This week Caroline Khambatta is guest contributor. Caroline has been developing the application of Reverse Therapy to Multiple Sclerosis. Below she describes the moving outcome of one such case.
A client I shall call ‘Ruth’ rang me last year asking me to treat her for MS.
She told me:
“Actually what I really want is the buzz back in my life. You’ve treated 2 friends of mine, one for Chronic Fatigue and one for Depression and both are buzzing and full of life. With all this pain and dizziness I have, I’ve lost that buzz. Can you help?”
Ruth had four treatments and reduced her symptoms by 70-100% and found that the more attention she paid to her body’s needs, the quieter the symptoms became. The first time they went away completely we both felt awed by what she had achieved and the possibility of what this could mean for others. The hairs on Ruth’s arm stood on end, as did mine on the back of my neck.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease in which the myelin sheaths around the nerve cells are broken down, losing neural insulation. That often leads to lesions in the brain and loss of function within various muscle groups. Ruth was diagnosed with relapsing, remitting MS and although she had never been pain free during the time she had contracted the disease, she started to apply Reverse Therapy to the symptoms.
As a child, Ruth had been taught to bottle up any feelings she had and, instead, use rationalizations to guide her towards ‘doing the right thing’. After years of blocked emotions and unfulfilled needs her Bodymind was effectively using MS symptoms to alert her to the need for overdue change.
As Ruth started to treat her symptoms as messengers from Bodymind she became more aware of her emotions and what she really wanted to say or do. The first time she was symptom free was when she was totally tuned into her body and was planning what she wanted do to resolve a particular situation which involved a neighbour, who was making her life unbearable.
Here are some of the changes she has made:
She dropped her old rule that ‘pins and needles in my legs mean I must stay still’ and now acts on these in a different way. Usually, she wants to get up and move around or do something more interesting.
Being a very ‘polite’ person she found herself at the beck and call of others – only her symptoms stopped her from saying ‘yes’ to everyone. Now she speaks up and does what she wants to do more and more.
Ruth has started creating better balance in her life and doing fun things like walking to the pub with a friend.
Ruth also sorted out the problem with the neighbour. As a result, she felt physically lighter and symptoms dropped as soon as she decided she wasn’t going to put up with things any more and decided to move from the area and buy somewhere else with her boyfriend.
“I am more aware of my body, the relationship between my life pressure and my symptoms, I can walk better, feel more grounded and have reduced my symptoms by 70% most days and 100% on a really good day. Now I want to build up my strength and confidence.”
Other MS clients have started to take steps towards resolving upsetting issues and had the first evenings of pain free living since they could remember. Meeting up with a long lost son after 15 years created Frank’s first symptom free day in years.
A third client tells me that, having used Reverse Therapy for a few weeks, he has shifted from excruciating pain in his legs each evening to a level of discomfort that he finds tolerable.
Another client who is moving house and changing jobs noticed feelings coming back into her feet as soon as she decided to ask her husband for more help with the kids.
So far, of the clients we have worked with in Reverse Therapy, all those with Relapsing Remitting MS have been able to reduce their symptoms to some degree. We have only seen one client diagnosed with Progressive MS and she was able to achieve in increase in emotional balance, but it had no affect on her symptoms. In this case we believe the tissue damage was, sadly, too severe for symptoms to be reduced. All the clients who have managed to make their symptoms go quiet are overjoyed.
The implications, so far, are profound. It would seem that a Bodymind approach to symptom-healing can impact on illnesses traditionally regarded as ‘irreversible’.
When I was a child Death terrified me. When the elderly next-door neighbor who used to give me sweets died I asked my father what had happened to her. Reluctantly he mumbled that she had gone and wouldn’t be coming back.
‘Well, where is she now?”.
‘Up there’ he said, his finger pointing to the ceiling.
Even at six years old I was smart enough to realise that living in the clouds couldn’t be much fun. So I persisted with the interrogation.
‘Does everyone die, Daddy?’.
‘Yes – everyone. Everyone.’
From then, for quite a few years, I thought about it a lot. How could people just vanish? It seemed ridiculous. I would walk home from school and look at all the grave-stones in the cemetery. Here so-and-so had died in 1887. There a child had died in 1909. Over there, her grave surmounted by a huge, sorrowing angel, someone else had gone in 1956 – the year I was born. Once they had lived and breathed and loved – now nothing.
I mention this experience because it sums up the common dread of death: that we shall be nothing at all at some point in the future.
Let us leave aside whether or not there is an after-life. As it happens I believe there is an after-life, although not the one some people imagine, where we carry on as somehow the same person. But that is irrelevant. Because even the after-life, too, will have to come to an end at some point in the future. And then we – that is the person we are now – will most definitely come to an end
This problem is in fact entirely created by Headmind and the Ego. The worry is that this unique, ‘special’, person that I am will cease to be. That the world should not and must not continue without me.
The cemeteries are full of indispensable people – many of whom got there earlier than they needed to by trying to prove that the world could not do without them.
The solution lies in grasping that our terror of death only exists through a hallucination. The fiction is that we will go from life to death, from something to nothingness.
But when we are truly alive – right now – we know that we are a part of everything and that something lives through us that can never die. You can call that God, or the Divine, or Spirit but those are only names. You have to experience it to know it. And you experience it in moments of love, joy, awe, ecstasy and excitement.
Here are some examples from my own experience:
- Watching my children being born
- Kindness from a friend when I was at my lowest ebb
- Diving off the rocks into the Aegean sea at sunset
- Looking at Giotto’s paintings of the life of Christ in Padua
- Realising that Reverse Therapy was ‘my mission’
- Watching a healer at work in Brazil
In such experiences we know – through Bodymind – that something very powerful works in, and for, and through, us. And that something never dies. Only Headmind, and the ego, dies.
‘Nothing burns in hell except self-will.’
Many people with M.E. will know that they are continually being pushed towards Cognitive Behavior Therapy as the treatment. You may even have been told: ‘nothing else works’ or ‘this is the only thing that has any scientific evidence going for it’.
Er…well, the problem is that there is no real scientific evidence that CBT works for anything. There have been about three worthwhile studies on CBT for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome published in the UK and only one of those produced any evidence at all that CBT could be effective in reducing symptoms. Yet even that one study compared CBT with relaxation techniques which (as anyone with CFS will tell you) are practically useless. I wonder how CBT will look when it finally goes head to head with a really effective contender like Reverse Therapy?
Cognitive Therapy, as I never tire of reminding people, was developed to treat Depression. Since M.E. is not depression why should anyone assume that it will work for that condition? Cognitive Therapy works on changing peoples’ thoughts, beliefs and expectations. But since Chronic Fatigue symptoms are not created in the head there is no reason to believe the belief that changing beliefs will make any difference.
In fact, about twenty years ago it was realized that changing thoughts doesn’t make much difference to Depression either. Or Anxiety. Or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Or anything else. That was why Cognitive Therapy was merged with Behavior Therapy – because it began to dawn on one or two minds that getting someone to change their thoughts about their problems isn’t going to make any difference until they do something about them. The truth of the matter is that it is probably the ‘B’ part of the process that is effective for a few people, not the ‘C’ part.
Unfortunately for the moguls that run the National Health Service there is no evidence that CBT is effective for anything else either. In one recent study in Scotland over 1000 patients who had received CBT years before were followed up. Of the 489 who could be bothered to talk about the therapy (were the rest too ill to come to the phone?) over half of them were still unwell and 30% of them still had severe symptoms. That means – in plain terms – that less than 10% of the original number were reporting any benefit at all. If you were a taxi-driver and only managed to get 1 out of 10 passengers to their destination you’d soon be out of business. Yet the current Government wants to spend £600 million pushing CBT on the rest of us. With the absurd claim that it has all been scientifically proven.
So why is Cognitive-Behavior Therapy the number one most used therapy in the UK and the United States? Well, folks, the main reason is that it is promoted by the Psychology industry, which is now well-embedded in the universities, the health services, in business, government and the press. And because it fits in with what the powers-that-be think people should be like: rational, reasonable, normal workers who can control their thoughts, act sensibly and not get over-emotional. In that sense what someone who goes in for CBT is really getting is an indoctrination in mainstream psychology. Don’t forget, nearly all the research that has so far been carried out on CBT has been organized by – you’ve guessed it – other psychologists. This is one reason why most of the research is unbelievably biased.
Here are a few reasons why Cognitive-Behavior Therapy won’t work for M.E.
No evidence exists that CBT can eliminate symptoms, only that it can reduce them.
CBT has a high initial drop out rate. Over 20% of people with M.E. do not go back after their first session.
M.E. symptoms are not created by thoughts so changing thoughts won’t make any difference.
Sufferers who have headaches, fatigue, muscle pain, IBS, sleeping problems, etc feel insulted by the suggestion that they can get better through positive thinking. Another reason they are unlikely to go back.
Forms. CBT makes people fill out endless forms, questionnaires and journals. Doing which not only creates frustration but triggers brain fog too
Since symptoms are created in the brain, glands and nervous system only an approach – like Reverse Therapy – that recognizes and works with Bodymind has any chance of reversing the condition.
This in turn means recognizing that the symptoms are created because the organism – the body – is in crisis. And that we have to address the organic cause, rather than the negative beliefs that people have developed after becoming ill.
When CBT does help in reducing symptoms it is not because CBT is effective but because it is accidentally – and without realizing what is happening – encouraging the client to try new activities that reduce Bodymind’s need to create symptoms as a warning call. But Reverse Therapy does that anyway.
Ever since Hans Selye came up with the idea of stress in the 1950s people have misunderstood what he meant by it. They think stress is something that happens to you. Well – no – shit happens and then some people get stressed and some don’t. Selye’s point was that people get ill because they have been unable to adapt to challenges. The emotional overload that comes with that eventually leads to a break down in body function.
You can put two people through the same circumstances – unemployment, break up, financial disaster, or fleas on their dog – and one person will react beautifully and the other will get ill.
What that means is that the ‘stressed’ person will get stuck in Headmind, will overload with fear, frustration and grief, and the General Adaptation Syndrome will kick in – the stress response. This happens as Bodymind tries to keep things going and uses symptom-signals to kick start the person into action. While no action is taken we get the Resistance stage, then the Alarm stage (first appearance of stress symptoms) and then the Stalemate stage (symptoms become chronic).
One thing Selye got wrong was that he thought there were only two responses a person could make: fight or fly. But those two are often dumb responses. There is no point in thumping the boss if she is exploiting you – that just makes it harder to get another job. Nor is there any point in running away from her – that just encourages her to abuse you some more.
The emotional subtlety of Bodymind cues you up for plenty of smart moves if you are aware enough to be able to decode the feelings that go with them. For example, you could use assertive language, find some allies, clarify what exactly is it she wants, or start looking for another job.
Now the reason some people get stuck is that they have no memory banks that tell them what to do about problems. If you have never learned how to say ‘no’ then you are not going to be able to defend yourself against unreasonable demands – so you have to start to practice doing just that. If your partner leaves you and that has never happened to you before then you are going to have to get advice, help and support from others.
Now this is where Headmind can create a road-block. When it focuses on problems rather than solutions, past failures instead of future prospects, and when it assumes that learning something new or asking for a help represents ‘failure’, then you have a problem. You won’t be able to adapt to the challenges, problems will mount up, the emotional overload will become acute, and you will get ‘stressed’.
When Headmind gets stuck in hopelessness then you will just give up. The secret is to reverse that by focusing on the possible, not the impossible.
Let me conclude with a story about one of the most ‘stressful’ experiences a human being can go through – as a prisoner in Auschwitz. Now many people would think that undergoing starvation and torture in one of the death camps would be one stressful experience people could not survive. But Victor Frankl – who spent three years in one – found that it was not entirely so. Those who had not been gassed were put to slave labor and many died. Yet he observed one simple fact – people were more likely to survive if they had something to live for – whether that was a spiritual faith, another human being, or a vision of the future. On one morning when he had collapsed in the freezing cold and was near to death he imagined being applauded by an audience after talking about his experiences and his discoveries about the power of faith. That enabled him to get up and try to carry on. Over twenty years later Frankl was talking at a conference about this experience and the entire audience got to their feet to applaud him, many with tears in their eyes.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation—just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer—we are challenged to change ourselves”
Victor Frankl 1905-1997
- Autoimmune disease
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Reverse Therapy
- Zen Buddhism