Reverse Therapy

Bodymind healing and awareness

Perfectionism

I actually found it hard to write something about this topic….nothing I ever wrote seemed quite right so I had to keep re-working what I wrote until it sounded ok…again and again…and it still isn’t right…..Seriously, the real reason I found it hard to write about this subject was that it takes me into an area in which it becomes hard to distinguish between Bodymind-generated emotions and Headmind-generated obsessions. So, thanks to one of my readers for suggesting this subject, you have stimulated me to work harder at making these distinctions clearer. And the result will be that I am going to write a series of blogs about pseudo-emotions like:

  • Perfectionism
  • Resentment
  • Guilt
  • Despair
  • Bitterness
  • Hostility
  • etc

The first thing to get clear about is the difference between an emotion and an obssession.An emotion is a signal sent by Bodymind to let us know that it is time for action, in the moment, on something that is bothering us. So, for example, fear signals come up when we are in danger or are vulnerable in some way. Typically, fear is a powerful, visceral emotion that prompts us for immediate action.An obsession is not an emotion although like a lot of other states (resentment, despair, worry) it can feel like one. Partly this is because obsessions are mixed up with emotions created by Bodymind, partly also because they tend to come with the state of anxiety.An obsession comes about because Headmind is worried about something. In the case of perfectionism the worry is that the person can never get it right and will therefore be criticised, rejected and hurt. The basis for this problem is conditioning. Somewhere along the way the child’s Headmind picked up the script ‘No matter how hard you try you will never be good enough’. A lot of people blame the Parents for scripts like these although, in my experience, Teachers and Priests are often the real culprits.The pity of it all is that there is absolutely no need for anyone to worry about having to get it all right. If you are out of your depth on something then Bodymind will trigger the fear signal to tell you to go and ask a few questions or get some help. But this is precisely what is disallowed by Headmind – the Perfectionist cannot ask for help because that would be to admit failure – imperfection. So he has to do it all by himself.In later life Headmind keeps playing these scripts every time a new challenge comes up. So each time the person settles down to do some work Headmind triggers the worry first, and then the obsession with ‘getting it all perfect’. With the sub-script – ‘work harder, you miserable failure’. That can get very scary. But each time Fear is created to remind us to get some help that is interpreted by Headmind as fresh evidence that the person is ‘imperfect’ triggering the script all over again.Now, if you spend too long doing the same thing over and over again then Bodymind is going to create the emotion known as frustration. That will be prompting you to give yourself a break. But when Headmind notices frustration coming up, it misinterprets that as fresh evidence of failure. So the script gets triggered again, and again and again.I will write more about the solution to perfectionism and other obsessional states in a later blog. But the first step towards breaking free of the trap is to disobey the script, own up to being ‘a failure’ and go and have some fun instead.

August 2, 2007 Posted by | Anxiety, Bodymind, Emotions, Headmind, Obsession, Perfectionism, Reverse Therapy, Scripts, Stress | Leave a comment

Monty Python and Kurt Vonnegut

“Life happens too fast for you ever to think about it. If you could just persuade people of this, but they insist on amassing information.”
Kurt Vonnegut 1922-2007

A fantastic story appeared last week from Tom Hart Dyke – the Eccentric Gardener. Apparently he and a friend were plant-hunting in the South American jungle when they were kidnapped by the Indians. Trying to persuade them that they were not CIA agents but just two average joes who got lost in the jungle, they hit on the idea of singing and dancing to them.

They launched into the Pythons’ ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life‘ announcing it as the English National Anthem.

‘If Life seems jolly rotten – there’s something you’ve forgotten – Always look on the bright side of life’ one of them sang in a baritone, while the other leapt into the air with his knees up to his chin, waggling his hands.

Very soon the guerillas, sub-machine guns at their sides, were rolling around on the floor, crying with laughter.

Life of Brian could well be the funniest film ever made. Be that as it might, Tom Hart Dyke’s story tells us that extreme situations invite laughter or tears. Either are ok but I prefer laughter. The Life of Brian is full of characters – religious zealots, empire-builders, revolutionary conspirators, who just don’t get how funny they are when they are trying to be serious. In short, they are stuck in their heads. And the more pedantic they try to be, the funnier they are.

Now in the story Tom Hart Dyke tells it could have gone the other way. He and his friend could both have got very serious in a way that would have made things worse. The more worried they got the more those Indians would have gotten suspicious. But the crazy idea of doing that song broke through the barriers. Through laughter they avoided tragedy.

Which brings me to the late, great Kurt Vonnegut. This was a man who, as an American POW, survived the Dresden Fire Bombing in 1945 which wiped out 130,000 people. And who still managed to write SlaughterHouse 5, a book which is funny as well as grief-stricken for the men, women and children who died in the worst war in history.

God bless all those like the Pythons, Kurt Vonnegut and Tom Hart Dyke who give us the gift of laughter. Goodbye Blue Monday!

April 13, 2007 Posted by | Bodymind, Emotions, Laughter, Stress | Leave a comment

The Fibromyalgia mystery

In my last post I mentioned Chris Moran’s observations that over three-quarters of his Fibromyalgia patients had first sufffered from whiplash and other injuries. This has been amply borne out by my own experience. To take 4 recent cases:

Case 1. A client in her 40s whose Fibromyalgia started following surgery after a car crash went wrong and left her with permanent nerve damage to her face.

Case 2. A client in her 30s whose Fibromyalgia started up after breaking both legs in a ski-ing accident.

Case 3. A client in his 30s who developed Fibromyalgia after a whip-lash injury from a car accident left him temporarily disabled.

Case 4. A client in her 60s with Fibromyalgia who had also suffered from Trigeminal Neuralgia for over 10 years.

Yet in each case the Fibromyalgia pain (although not always the other pain source) reduced or disappeared with changing circumstances. Case 1 found her symptoms were less when not caring for her very old mother. Case 2 at weekends when with her family and friends. Case 3 when not cooped up at home (he worked part-time). Case 4 when away on holiday.

So how does chronic pain link to Fibromyalgia? Here is my theory for what it is worth. Injuries and illness create pain in the first place and also a restricted, frustrating, life-style. This, in turn, leads to increased emotion (not only frustration but also sadness, anger and fear) as well as a reduction in joy. At this point the HPA axis is activated and eventually creates the further symptoms of Fibromyalgia – effectively prompting the individual to pay more attention to her emotional needs and change the way in which she has adapted to the pain.

Chronic pain is one of the most distressing experiences we can have. I well remember the pain I suffered for years from an undiagnosed appendix problem – as well as the intense pain that occurred the week before I was rushed into hospital when it ruptured. And yet my experience was small-scale compared to some of my clients. It’s no wonder they are emotionally vulnerable.

January 30, 2007 Posted by | Fibromyalgia, Health, Pain, Reverse Therapy, Stress | Leave a comment

Anxiety

Anxiety is sometimes called ‘the modern disease’ (or at least when I was a twenty-something poet I liked to think so). In fact this is not true. Chronic anxiety, according to a consensus of studies, only affects about 16% of the population.

The reason many of us think Anxiety is more common than it is, is that we get it mixed up with Fear. But Anxiety is not an emotion – it is a symptomatic state. Fear is an emotion.

Bodymind creates a fear response when we are confronted with an immediate danger that requires action on our part. It is a strong, visceral, emotion and we are being aroused to do something about the problem in that moment – find out more about it, talk to others, get help, do something about the situation. As we swing into action the emotion dissolves.

Anxiety is created by Headmind and relates to situations that have either not happened yet, or future situations we are worrying about. Anxiety comes up when we avoid taking action, dwelling instead on the ‘disaster movies’ Headmind cooks up for us. The symptomatic state that ensues – chest constriction, gut changes, sweating, rapid heart-beat, panic – is a warning that we are spending too much time in our Heads, thinking about the problem rather than getting involved. In fact, as research often shows, worries rarely come true.

Anxiety worsens with avoidance. The more Headmind worries about what will happen to us the more ‘obvious’ it seems to stay away from situations. Unfortunately, the more we stay away, the worse the anxiety gets, as Headmind has more unknown problems to feed on.

This difference can be clearly seen in shyness. Shy people are not fearful, they are anxious. They get trapped in the heads worrying about what people will think of them, of having nothing to say and drying up, of being rejected, etc. The remedy is to get some coaching and learn how to slowly make social situations easier. But avoiding society will only make the problem worse.

Sometimes fear and anxiety go together (now it gets really subtle!). So – we can be scared when we receive a tax bill and when that happens we are being motivated to talk to people who can help us find a solution. And we can also get anxious – a sure sign that we are avoiding action and hallucinating calamity. So when your tax bill arrives at the end of this month be sure to have your bank manager’s phone number handy.

I wish all my readers a Happy New Year!

January 9, 2007 Posted by | Anxiety, Headmind, Health, Reverse Therapy, Stress, Wellbeing | 1 Comment

5 worst Xmas mistakes to avoid

According to a survey carried out last week 2.3 million people in London expect to get stressed at Xmas. That’s about a third of the population there.

Before you read the next bit it’s important to get clear about what ‘stress’ actually is. It’s not pressure coming from out there (as when some people say they have ‘a stressful job’) and neither is it an illness (as when your friends say they are ‘really stressed’). Stress is an experience. It is what goes on with your Body when you go beyond your limitations. Your Body will typically create uncomfortable feelings, headaches, muscular tension, nausea, skin problems and other symptoms – simply because your Body is on red alert and is using symptoms to let you know you are vulnerable. Viewed the Reverse Therapy way, Stress is what you get when you stop listening to what your emotions are telling you and you get over-involved with other peoples’ priorities.

The first worst mistake you can make about Xmas is to do it in the first place. The best Christmas day I ever enjoyed (and my family too) was spent on the ski slopes in Bulgaria. If you are obliged to spend Xmas as usual then do something different while it is going on. This year my wife and I are doing a hotel away-break on Boxing Day….

The second mistake is save up all your grudges for unloading once you reach that critical point when the kids are on at you, your partner has fallen asleep and your elderly relatives whinge on about missing EastEnders (this would be around 4pm by my calculations). If you have to hold grudges then make sure they are sorted before the day itself.

The third mistake is expect it all to be fun. In fact Xmas is hard work for most people. The less you expect, the more welcome those Winter Wonderland moments will be.

The fourth mistake is trying too hard to please others. You won’t succeed – so make sure you take plenty of time out for you.

The fifth mistake is the saddest. Many people are alone at Xmas and that is one reason why depression statistics soar at the end of December. If you are forced to spend the holiday on your own then consider doing some charity work. Most charities are crying out for volunteers and you will have the satisfaction of making other peoples’ lives a little bit better while the rest of the world is at each other’s throats.

Whatever you decide to do – I wish all my readers a Christmas filled with divine peace.

December 23, 2006 Posted by | Reverse Therapy, Stress | Leave a comment