Friday 30 July 2010

Your gut feeling - Guy Cohen's inspirational journey

I just reviewed Guy's inspiring and very accessible book about his journey of courage and determination to be free from the symptoms of IBD - Ulcerative Colitis. I met Guy when he was speaking at a completely unrelated event. We had a chat afterwards and it was very clear to me that he really does walk his talk. He is such a positive man and so likeable, down to earth, bounding with energy and hugely entertaining. I hope in the future that he will be able to speak at one of our Crohnies and Collies events as he is an excellent role model and we share many beliefs about the mind's effect on the body: Many of these same philiosophies are cornerstones of my body neuro-feedback system. Below is a link to the book on Amazon UK where you can also read my fuller review and buy his book. It is also available at Amazon US. I really recommend you read Guy's book. It may make you think differently about the relationship you have with your body and the one that you could have.

(In his book, Guy talks about the people with Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis that he has helped and finds that the same approach is effective equally for both conditions.)

Thursday 29 July 2010

How hate harms!

I have just logged into Twitter and logged straight out again. It was all too painful. There was a hatefest going on and I had to leave. So much HATE!

What was the object of their hate? Their Crohn's Disease. This is completely understandable, but SO damaging. Many tweets were from hospital, all were in pain. It was terrible to read. I felt powerless to help remotely: I still recoil from the very real, remote wrath of Crohnies' second hand pain I received over Facebook after making suggestions of strategies that I "knew" would help. "It's just the wrong medium for this kind of help." And then I thought, "Joy, with all your knowledge, you can think of something... even at the risk of being damned to hell by these people in so much pain." So here goes....

I'm not going to tell you about the impact of long term stress on pain - that would be like the Ben and Jerry explaining to you in great detail just how they decided to stop making your favourite ice cream: It doesn't get you your ice cream.
I'm not going to tell you about all the brilliant pain management techniques I know - that would be like explaining the value of a saftey harness to a man falling from a tall building: You're not in the right space to make use of that kind of information right now.
I'm not even going to tell you about how focusing on the things in your life that you hate has been proven scientifically to be a destructive force at the cellular level, (you can have the references if you are interested - just email me. In the case of Crohn's this is like turning a thumbscrew on your intestines).

What I am going to tell you about is the guy that ran the Stanford Prison Experiment, Philip Zimbardo, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Stanford University. In his wonderful book, The Time Paradox, one of the many wonderful things he talks about is the scientific studies made by Bob Emmons and Mike McCullough into the value of gratitude (again, email me and I'll dig the references out for you). A group of people with neuromuscular disease were asked to take the time to think about and record five things in the last week for which they were grateful. They did this weekly for 9 weeks. A second group were asked to think about and record the things that were hassles and a third group were asked to to record objectively the events that had an impact on them. At the end of the nine weeks, the "gratitude" group reported greater satisfaction with their lives, greater optimism, more hours of sleep and waking feeling more refreshed than either of the other two groups.

I can draw on my own history of having two virtually identical abdominal operations thirty years apart. In the first one I awoke from the operation in the most unbelievable pain - I can recall it now perfectly - the pain appeared to start at about one metre above the bedclothes and they couldn't give me enough painkillers. When they suggested that I be helped to sit up I thought they must on a different planet.
After the second operation, a more invasive, longer  and "serious" one I had virtually no painkillers and felt like getting out of bed and walking around the next day.
What was the difference? One major factor: Before the first operation I had not reconciled myself to what was happening. From thinking I was a fit and healthy seventeen year old on the Friday I was going to be operated on on the Monday. I was incredulous: All I could think of was, "They are actually going to cut me open with a knife - raaaaagh. This can't happen to me" Every emotion I had was fighting it. The second operation I had reconciled myself to and accepted at every level. That's all.


Wednesday 28 July 2010

Line of least resistance!

I find it very difficult to describe my work in a way that I think properly conveys what I do, so I was very pleased to hear this today and I would like to share it with you....

One part of my work is developing leadership skills in executives of multinationals. During the feedback session with one of my clients today he said, "You are increasingly helping me to find more and better ways of divining the lines of least resistance. In turn I am helping my teams find their lines of least resistance with their teams. It feels like the ultimate light touch leadership: The better I get, the easier it gets and the better my results. It's like art."

And that's how it feels to me - when it's working as it should, my work is effortless art.

I love my work!

Whilst not all my posts are directly related to Crohn's disease and Ulcerative Colitis, they all have relevance in a number of ways :-).

Enlightenment, but not as you know it! (Do you find this funny?)

I was reminded today of an incident that always makes me laugh out loud. I guess I have a pretty strange sense of humour and today you get to judge for yourself.  This story tends to elicit either a raucous guffaw or a blank expression searching for some kind of indication as to which planet I'm from, and kindly enquiries as to my welfare; (sigh - I think you need to have trodden much of the same path as me.....)

OK here goes: I was looking through the glass doors of my book case for a particular book to lend a friend . Spotting it, I rapidly opened the door. As I was doing so I must have dislodged a large heavy lever arch file that must have been on the shelf above, resting on the top of the door. BANG! I felt a blow to the bridge of my nose (no pun intended) and not comprehending quite what had happened, I saw a widening pool of blood forming on the floor from the stream running off my face. Dazed, I looked at the book in my hand. It was Douglas Harding's description of the route to enlightenment through realising that we are not our bodies and we have no head. It is entitled, "On having no head".

That's the joke. There isn't any more. I guess you have to imagine it and realise, as I realised, that I obviously still have mine. :-) Oh well.... Comments welcome, (from whichever planet you're on!).


A little light relief from IBD - Crohn's disease and Ulcerative Colitis!

Friday 23 July 2010

Stress – The Toxic Emotion

I was reminded again this week of just how dramatic the effect of stress can be and I wanted to share this with you. Everyone encounters stress. Stress is a call to action. If we treat these calls to action appropriately the stress process has done its job and it goes away. Most people, however find that much of today’s stress isn’t dealt with and doesn’t go away; it remains in their body doing damage: Those stress feelings we get are more than just feelings – they are the result of our body producing chemicals. Most of us are familiar with adrenalin in response to stress and its association with our flight or fight mechanism: Prolonged production of adrenalin and its close relative, cortisol creates real damage – a chain reaction that would eventually create actual inflammation. That describes just one of a complex system of chemical process that can lead to locking in and reinforcing damaging mechanisms in the body’s organs, muscles and joints etc. Let’s look more closely at a typical stress situation and our response to it e.g. being habitually late when we intended to be on time. This usually means we allow ourselves to be late, not planning properly, rushing, not dealing appropriately with the perceived criticism or reprimand for being late, feeling guilty, making excuses, blaming situations and so on – a tangled web of events that binds in and compounds the stress rather than dealing with it at its cause. There are loads of other things that stress us out e.g. not being able to find the right words, feeling inadequate, being unable to say “no”, being unable to ask for what you want, feeling powerless, feeling like you have no choice, feeling bullied, feeling put upon, being pressured, being hurried, being manipulated, being made to feel guilty, ashamed, embarrassed, foolish, to blame, being unable to express anger.....and so on. All of these feelings are telling us to do something and very often we are unable to act in a way that provides the solution we are looking for.

I developed the Core Self © programme to enable people to develop the skills to understand when their body is responding in a stressed manner and to interpret its call to action and then decipher what action would be appropriate to allow that stress to disappear. In removing this residual stress we are stopping harmful chain reactions that result in chemical damage to the body so it can start the natural healing process and operate more healthily.

This week's very stark example of how a stress system can be locked in the body and create real physical symptoms presented itself recently in the form of a new client of mine who was undertaking my “Core Self” © Programme. It became clear from the number of times and the many contexts in which she referred to her “disability” that she was holding a number of limiting beliefs about herself. Each time I registered these remarks I became increasingly convinced that liberating her from these limiting beliefs would  free her from a lot of chronic and acute pain and gain far greater freedom of movement. I knew she was very strong – she had to be to have weathered the many storms she had encountered. The question was, was she strong enough to face reality and her limiting beliefs? When the time was right, as sensitively as I was able, I asked her the most brutal questions, challenging her remarks. Sure enough, the painful realisations occurred. She realised that although at an identity level she had been outwardly masking the disability and internally numbing her mind to the pain, she was subconsciously holding on to both her disability and the pain as a security blanket at a deep identity level. In internalising the pain she was carrying the burden as a backdrop to her life, allowing it to define a large part of her. You can imagine the impact of realising that you’ve been voluntarily carrying around this real pain, and suffering genuine lack of mobility for all these decades. Some people are not strong enough to face the emotion around that reality and they cannot continue. They walk off the emotional operating table because it is emotionally safer and less embarrassing to reject that new belief, than to embrace the process and implement what is needed for the healing to start and a new life, free from baggage.

Thankfully she had the courage to embrace the process and look to her new found freedom – swapping her excruciation and immobility for a future with a bearable ache, slight stiffness and a new lease of life.

Another reason for me sharing this with you is to emphasise an important point that is seldom recognised: With real personal change comes the real discomfort of the unfamiliar. Just as when your physiotherapist or sports coach says that your posture needs to change or the way you hold your racquet needs adjustment – it feels horrible - until you persevere and get used to it and very soon it becomes natural and flowing. Similarly, the temptation to go on with our old habits is very strong, even though you know that it will prevent your progress. The greatest learning often carries the greatest discomfort: When we have our eyes opened to what is really going on in our minds that bring us the results we are experiencing we can feel ridiculous. The secret is that when we can be grown up about this and can accept it, laugh at it and get on with it, (or as I say to myself sometimes, when I get over myself), any resistance and embarrassment simply melts away and everything suddenly becomes easier. That’s the simple truth. I believe that the secret to developing ourselves fully as human beings is to learn all we can about who we are and have a good laugh in the process and see ourselves develop a new, freer life.

I welcome comments from people with Crohn's disease and Ulcerative Colitis on how you feel this is relevant to your condition and your life.

Friday 16 July 2010

The Mind's Effects on Tourette's Symptoms

I'd love to share something with you that I've just discovered - this great piece of research on the beneficial effects of self hypnosis on Tourettes symptoms. Once more we have new evidence as to the mind's powerful effect on the body - this is the same rationale as is behind my approach:

The principles behind the use of self hypnosis are to engage the mind and quieten the internal chatter that creates the stress giving rise to verbal and physical tics. This internal chatter, as it is referred to in hypnotherapy and NLP, is the self-critical voice of introspection that can generate a spiral of self-doubt, fear of others' judgement and perfomance anxiety to name but a few destructive effects. The quietening of the mind "tunes" out this destructive chatter and relaxes us, enabling us to focus on the matter in hand. This relaxed state of mind is far more likely to enhance performance and at the same time make the same task appear easier and more effortless.

A lesson for us all here is that when we get our mind out of the way, everything improves!! That's another way of reminding us we have to "get over ourselves" :-)

Enjoy! - Joy x

P.S. Hypnosis has been proven to be effective in IBS and the quality of life of people with Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. References available on request.

Thursday 15 July 2010

The Dreams We Remember Are Our Mind's Way of Telling Us To TAKE ACTION!

 Image courtesy of 
Sorry for the long absence, but as well as being buried in pre-pilot preparation, the research requires that I don't talk about the study until it's complete and the jury's delivered their verdict. However, I can write about this......
I was just reading replies to my post about "Crohnies and meds related insomnia" and the subject of "NIGHTMARES" prompted me to post a reply. I found I got carried away as usual and went on for pages, but it seems to have resonated with many people - with and without Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, so I thought this might interest you. You see, dream analysis is something that I find really valuable. As a very skeptical individual, I can tell you that dream analysis, done properly is a very pragmatic tool for discovering what you are bothered about and what assumptions you are making about your options. After all, dreams are created by our own mind. Here is a quick overview:

Our dreams are a rich resource for revealing our view of the world in a far simpler and more direct way than most people imagine - and this can be enormously helpful in finding out what will make us happier. Dreams are the mind's way of communicating its interpretation of current situations to us. They are usually a call for us to take action, "Do something to make this situation different". In the case of the [bad dreams described on the discussion thread - ], there are extreme physical and emotional sensations being experienced with Crohn's and the mind is responding by calling for action to alleviate them.

In the case of the dreams experienced by people with Crohn's who are in physical pain and feeling bloated, the interpretation of dreams of being preganant, being in labour and undergoing a caesarian operation without anaesthesia is quite straight forward - I've even been told by men that they've dreamt about being pregnant and of having caesarian operations without anaesthesia, waking in screaming agony. The mind is calling out to its owner to find a means to end this pain - and it's offering you suggestions - it want soemething equivalent to an operation or giving birth, i.e. ".....after the operation / the birth the pain will stop. It's telling you, "Do something, to bring this pain to an end".

Dreams associated with emotional pain as well as physical pain are sending just as clear messages but are less direct and so need a little more interpretation: Whilst I don't hold with the view that dreaming of particular OBJECTS per se is significant, dreaming of particular EVENTS assoicated with particular emotions is:

Dreaming of teeth falling out is usually associated with people who are experiencing a fundamental fear associated with a lack of control over and a lack of trust in their body. This  lack of trust can extend to fear of the world in general, a overall sense of powerlessness, a desire to hide something and a fear of embarrassment. Having read this you may not be surprised to know that dreaming of teeth falling out is quite common in Crohn's sufferers: when you think about the effect of Crohn's symptoms it makes perfect sense. Many Crohn's sufferers understandably feel like victims to the condition in many ways.

I could go on, if you find it useful. Maybe I should add a part on dreams to the webinar on insomnia - perhaps it would be useful to some of you to learn how to make use of your dreams - not just how to interpret  your mind's response to your condition but also to understand how your mind wants you to alleviate your situation? Would this be useful to you? and then we could go on talk about how to use this knowledge to challenge and overcome some of your fears associated with your condition? We could maybe make it interactive with a few people - I think 8 is the limit for participants). Just let me know guys and then I'll know what to do!
Hope this helps!