), and then not re-reading the pages is all we need.
Combining WHEE and Journaling
One method I have found useful sometimes is if I feel I am thinking about an issue that’s come up: it means it has a charge on it which needs to be released – so I sometimes just read the writing out whilst doing WHEE or just WHEE myself (I just wanted to say that!) about it or use some EFT to work through it. The point of the exercise is to release hidden emotions that may be contributing to your illness, your symptoms, your lack of ability to heal and to take the negative charge from them. You won’t forget the event that triggered the emotion, but you should be able to get to a position where you remember it but it doesn’t upset you in the same way anymore, if that makes sense.
This does change frequently depending on what my body tells me to do really, and sometimes I have a complete day or even a week off if I feel that’s right. It has been described to me as like letting the fizz out of a bottle: little releases frequently is better than one great spurt out! When I started, the fizz release was too much to cope with, so that’s why I wrote the post Whoa Is Me! for you earlier to encourage you to go slowly with this and not like a bull in a china shop as I did!
Currently, this is more or less what I do:
Short 10 minute meditation or visualisation in the morning
Journaling after lunch and work on any issues that come up, do my standard WHEE/EFT tap alongs
Meditation, deeper and longer after work or listen to a success story whilst cooking tea/going for a walk/cleaning etc
Before sleep, read something positive like a TMS type book or a success story, visualise me being well, eating yummy stuff and go to sleep on that thought!
Yes, it is hard work and takes up time. But I want to get well. I will talk about visualisation techniques for you next time, by the way as there are specific ways to visualise that are better than others. I have no idea where I am going with this yet, of course; I am learning like you. All I can say is that I feel better for it and am determined to make it work!
Phew! There is a lot of information there for you. I have kept it as a whole (not least because it might form a chapter in a healing book if I ever get the chance to do that!) but more because it does all hang together as a process and I don’t want people not finding relevant posts later on, so apologies for the length of it; at least it is all in one place! Clearly, there is much more than all that to say on this kind of subject but this kind of healing can only be done by you and in your head. That’s why I’ve given you the resources I liked, although you may prefer something entirely different. I hope it helps move you forward anyway.
What Am I Now?
For those of you following my ‘visions’, they have been very revealing and actually give me the best sense of progress. When I began, I was a frightened deer, all spindly, weak and ready to run, then a hare with stronger legs but still very alert, then a strong muscular snake, more in touch with the earth beneath me, then a tiny yellow flower with weak roots and reaching for the sun.
After that, it all started to get a lot more ‘spiritual’ for want of a better word. Over a few weeks, I imagined myself suddenly rising up and taking a breath as if I had been under water, then I turned into tiny golden pieces and was ‘part of the Universe’ if you like, spinning in some kind of vortex of golden light. It was beautiful that one. After that, I had a great big black balloon inside me that popped and I was very depressed for days and felt absolutely thin and hollow. The balloon somehow got pulled very slowly into a column of golden light and then I was in there ranting away, quite mad and clearly very angry at something. After a few days of that, I was sad and staring out but still stuck in there. Then I had a sense of the golden light coming out of the tube and hovering like a cloud, eventually going into me like a ‘dose’ of something. Now, the golden light vortex is inside me. When I am meditating, that column inside me vibrates with the golden light outside me somehow and I am dancing.
Flippin heck! I told you I was changing….! Whatever next. Don’t care because it feels nice anyway and that feels like good change to me so I will continue what I’m doing and see what transpires next!
In essence, today’s advice is:
Start taking action. Think about your beliefs about your illness. Are they really true? Could there be an emotional element to it? Do you fit a TMS Illness pattern? Start brain-changing simply with reading and success stories. Then, use journaling and WHEE/EFT to access your subconscious to explore and de-charge any negative emotions or associations. Action needs to be for long enough and every day if you want this to work. Oh, and don’t forget to include your meditation too!
Not much to do there then: off you go… I hope it helps 🙂