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.

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