Legend has it that there are some people who naturally find life easy, enjoyable and stress-free. I am definitely not one of those people.
Growing up, I expended a huge amount of energy struggling to fit in, manage, not feel depressed, not get capsized by some huge emotions, and to feel like my life was somehow worth all the huge effort it sometimes took just to get out of bed.
My depressions were a steady feature of my childhood. They worsened in my teenage years – with one particularly bad one lasting for about three years, coinciding with my family moving from the UK to Canada when I was 14 – and then popped up consistently for the next 15 years’ or so, whenever life got stressful.
At that stage, I tried to cope with my inner turmoil by throwing myself into my education, and then afterwards into my work and career. I also found that competitive sports helped to reduce the inner tension I permanently felt, so I was out playing tennis, basketball, netball, or soccer six times a week.
To get myself to sleep, I would read obsessively – anything to avoid the need to ‘think’ or to ‘be’ - until I literally fell asleep with the light on.
But at night, when I finally started to relax and unwind a little after a jam-packed, hectic day, that’s when all my repressed anxiety and fear would start leaking out. I’d always been a fitful and restless sleeper, but becoming a mother was the last nail in the coffin. Even when I was reading and exhausted, I couldn’t get to sleep for hours. And I would wake up from nightmares two or three times a night, frantically searching for my daughter, convinced that something awful had just happened.
I put it down to new mother-itis, and tried not to think too much about it. But by the time kid number 2 showed up a couple of years’ later, I was turning into a nervous wreck – but so quietly that no-one, including myself, really realized what was happening. Externally, life was going amazingly well: my husband was earning good money as a lawyer, I’d just started my own successful PR business, we lived in a nice home, had our two children, had a good group of friends…
But inside that perfect picture, I was feeling increasingly trapped, stressed-out and miserable. I was working like a dog, and I couldn’t seem to tell my clients ‘no’, or to put reasonable boundaries in place so that I’d have a life outside of my business. My kids were coming down with one health issue after another, like terrible eczema, wetting the bed, severe allergies and then asthma – all holistic health signs that ‘something’ was severely out of kilter in our home life, but at that point I was completely clueless about why it was all happening, or what I was meant to do about it all.
My relationship with husband was also fraying, as both of us seemed to have got trapped in a bubble of superficiality that made it really hard to relate to each other, or really feel the other person. For years, we both felt like we were living with a lodger who chipped in to pay the bills, but otherwise didn’t bother you very much.
I tried to fix things with the tools I had available then: I signed up for six sessions of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) which did help me to get my work / life balance a bit more liveable. I also learnt how to mind-map – initially as an organizational tool for my burgeoning business – and that also helped with some of the external, superficial pressures that were stressing me out.
But with two small kids and a crazy work schedule, my exercise route for coping with all the internal tension that was continuing to build inside of me had disappeared – which is when the panic attacks showed up. Now, on top of the intermittent depressions, the sleep issues and the digestive problems that had started after I’d been put on an industrial load of antibiotics to counter strep after the birth of my first daughter, I was having some real problems breathing.
I’d get some random thought in my head about ‘something bad’ happening to me or my loved ones, and then I would feel frozen with fear. My heart would start racing, I would start to feel very hot, sweaty and claustrophobic, and then my breathing would go super shallow and I’d be struggling for air.
After the second time it happened, I finally bit the bullet and found a shrink. She came recommended, and was apparently one of the ten best psychologists in the country. She taught me some ‘diaphragm breathing’ exercises, and helped me to get my breath back, at least temporarily.
By this point, I was up to seeing three different shrinks on two continents, but the more I talked to them, the worse I felt. At some point, someone suggested that going on medication might be a good idea for me, to ‘get me through the bad patch’ – and when I heard that, I bolted.
I come from a family that abhors doctors and mistrusts medicine, and when that instinct kicked in big time, I ran away from all my shrinks. Truth be told, it wasn’t so hard: they were costing me a fortune and I no longer had the money to pay for it all, plus the results had been pretty pathetic, and the thought of having to try to analyze another dream was making me feel nauseous.
That’s the first time I got God involved in my healthcare: I was sobbing my eyes out again, unable to get off the couch and make supper, or interact with my two small girls, and I raised my eyes to the heavens and silently screamed at God: ‘God! Help me! Get me out of this mess! I can’t carry on like this!’
Two days later, my depression lifted, and it’s pretty much never been back since.
But while the depression disappeared at that stage, the stress, anxiety and tension I felt was only getting worse. I was becoming paranoid about terrorists, and terminal illnesses, and pollution, and going bankrupt and having to live out on the street – you name it, I worried and obsessed over it.
When I was 35, I developed some weird lumps in a breast overnight, and that sent my panic-o-meter into overdrive, because I was convinced that I must have cancer, God forbid, and that I probably only had a few months’ left to live.
Around six weeks’ later, the specialist reassured me it was nothing major and would go away by itself – but the mental damage had already been done, by that point, and physical illness became my bete noire. If anyone in my family coughed, had a headache or seemed to be more tired or exhausted than usual, that would set off a wave of panic and anxiety that literally had me throwing up from fear.
It’s hard to describe the sensation to anyone who hasn’t had the misfortune to experience it for themselves, but when you get trapped in the grip of an overwhelming emotion like fear or anxiety, it literally tears your soul and sanity to shreds. You just feel so gross and horrible that you’ll do almost anything to get it to stop.
Anything could set the horrible feeling off, and I felt completely powerless to stop it. I couldn’t run away from it, I couldn’t drown it out, I couldn’t ignore it, and sleep was the only respite I could find from it – and even that didn’t always work, as sometimes it would follow me into my dreams and give me the worst nightmares ever.
Thankfully, that stage ended after about three months, when we decided to move to a much quieter, rural location, and a lot of the external stimuli that had been setting my anxiety off disappeared.
My husband had a good job, we’d moved to a quieter community, my kids were in a good school. I was really hoping that after the last few years of intense difficulties and emotional and physical health problems, I’d finally get to take it a little easier, and have the chance to figure out what God wanted me to do, when I actually grew up.
A couple of months after our move to the quiet idyll, I started to get weird headaches and stomachaches, that I’d never experienced before. I ignored it as long as I could, but then my eyes went really blurry when I was driving on the motorway, and I realized that ‘the problem’, whatever it was, had gotten urgent again.
I booked myself for an eye exam with a specialist – nothing. I went to see my GP, who wrote me a prescription for a whole bunch of antiobiotic eye drops – which I decided not to take. Because at that point, after many years of secondary infertility and dealing with all manner of arrogant, unpleasant doctors, I’d come to realize that most of them had very little idea what they were actually talking about.
But as my eyes continued to be blurry, and my headaches continued to pound, I knew I had to do something, but I had no idea what.
That’s when a friend told me about a natural healer who was making housecalls to my community once a week. I booked an appointment, and the man was a revelation. For the first time ever, here was someone explaining to me about how my food and nutrition was affecting my physical health!
I’d been skipping lunch for years, avoided lettuce like the plague and thought a fruit smoothie was the epitome of healthy. All of a sudden, I started hearing how bad table salt is, and how nasty margarine and soup powder mixes were, and how important it was to drink enough water, cut back on the sugar and eat way more vegetables, if I wanted to make my health issues disappear.
Wow! Who knew? So I enthusiastically embraced the healthy eating creed, threw away all my white bread, switched to sprouted spelt and started making green smoothies. And the first couple of months, I felt great on the new diet. My eyes cleared up, I started to have energy again.
Then my husband’s father died very unexpectedly, and my life once again got turned upside down. We went through a period of super-stress involving a lot of family infighting and disagreements, which led to my husband getting so depressed he couldn’t work for a couple of years, and me getting so stressed my whole body was tense like a bow string, and my mouth was dry all the time.
I found another alternative healer who diagnosed Candida – the fungus that lives off yeast and sugar – and suggested I cut out all sugar, and start to take grapefruit extract every day.
Again, the pattern continued: a couple of months feeling good, but then either the old symptoms and issues would return, or I’d get some new issue to deal with. Like super-itchy skin; or losing my voice for weeks; or developing a very stiff, painful neck; or having a flare up of strange lumps in my mouth, or other places; or a complete lack of energy; or insomnia – and many other things, besides.
On the emotional front, the paranoia, panic and depression and mostly gone, but I just felt out of it most of the time, like I was living life detached from my surroundings, family and friends. As the stress and the arguments swirling around us reached a crescendo, I woke up one morning feeling like I was dying.
I had these weird electrical impulses running up and down my spine that were painful but not like anything I’d ever experienced before. I literally felt as though my body was coming apart at the seams, and that I was being turned inside out.
I debated going to hospital, but something stopped me, and I decided to do a big talk to God session instead, where I really asked Him to show me what on earth was going on with my health and my life, and what He wanted from me.
After a couple of days, I started to get some answers: Firstly, I realized I was actually having a very early miscarriage – which after 10 years of infertility had caught me completely by surprise.
The second thing I realized was that there had to be more to health than healthy living – because here I was feeling like I was dying even though I’d been juicing, walking for an hour a day and making quinoa cookies religiously.
The third thing I realized is that ‘something’ had to change, as I really couldn’t carry on like this anymore, lurching from one emotional or physical crisis to another, and never feeling properly well, grounded or in control of my life.
The next week, I went to visit a naturopath who told me in no uncertain terms that negative emotions like hatred and anger could be stored in the body, and could do even more damage, healthwise, than even the biggest bar of milk chocolate. She advised me to make my peace with the people I was feuding with, and to adopt a very strict macrobiotic diet, full of seaweed.
I took half her advice, and made up with a whole bunch of people. I felt instantly better. But still not 100%, which prompted me to start learning more about holistic health, and how our body, mind and soul really all fits together.
At that stage, I qualified as a trained aromatherapist and kosher healer, trained as an energy medicine practitioner and learned all about the Chinese energy meridians and how they interconnect with our emotions.
Some of my old workaholic habits returned, and I set out to read up on everything and anything I could find that would teach me more about human health really works, and where God fits into that picture.
Here’s what I’d already figured out by myself: Human health was complex, and most physical or emotional health problems couldn’t be ‘fixed’ by focusing on just one area or practice, like eating healthy, meditating, or taking your meds as prescribed.
There was an interplay going on, and from my own experiences I could see how God had been using my health issues to send me messages about what needed to be fixed or changed in my life.
Sometimes, the messages were pretty simple and obvious, like ‘eat better and stay away from margarine.’ But other times, the messages were far deeper, but I hadn’t been able to figure them out because I’d been completely unaware of the links between my physical health problems and my underlying emotional issues.
When I thought I was dying, for example, the naturopath told me that my spleen and gallbladder meridians were both incredibly weak. It’s only later that I learnt that the spleen meridian is connected to things like compassion and sociability, and being able to deal with the outside environment and negative emotions, while the gallbladder meridian was connected to anger, intolerance and judgment.
At the time, I hadn’t realized just how angry, intolerant and uncaring I was becoming towards others, or how overwhelmed I’d gotten from all the toxic emotional fallout of having to deal with so many ‘difficult’ people and circumstances. If I’d known earlier what messages my physical health problems were sending me, it would have saved me so much heartache and grief.
The next thing I figured out was that including God was a crucial part of solving the mystery of human health, because nothing happens randomly, for no reason. God always starts out small, and it’s only when we keep missing the clues and the prompts He’s sending us to change course that the messages start going up to scary, unmissable proportions.
Once I got the message that I needed to rethink some of my beliefs and attitudes and behaviors, most of my health issues cleared up fast, without any other big changes to my diet, exercise routine or lifestyle.
I realized that the only way to figure out what those messages really are is to have a full and frank conversation with God about what’s going on with you and your health, because NO-ONE ELSE can properly make those connections for you, no matter how well-meaning they might be.
When I was going through what I was going through, a lot of people had their own theories as to why it was happening. We were too extreme! We weren’t extreme enough! We just needed to eat more chlorophyll! We needed to loosen up a little! We needed to absorb more magnesium by regularly bathing in the sea! We needed to avoid using bleach in our home! We needed to get our act together!
On and on the conflicting, pointless advice went, and in nearly all cases, it was completely wide of the mark. Most people have their own inbuilt bias or lense for how they view the world, and they tend to filter everything through that, and react accordingly.
That’s why the healthy eating guru will tell you to take more herbal preparations, while the more spiritually-minded advisor will tell you to give more money to charity, while someone else will advise you to spend half an hour focusing on your breathing, as the ‘cure’ for all your issues.
Who’s right? Maybe, all of them – or maybe, none of them. In my own case, I had to do a lot of talking to God and figuring things out on my own before I finally started to make some profound connections about why things were happening.
The other reason why God has got to be in the mix somewhere is because it’s inevitable that at some point, you’re going to hit a problem or difficulty that you simply have no idea how to solve or resolve.
At those points, if you’re holding God’s hand you’ve always got somewhere to turn, and someone to ask for help. But if you’re not, those apparently unsolvable problems can sometimes break you into pieces, and make the process of recovery a whole lot more fraught, traumatic and drawn-out than it needs to be.
Ultimately, this is what I realized, and what I now want to share with you:
Maintaining good physical and emotional health has to be tackled across all three levels of body, mind and soul, together. Leave any one of these areas out, and you won’t get a clear, accurate picture of what is really causing your health issues, or what you can do to resolve them permanently.
In order to figure out the messages contained in your health, you have to be able to decode them across all three of these levels– and that’s what my system can teach you.
A lot of the information is already out there, but no-one else has put it together in such a comprehensive, easy-to-understand and practical way that will teach you everything you need to know to figure out why you’re getting ill, or miserable, and what you need to do to turn things around and start to enjoy your life again, and to feel great.
As a result of implementing the God-based holistic health system in my own life, I’ve seen the following things happen:
If you want to take the next step with me on your journey to better health and happiness, join my email list, where I’ll be sharing some invaluable tools, tips and techniques with you for how you can also start to love your life again, and to figure out how your emotions and physical health issues actually hold the key to developing true happiness, and good health.
If you've been following this website for a while, then you'll already know that there's a growing consensus among people who don't have vested interests in pushing the 'chemical imbalance' theory of mental illness that trauma is the MAIN underlying reason for pretty much any mental illness you care to mention.
Although the vested interests are still fighting to keep this information under wraps, more and more research is building up to prove the point, and you can find a lot of it in Bessel van Der Kolk's excellent book: The body keeps the score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma.
In that book, Van Der Kolk (who is a psychiatrist specialising in trauma) explains:
“I made a review of all the patients I had treated. Almost all had in some way been trapped or immobilized, unable to take action to stave off the inevitable. Their fight / flight response had been thwarted, and the result was either extreme agitation or collapse.”
In this post, I want to share some of 'headline' findings, so you can start to see for yourself how traumatic experiences cause mental health problems, and how healing the physiological response to trauma is the key to achieving good mental health.
Ready? Here we go!
STRESS HORMONES AND PTSD
A group of researchers including Steve Southwick and John Krystal and Yale, Arieh Shalev at Hadassah, Frank Putnam at NIMH, and Roger Pitman at Harvard found that traumatized people keep on secreting large amounts of stress hormones long after the actual danger has passed.
Meanwhile, researcher Rachel Yehuda at Mount Sinai found that people with PTSD have low levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol triggers the ‘all clear’ message that the danger has passed, and the stress response can be called off by the body. This message doesn’t get sent in people with PTSD.
When people have been traumatized, and have PTSD, it means that their fight / flight / freeze response is permanently switched on, and their stress hormones (particularly adrenaline) spike higher than normal to perceived threats, and either don’t return to normal baseline levels at all, or take a very long time to reduce back down to normal. This excess of stress hormones swirling around their bodies causes feelings of agitation and panic, and can lead to any number of mental and physical health issues, over the longer term, which usually form the basis of psychosis.
ADDICTED TO EXCITEMENT
For example, many traumatized people seek out experiences that non-traumatised people would find repellent, bizarre or unpleasant. PTSD people often complain about feeling empty or bored when their lives aren’t full of stress, danger or conflict, so they frequently engage in risk-taking and 'crazy' types of behaviour to fill that hole.
THE ROLE OF THE AMYGDALA
The amygdala (two almond-shaped clusters of cells on either side of the brain) determines whether something is a threat or not, but in a very crude at-a-glance way.
Van Der Kolk did a brain-scanning experiment with volunteers who had experienced trauma, to see which parts of the brain were aroused or shut down by traumatic experiences. Intense emotions activate the limbic system, and particularly the part of the limbic system known as the amygdala.
The amygdala warns of pending danger or threat, and activates the body’s stress response, or fight-or-flight response. Van Der Kolk’s study clearly showed that when traumatized people are presented with triggering images, sounds or thoughts related to their traumatic experiences, it sparks the amygdala off again – even if it’s years or decades after the event.
The amygdala acts as a ‘fear centre’ in the brain. When it’s activated, that sets off a progression of cascading stress hormones and nerve impulses that increases blood pressure, hastens the beating of the heart, and ups oxygen intake (the sympathetic nervous system is associated with the ‘in’ breath), ready for fight and flight.
Even when a person’s body and emotional brain register a threat, some people are so traumatized they simply go into denial, where the conscious mind goes on as though nothing has happened.
But the stress hormones still cascade through their bodies, the stress response is still primed by the emotional brain – just they don’t respond to it all, in any conscious way. Again, this is often a prime cause of physical and mental illnesses.
To quote Van Der Kolk again:
“Medications, drugs and alcohol can also temporarily dull or obliterate unbearable sensations and feelings. But the body continues to keep the score.”
Broca’s area is one of the speech centres of the brain (located in the left frontal lobe). When it isn’t functioning properly, or the blood supply is decreased or cut off to that area, you can’t express your thoughts and feelings as words.
In Van Der Kolk’s brain scanning experiments, the Broca area went ‘offline’ every time a trauma victim was experiencing a flashback. In his words:
“All trauma is preverbal.”
One of the defining hallmarks of trauma is that what you experienced can’t really be communicated to others, even many years’ after the event. While the body is thrown back into the physical aspects of the traumatic event or memory – the fear, rage and helplessness of being caught up in ‘inescapable shock’ – and you have an overwhelming urge to run away or punch someone, you still can’t describe why.
Again, this situation can easily cause people to feel like - and even act like - they're literally going mad.
LEFT BRAIN VS RIGHT BRAIN
The left brain is logical and rational – it remembers facts, statistics, timelines, other ‘organisational’ details. The right brain remembers sounds, physical sensations, smells and emotions. To quote Van Der Kolk:
“Deactivation of the left hemisphere has a direct impact on the capacity to organize experience into logical sequences, and translate shifting feelings and perceptions into words…Without sequencing, we can’t identify cause and effect, grasp the long-term effects of our actions, or create coherent plans for the future.”
Again, this behaviour is clearly underneath a whole bunch of serious mental issues, ranging from depression and anxiety, through to personality disorders like Narcissism, BPD and ASPD, right up to things like DID, and the more severe mental disorders.
When old trauma is triggered in the present, the right brain reacts as though the trauma is happening again RIGHT NOW! As the left brain is usually shut down or not working very well (as occurred in the original traumatic state) the traumatized person doesn’t register that they are reacting to something from the past. They feel angry, petrified, frozen, incandescent or ashamed – but they have no idea why. Which is when they start to look for scapegoats in the present – people and situations - to blame for how they’re feeling.
Trauma seriously interferes with self-awareness, because the right and left brains stop working together.
Again, this has a number of huge implications for a person's mental state and healthy mental and emotional functioning.
TO SUM UP:
There are a number of gentle, effective and holistic approaches that are being developed to tackle trauma, which include:
You can find some easy, self-administered techniques for calming down fight or flight by clicking here:
energy exercises to defuse the 'fight or flight' response
Lastly, the infographic at the top of the post shows how the 3 main parts of the brain work together, and how the rational brain (number 3 in the diagram) is responsible for most of our 'executive functioning and thinking'.
As mentioned above, when a person experiences severe trauma, their rational brain goes 'offline' - and that's probably what's causing the symptoms of psychosis / mental illness.
Remove the traumatic response, and the rational brain will 'reconnect' to the rest of the system, and the person will start to feel a whole lot happier and in control.
That, in a nutshell, is how you really cure mental illnesses of all stripes. And when this information starts to really get around a bit more, then it won't be much longer until the drug companies and the psychiatrists go out of business.
You know, with all the amazing knowledge and theories and research I’m pulling together for your delight and delectation, it’s sometimes easy to forget that dealing with nutjob parents on an ongoing basis is probably one of the most difficult tests anyone can experience.
Because we so, so, so want it to be different. We so want our parents to stop ignoring us, criticizing us, hurting us, neglecting us, and to just love and accept us. We want them to be nice to us. We want them to make us feel like they care about us. And when they can’t give that to us, on some level it’s completely devastating, and makes us feel that we must be fundamentally flawed in some way, that the people who we most want to love and care for us somehow can’t.
Recently, I had some correspondence with someone who I’ll call Bruno.
Bruno always believed he had good, if superficial, relationship with his parents. Then his dad died, and his relationship with his mother suddenly came to the fore – and Bruno was shocked and horrified to realize that his mum was displaying some pretty sharp narcissistic tendencies that had been impacting Bruno for years.
He went for counselling, tried telling his mum all about it, hoped she’d agree the relationship needed some serious work to get it to a healthy and nurturing state – but that didn’t happen. Robert’s mum flat-out refused to accept that there was anything wrong with their relationship; flat-out refused to validate her son’s feelings and experiences; and when he continued to insist that ‘something’ was a little off in their interactions and needed fixing, she retaliated by cutting him out of her will.
Of course, all from a place of deep consideration, healthy respect and unconditional love for her son…
At least, that’s her version of the story, and she’s continuing to stick to it despite any annoying ‘facts’ that might appear to completely contradict her.
Not for the first time, Bruno was completely broken by the complete and utter disregard for his feelings, his viewpoint and his wishes. His crazy mother has decided that their relationship is ‘perfect’ exactly how it is, and Bruno must be a lunatic for suggesting otherwise!!
What can you do when you hit a brick wall like that? How can you get past the deep hurt and repeated sense of shock you experience when you realize that your parent is literally crazy? There’s no-one to talk to…there never was anyone to talk to. No wonder you have all these issues like depression, and lack of confidence, and an abiding impression that you don’t matter or count in the world.
And in the deepest irony of all, the proof that your mother is crazy, emotionally-neglectful, narcissistic and all the rest is when you come to discuss your deepest hurts with her, and she turns round and accuses you of imagining it all! It’s all in your head! Or your wife’s head! Because she is
P-E-R-F-E-C-T, and there’s no arguing with it.
For all that I can explain to Bruno, and to all the rest of us, that our crazy parents only got that way because they are deeply-traumatised people who have disconnected from themselves on the soul level, that’s cold comfort when you get cut out of your mother’s will as a self-proclaimed loving gesture.
So I told Bruno what keeps me going in these types of situations, where it really feels so much like you just can’t win: you still have a choice. You can’t change your mother. You can’t change how crazy she is, how detached from reality she is, how emotionally unavailable and hurtful she is. But you can change YOU, and how you respond to her.
And that’s really the only game in town.
How to do that in practice is something I’m sharing with you on this blog and in my books: it’s about developing healthy, balanced compassion and accountability; setting strong boundaries; finding your voice, in a healthy, non-confrontational way that still restores your sense of agency and ‘self’ to yourself, and above all, it’s about forging a strong relationship with God.
We can’t change the crazy people in our lives, as much as may wish to. But we can change how we view the challenge we’ve been given, and how we react to it. We aren’t victims (although it sometimes feels like that).
What we are is the biggest souls on the planet, who have been given the toughest jobs to get the world fixed. And the reason God gave us that work to do is because He knows what people like Bruno are only just now starting to discover: we CAN do it.
Crazy parents notwithstanding.
If all goes well on the technology front (I can hope...) www.spiritualselfhelp.org is going to be this website's main address, from now on.
You should still be able to access it for the next few months from the jemi.website address, as that will just point to this site. But I've been procrastinating about making the change and panicking I'm going to lose my audience - but the longer I sit on it, the harder it's going to be.
So here's hoping it works!
And see you on the other side.
Over on Kristin Neff's website, you'll find a couple of what she calls 'compassion scales' which can tell you how much compassion, and self-compassion, you have.
Today, I'm going to share Neff's short-form self-compassion test, and then we'll get back to some practical suggestions for how you can boost your compassion at the mind and body levels.
BTW, if you want to find out how you're doing, go HERE when you're done, to analyse your scores:
HOW I TYPICALLY ACT TOWARDS MYSELF IN DIFFICULT TIMES
Please read each statement carefully before answering.
To the right of each item, indicate how often you behave in the stated manner, using the following scale:
1 = ALMOST NEVER 2 3 4 5 = ALMOST ALWAYS
_____1. When I fail at something important to me I become consumed by feelings of inadequacy. _____2. I try to be understanding and patient towards those aspects of my personality I don’t like. _____3. When something painful happens I try to take a balanced view of the situation.
____4. When I’m feeling down, I tend to feel like most other people are probably happier than I am. _____5. I try to see my failings as part of the human condition.
_____6. When I’m going through a very hard time, I give myself the caring and tenderness I need. _____7. When something upsets me I try to keep my emotions in balance.
_____8. When I fail at something that’s important to me, I tend to feel alone in my failure
_____9. When I’m feeling down I tend to obsess and fixate on everything that’s wrong.
_____10. When I feel inadequate in some way, I try to remind myself that feelings of inadequacy are shared by most people.
_____11. I’m disapproving and judgmental about my own flaws and inadequacies.
_____12. I’m intolerant and impatient towards those aspects of my personality I don’t like.
Well, the book that's really going to change your health, outlook and happiness is out, and it's storming up the Amazon charts at a stonking pace of about 8 sales a week....
So to help things along, you can now have two different ways of getting a copy of Talk to God and Fix Your Life for FREE:
Way 1: Between February 17 - 18, you can download the Kindle version of the book (worth $9.99) FOR FREE, by clicking HERE (takes you through to Amazon page for the book).
Way 2: Click on the button below to enter the Goodreads Giveaway and win a FREE paperback version of the book (worth $19.99).
I don't mind giving this stuff away for free, because I know how good it is, and how much it's really going to change your life for the better, and I can't think of a better way of proving that than letting you read it for yourself, with no strings attached.
Off the back of the survey from last week (thanks so much to all those who took the time to fill it in, btw, you are the best!) - I'm putting together an online course to BH help people really start to like and appreciate themselves. But in order to really nail the problem, I have one more question - which will probably pop up in that semi-annoying internet way, if it hasn't already.
Once again, it's completely anonymous, and it'll take approximately 10 seconds to fill out.
In the next post, we'll get back to discussing self-compassion.
As it's been a couple of days' since the last post on this subject, let’s set out the train of events again, so we all know what I’m actually talking about in this post: the emotion of compassion and the hormone / neurotransmitter oxytocin are very closely linked.
When a person is low on oxytocin, they will feel stressed-out nearly all the time, and also be low on compassion and empathy. That means that they'll find it very difficult to feel other people’s pain, see their side of the story, or relate to them in a caring, nurturing way.
This behavior is the hallmark of pretty much every personality disorder you care to mention, plus a whole bunch of other mental and emotional issues including depression, autism and probably 300 other ‘disorders’, too.
The other side of the coin is that when a person is low on compassion, they will be low on oxytocin – because remember, the holistic health model is that all three parts of the body, mind and soul are simply reflecting and affecting each other.
So here comes the coolest piece of information you'll probably read today: if you can find a way to boost a person’s compassion, and particularly, to boost their feelings of self-compassion (which is NOT the same as self-confidence or self-esteem) – then they’ll start to produce more of that caring, sharing, bonding oxytocin hormone, and they’ll be able to start relating to other people (and themselves…) in a more caring, compassionate way.
Personality disorders, and probably nearly all the other mental health issues out there are simply varieties of the same underlying problem: people don’t like themselves, and they don’t think other people like them, and they don’t believe God loves them or cares about them, or that their existence really matters in any meaningful way. This usually occurs because of some sort of chronic or acute traumatic experience they had as children.
Again, there is so much to unpack in that paragraph, and it’s going to take me at least a few weeks’ of posting to do the ideas I’m laying out here proper justice, so bear with me in the meantime.
Boost compassion, reduce mental illness
But in a nutshell: boosting compassion and self-compassion is one very effective holistic ‘in’ to starting to overcome pretty much any mental issue you care to name. So now the question is: HOW do you boost compassion and self-compassion? I mean, if it was that easy, everyone would be doing it already…
As with all things health-related, the problem has to be approached across the three levels of body, mind and soul. So let’s kick off with the soul aspect today, which is where prayer / meditation / mindfulness / talking to God – whatever you want to call it – comes in.
If you cast your mind back to the first post, you’ll remember that one of the main ways oxytocin gets wiped out is when someone is experiencing extreme or chronic stress. (We’ll come back to the more physical and emotional aspects of this idea in much more detail in future posts.)
When someone is ‘stressed-out’, and their fight-or-flight response has kicked in, hormonally speaking their body is now producing huge quantities of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. To put it very simplistically, the more stress hormones a person is producing, the more ‘stressed-out’ they feel – antsy, jumpy, agitated, can’t sit still, can’t ‘be’, heart racing, thoughts running a mile a minute in their head.
The following quote comes from one of the scientific studies done in Compassion: Bridging the Gap which examined the physiological changes that occurred in volunteers who learnt to meditate / pray / talk to God – however you want to describe that process – but with a particular emphasis on developing more compassion for themselves and others:
“We found an intriguing association between amount of meditation practiced…and cortisol responses. Participants who engaged in significant ‘at home’ practice had no reduction in how much cortisol increased in response to the stressor, but had their cortisol levels return to the pre-stressor baseline significantly faster than individuals with minimal practice time…These results suggest that compassion training may preserve appropriate acute stress responses, while at the same time attenuating non-adaptive prolonged stress responses once the stressor has passed.”
The more you talk to God, the less stress you experience
In plain English, the more time people spent meditating / talking to God, the faster their stress reaction got switched off, and the less stress hormones they had running around their bodies and making them feel stressed out. They still reacted to a shock, challenge or scare by producing adrenaline et al (again, this is the ‘fight-of-flight’ reaction); BUT once the problem or issue had passed, their stress levels went back to normal, healthy levels much faster.
So now we have our first bit of information about how to reduce stress and boost oxytocin, leading to more caring, nurturing compassionate and emotionally-healthy behavior: learn how to talk to God, and engage in that practice regularly.
If you want some help, you can pick up a free copy of the How, what and why of talking to God HERE, or go here to buy Talk to God and Fix Your Health.
In the next post, we’ll take a look at what we can do to start boosting compassion on the emotional / mind front.
We'll get back to hormones and compassion in the next post, but I just wanted to share this with you in the meantime, as so many people simply don't know that SCIENCE has proven that anti-depressants and anti-psychotics are simply worsening outcomes for patients, long-term.
They don't work for most people over the long-term. Full stop. So we need to find alternatives that DO work and don't give you long-term brain damage- and there are lots of them on this blog.
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