Jane Terris, one of our UK Reverse Therapy practitioners (her picture on the right), also appears.
You can watch this news item here
Here is a television appearance by me on the Chicago Channel – Never Not Here. Interviewed by Richard Miller.
Despite the title I talk a about a lot more than Reverse Therapy: resilience, stress, how people get ill, the changing conditions of modern society, emotional intelligence and how it works, and the difference between Bodymind and the Conscious Mind.
The first month of 2011 has come and gone and the statistics show that January is the most ‘depressing’ month, in that more people will seek help for depression than at any other time of the year. As it happens, I have been more than usually busy with depressed clients since the New Year came on; a fact which prompts me to write this article.
First, lets be clear about what clinical depression really is.
In my view, many of the people who are diagnosed by their GP as having depression are not, in fact, clinically depressed at all. Instead, they could be sad, fed up with life, or unhappy. This is one reason why anti-depressants don’t work for the majority. Anti-depressant drugs such as the SSRIs – which increase the amount of serotonin in circulation in the brain – will only work, obviously, if the patient has serotonin depletion, which will only be the case if they actually have clinical depression.
Whether you are depressed, sad, fed up, or unhappy, this article will still apply to you.
Here are the four main causes:
1. Prolonged anxiety caused by negative Headmind thinking.
If you are a habitual worrier, perfectionist, or guilt-tripper then, on a daily basis, your body will become accustomed to very high anxiety levels. Since Bodymind cannot tolerate over-arousal for too long, it will seek to reduce the problem by damping down the system. Typically, this means reducing serotonin (which elevates mood), which leads to the symptoms of clinical depression. In this respect it has been estimated that over 70% of depressed people also have high anxiety levels.
The solution is to change the way Headmind works.
2. The person has developed a ‘hopeless’ mind-set
This problem is typically developed by over-conscientious people who have not learnt how to say ‘No’ or recognise their limitations. The result is that they take on far too many burdens, obligations and responsibilities. Or else they forget to take time out for themselves and keep that crucial work-life balance. One result is burnout.
Depression occurs when personal Headmind reacts to overload by just giving up (a slightly weird response, given that it was faulty thinking that gave rise to the problem in the first place). A common outcome is that the person turns into a victim of some kind.
The most common Headmind defect here is ‘Failure thinking’, which ignores realistic solutions on what to do about overload and, instead, magnifies problems, concludes that there is nothing that can be done about them, and triggers anxiety with the thought that disaster is inevitable. This leads to first anxiety and then to the ‘damping down’ response I described in the previous item.
The solution is to develop a solution-focused, or problem-solving approach to problems. I am in the middle of writing a series on this so please check back for articles on ‘success thinking’.
3. The person has lost her passion for life.
People who have become disillusioned do so as a result of trauma of some kind: the death of someone close, break-up, or departure. Or betrayal, or rejection, by someone they once trusted. Or the usual disasters which befall all of us from time to time but which setbacks the ego will not accept.
In other cases, the depressed person has simply got confused and lost his way. This could be because he has become addicted to trivialities – newspapers, games, television, the social round, internet-surfing, etc. Or is stuck in routine in which one day is more or less like the next, and which becomes a kind of living death. Once Bodymind sees what is happening here it starts to release copious amounts of the emotions known as boredom and frustration. But here is what is strange: when some people notice they are bored they don’t do anything about it. Instead, they read boredom as another sign that life is hopeless. So they stagnate, more and more.
The solution is to reconnect to Bodymind and your passion.
4. Headmind is blocking the release of strong emotions, such as anger and sadness.
A build-up of unexpressed or unresolved emotion leads to a similar effect as chronic anxiety: a dangerous level of over-arousal. Once again, Bodymind tends to counter-act this problem by reducing serotonin.
The solution is to find a way to release those emotions.
If you are not depressed right now but you think you might be going that way, then you can find out more about how to stay out of depression here.
Contrary to common belief many people do find a way to improve their mental health without needing to consult a psychotherapist and some of my articles show you how to do just that. But if you do need assistance then you can contact me over on the psychotherapy website.
Image by pinksherbet
I received this report from a regular reader of this blog the other week who would like to share his experience of Reverse Therapy with other readers:
“Everyone likes a scratch but on the evening of December 18th 2008, my scratching became so bad my legs started to bleed.
Like many busy people stuck in Headmind I put off dealing with my health problems and hoped they would go away of their own accord. I left the next day for a two-week vacation in the Middle East but when I got back the itching had spread and my legs were covered in sores. I went to the GP who informed me that I had Psoriasis. I had heard of it but did not know much about it. He explained that it was caused by the body replacing the skin cells in days rather than weeks, leaving red sores and silvery skin flakes behind. He gave me a prescription for some cream but it was not effective and, over the next few months, the psoriasis spread to other parts of my body.
I went back to the doctor and explained that the condition was worse and he prescribed a stronger cream. Over the four months I had been unwell I had made some notes which I relayed on to him. I said: ‘I notice that when I am barefoot at home at the weekends the problem is not as bad’. The GP said: ‘Yes, try leaving your feet exposed to the fresh air’. I said: ‘I also notice that using the sun bed helps’. He said: ‘Yes, even though we normally don’t recommend use of sun beds in your case it could help’. I said: ‘I also notice that when I exercise on a regular basis it tends to be less of a problem’. He said: ‘Yes, exercise is a good idea’. I sat there for a few seconds and my first thought was: ‘why is he just repeating my ideas back to me?’ My second thought was: ‘And if this is correct, then why didn’t he tell me four months ago?’. At any rate, I paid no further visits to that quarter.
The new cream failed to work and, by now, the psoriasis was visible to other people. It showed on my hands, my arms, my upper body and even on my face. It was so bad I was having difficulty sleeping because it itched so much, and then it bled so badly that it became ugly to look at. It created piles of white, flakey, dust; the dead skin that was being shed at an ever-faster rate each day. I felt terrible about having this illness and it made me quite depressed. The worse it got the more worried I became and when I read reports on the internet about people who had had it all their lives I started to despair that I would never get rid of it.
I had been familiar with Reverse Therapy for a few years, as I had studied it under John Eaton in 2006, although I have never practiced. Neither had I connected my knowledge of Bodymind to the causes of my own condition. And nor had I realised that the cure had been in my own hands all the time.
A good friend of mine, a practitioner of Reverse Therapy, gave me the wake-up call, when she told me:
‘Have you worked out, yet, what your body is trying to warn you about when it creates those symptoms in your skin?’
In that moment, I instantly knew the answer to that question. But it was not an answer I particularly liked admitting to myself.
Two years before I formed a relationship with what I thought was a very sweet woman with a beautiful 2-year old daughter. I quickly fell in love with her and formed a very strong connection with the child.
My partner told me that she was separated and awaiting a divorce. Later on, I found out that this was not true; that her husband was, in fact, away working in the United States and she was in regular contact with him and there were no real plans to get a divorce. Later, I was told that he had ‘not been nice to her’ and had deserted her and the baby.
I was reluctant to get involved in such a complex situation but found myself drawn in. I felt great compassion for the woman and her little girl, who seemed to be the innocent parties in this, and set about helping them. Her economic situation was very bad, as she was effectively a single mother and had no job, with the additional burden of looking after a child on her own, without help or financial support from anyone. For a while we were happy and my partner and the little girl lived with with me for part of the week.
All this came to a sudden end when her husband came back from the United States and told her he wanted to resume the marriage. She decided to go back to him. The main reason, she told me, was that the little girl needed to be with her father. This was very distressing for me, as I learnt, also, that I would be unable to have contact with her daughter any more. I told her that, under those conditions, it was too painful for me to have any further contact with her and I should be left in peace to get on with my life.
From there on, I received regular emails, texts and phone calls from her pleading for money. It turned out the husband was out of work (I discovered this had been the case for years) and was, in fact a kind of play-boy. She would beg me for money for food, gas, electricity, petrol, baby clothes and, even, spending money. Feeling sorry for her and the child, I regularly gave in although I knew, at some level, that much of that money was going into her husband’s pockets.
During all the months that this went on my Psoriasis appeared. I had failed to connect to my emotions over the way in which I was being used, and my frustration at being caught in a trap: feeling responsible for the child and yet being manipulated.
The Psoriasis symptoms were my body’s way of alerting me to the fact that I needed to disengage from the banana about having to be a martyr; re-assert the boundaries around me; and change the way in which I was helping the child. But my personal Headmind had ignored these emotions and possibilities because it was over-involved with the ego-position of ‘powerful man’ and ‘helper’ (I am an Enneagram 8 doing quite a lot of work on the 2 position).
Once I gave up communicating from the ego, relinquished the banana about having to be a saviour, and stopped being a victim, things started to change for the better. I told my ex-partner not to contact me any more. I told her I would pay for the child’s nursery fees and this would come direct from my bank account. The money she saved on nursery fees she could use to feed and clothe her. But I would not be responsible for either her or her husband.
Within days the pain had gone and, slowly, my skin went back to normal; without any medication whatever. But, just as I was thinking I was over the worse, a test of my new-found integrity came the following week when my ex-partner called to ask if she could borrow my car as she wanted to take her husband on holiday. I refused point blank.
Seven days after that the psoriasis disappeared completely. My close family and friends were astounded at the speed at which it disappeared knowing, as they did, the history of my condition and how I was using an alternative to medicine to treat it.
If it were not for Reverse Therapy I would still be suffering from this terrible disease. It is possible that my personal Bodymind might have used yet more symptoms in order to force me to change. In looking back at the temporary relief I experienced when I used the cream or the sun-bed I now realise that this was the equivalent of painting over a crack in the ceiling when water was gushing in from upstairs. It was only when I addressed the deeper cause, saw through the Headmind camouflage about my motives, dared to connect to my emotions, and acted on the symptom-message that I achieved the break-through. In doing so I felt, intuitively, that Bodymind was relieved that I had ‘gotten it’ and, with one small exception (see below) I have not received any further symptoms over the past two years.
A few weeks ago I again ran into my ex-partner by chance in the street. I was polite and chatty and must have given her the wrong impression as she started texting me again, giving out heavy hints that she would soon be needing more ‘help’. A few days after digesting these messages, I noticed that my legs had started itching again: a signal for me to tell her (politely) not to text me any more. Bodymind is ever vigilant and will be quick to remind me to protect myself against people who seek to take advantage of my generosity. Naturally, this experience has taught me a lot more about how Bodymind works, and how Headmind and the Ego lead me astray. I am very fortunate that Reverse Therapy saved me from years of pain and I tell this story in order to help other people avoid the same fate.”
The aim is to give anyone with M.E/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome some thoughts on how to get well. And, of course, any of our clients in Reverse Therapy out there can learn from this too.
Client: During my second appointment with you last month I had difficulties in saying what I needed which you helped me to overcome by teaching me how to put things into words. I told you I was confused with what you were telling me and that I did not understand. You told me to establish contact with my Bodymind and I felt relieved. I think there is a lot of fear inside me. Fear of staying ill, fear of not being able to succeed with Reverse Therapy.
My comment: It is important to distinguish between Headmind worry and Bodymind fear. Bodymind sends you a fear emotion when it notices that you are vulnerable in some way – in order to encourage you to express your need for help and support, and take small steps to raise your confidence in that situation. Your Headmind worries about not being able to get well and not being able to do Reverse Therapy. This is natural but unhelpful. It is important not to give any time to these worries. Instead, do something like this:
Client: This is all Headmind stuff, I know, but fear is somewhere stuck deep in my cells. One day, soon after my first Reverse Therapy session I was in a meditation group – and we were guided to recall our most important event over the summer. I “went” to my first session with you while I was in a deep state of contemplation and I felt – very strongly and clearly – how something was “melting down inside” as tears were rolling down my face and this was helping my recovery. I was impressed when this “something” that I was feeling so clearly deep inside me came out as “fear”. That fear I felt at that time when I was recalling the first RT session was deep in my body and the whole process of retrieving that RT session while in a meditative state was helping a lot in letting it go.
My comment: This is good work! You may indeed have become vulnerable and your Body created fear to remind you to be gentle on yourself and take good care. There is no need to let go of fear – just honour it and act on it.
Client: Is this fear – which I’m not generally aware of – a fear that my Bodymind developed when I was under a lot of stress, specially when I had glandular fever and I kept working under stress, without resting? Is this fear misinterpreted by Headmind and leads me to be afraid of not being able to recover?
My comment: See above. But Headmind stuff will be worry rather than fear.
Client: One of my concerns is my need – I guess a Headmind demand to “understand”. Which probably comes from a need to control. So I spend too much time in my Head. Although I am learning that when I am living in the moment, in Bodymind, I feel at peace. But the thing is that I live in a world that is run by Headminds!
My comment: Yes – it is about ‘unlearning’ the Headmind habits and conditioning you received through unbalanced education. Reverse Therapy is a discipline (like meditation) which needs to be practiced every day until it becomes more natural to stay in the moment and let go of Headmind’s need to explain, worry and control. We have to acknowledge that the world is mostly run by ‘Headminds’ but that doesn’t mean we have to play that game any more
Client: Getting onto the more practical aspects of doing Reverse Therapy, I am not keeping the journal up to date. Nor am I planning activities. I have never been good at organizing my time. And having spent 4 years without working has not helped me much in that.
My comment: OK – let’s not make the Journal into a burden for you. It is only used to help you remember the discipline of noticing your symptoms, acting on the messages, and noticing what happens to the symptoms. But if it has become another Headmind chore for you then let’s drop it for now.
Client: I am now trying to do more things I enjoy – like visiting friends, arranging dinner-parties, shopping, and the like. And I have had fun, and people who knew me before the illness have mentioned to me how much more energy I have. It shows in the way I talk, in how I am with people, and in the joy I have in doing things. Just as an illustration, the other day, over a dinner with a group of friends, I told a joke – a long one! And I realized when I was about to start that it was the first time I had done that for more than 4 years!
My comment: Very good! Please do more of this as your Body clearly enjoys being with your friends. Interestingly, it has been established that laughter is a sure way to enable Bodymind to release endorphins, which both reduce symptoms and confirm that you are on the right path towards recovery.
Client: Yet a couple of hours before we all met for dinner I had symptoms. My energy level was very low, I was feeling sick and I just wanted to lie down. There was kind of a “fight” inside me and finally I won through the faith I have in you. My Headmind could not get that something other than lying down could help me in that situation. But I trusted Reverse Therapy and I did what I was told to do in these situations. I regained confidence and energy started to come back. The problem was my partner was late getting back from work and we were going to be late for dinner. After getting into Bodymind and reading the message I started to act with serenity and coped with the situation. The dinner went great!
My comment: Excellent! You really let go of that Headmind trap there!
Client: Next day, we had a lunch at home with a friend. I woke up very tired and thinking I could not be able to manage it. I was feeling sick again. Headmind telling me it was because I had done too much the day before (although I didn’t believe it). We normally do things at the last minute and my Body was probably telling me to slow down. After reading my message I calmed down and I decided to take it easy and got on with other things. It was like I was expressing my needs to myself. It worked well. We both enjoyed having lunch with our friend and we had a wonderful time.
My comment. Hmmmm. Might be an idea to get together with your partner and look at some ways for you both to have more time to get ready.
Client: One of the things that concerns me a lot is my sleep. I seem to need to sleep forever. As a student, I always stayed up until late during exams and woke up late in the morning. When I was working, I always tended to stay late to do tasks that required more concentration. What is happening now is that, in the absence of any activity that requires me to be somewhere early, I tend to wake up very late in the morning, which gets me very restful but feeling quite useless.
My comment: I am afraid it does take time for your Body clock to get back to normal. It is important not to stay in bed too long but get on with activities you have planned for that day. Please also ensure that each week has a balance of early nights and late nights. Remember, your Body might be using morning fatigue to warn you that there is not much enjoyment available. Finally, watch out for Headmind and its yada-yada-yada about your being ‘useless’ because you have symptoms.
Client: The other main concern is about my poor skills in planning and organizing. As I told you, I have never been good at that, but now it’s even worse. Over the
week I have few fixed activities, but I still struggle to get to them in time. And I have not yet learnt how to fill the gaps in between, unless I improve, which does not take me very far. I simply do not know how to design an activity schedule. I feel quite frustrated and helpless about that, especially now that I realized how important it is for my recovery,
My comment: Can you not get your partner or a friend to help you do this? Otherwise we can work on it together when you next see me.
Client: Something else I wish to tell you is that I have put my hopes in Reverse Therapy and that I trust you. I think you are a very talented person and I feel very thankful to be able to get Reverse Therapy from you. I also get lots of confidence from reading the testimonials of people who have undertaken Reverse Therapy and have recovered. But my Headmind –here it is again – keeps damaging my hopes with doubts. One of them has to do with the apparent simplicity of the method. If Reverse Therapy is so simple then I think that what I have suffered during these years was “only in my mind”. I fought a lot during these years against the doctors who had no idea about this illness and who have even told me that I had nothing wrong with me. And when I asked them why I was feeling so ill they would shrug.
My comment. Your symptoms were certainly not all in your mind! Reverse Therapy is simple (although not always easy) but Headmind always wants it to be more complicated because it demands ‘explanations’ and intellectual control.
Client. Am I fearing recovery? Am I fearing that this is an underlying process that I cannot understand? I trust you, and I just want to be very honest with myself and to you, so I can help you to help me.
My comment. No – this is your Headmind daring not to believe that you can be totally well. Because all it has ever known for the last six years is pain, exhaustion and worry. The more days you have when your energy comes back and your symptoms go, then the easier it will be for Headmind to let go of the idea that you cannot get well.
Client: I feel good that I can share with you my inner concerns, and what I believe is Headmind resistance to the process. It is like if my Head wants to know “the secret of RT”. Also, I think there is some reasoning going on like “if it is so easy to overcome the symptoms that have got me to a completely disabled life, I must be an idiot”.
My comment: This is something many of our clients tell us. We always say to them: ‘It is not your fault that you became ill.’ As for the simplicity of the method, it is only ‘easy’ once someone has shown you the solution. Like one of those psychological puzzles when people can’t ‘see’ the face of the old woman/young girl in the drawing. But once someone shows you it is easy to see it. Surely, the real idiots are the people in the medical and psychological professions who have spent years studying the illness without coming up with any answers?
Client: It is not easy for me to write down what I have just said but I know you are not judging me, so I should not judge myself and I should feel confident in expressing my thoughts, no matter how distorted they might seem, even to me. So, being honest to you, John, it has been because I have faith and confidence in you and in Reverse Therapy that I do the assignments, not because I understand what I am doing. And this brings humility – the realization that the answers come from somewhere that is far beyond my head, and far deeper inside me.
Ever since I finished developing the Reverse Therapy method in 2002 I regularly get abusive emails from people who don’t want to learn anything about Reverse Therapy, or hear the truth about ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – ie that they are the same problem and have the same solution. My readers might be surprised by the foul-mouthed names I get called. They might be even more surprised by the fact that some of these people have enough energy to spend hours on the internet abusing me…..
Please let me hasten to add that I and my colleagues have, over the last 8 years, worked with thousands of people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome who a) were seriously ill; b) were open-minded; c) got well by adopting a different approach to the one that many people have been spoon-fed by the medical establishment.
The reason I bring up this subject again is because I have just caught sight of an excellent video which summarises the current state of play on this very difficult subject. It is by Dr Anthony Komaroff, who is also Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
You can catch that video here: CFIDS Talk
What I like about this item is that Professor Komaroff:
a) sympathises with people who suffer from this terrible illness
b) is extremely learned about the subject
c) is open-minded about the potential causes of the problem
d) makes a number of important points which support Reverse Therapy (which I summarise below):
1. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is not ‘all in the mind’; it is a neurological illness
2. In CFS the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis is compromised
3. The Sympathetic Nervous System swings from over to under activity
4. Serotonin release (a mood hormone) in the brain changes
5. Yet CFS has little in common with either Depression or Anxiety
6. The Immune system becomes inefficient following continual over-activity
Dr Komaroff also says that although many cases of CFS begin with a viral infection no single virus has ever been identified as the cause of the illness. He also says (as we do in Reverse Therapy) that it may be that prolonged viral problems in CFS are prompted by a breakdown in the Immune system. The same applies to the XMRV retrovirus.
It is clear, also, that there is a genetic component in CFS. Identical twins are far more likely to get this illness than the average and researchers have identified 22 genes that behave differently in CFS, But let’s be clear on this: genes don’t cause illness on their own. If that were true ALL identical twins would contract the same illnesses in the same way at the same time. Genetics interact with the person’s environment in the same way that they are in dialogue with your emotions, your behaviour, your thoughts, your diet, your physical activities and the people you hang out with.
Indeed, the picture I can see emerging from Dr Komaroff’s presentation is something like this:
Some people are more at risk of getting CFS than others, in the same way that other people are at risk for heart disease, allergies or breast cancer,
The majority of people with CFS (but not all) suffer from viral problems early on in the illness, although here, I am arguing that this is because the immune system is compromised by the brain disorder known as CFS. It is, however, possible that certain viruses complicate and compound the disorder.
There is now extremely strong evidence that both the emotional and thinking centres in the brain demonstrate abnormal activity, exactly as Reverse Therapy suggests.
The illness is maintained, as I have argued in my books, through interactions between the limbic system, the hypothalamus, the adrenal glands, the sympathetic nervous system, and the immune system.
Dr Komaroff has also stated elsewhere that he believes that therapy – cognitive-behavioural therapy – can be of help in that it teaches sufferers how to change thinking patterns and behaviours that maintain the problem. My only dispute with Dr Komaroff here is that therapy – Reverse Therapy – can go on to teach people how to control the symptoms themselves.
Reverse Therapy is part of a 21st century movement in which we are revising the very idea of what it means to ‘think’. We argue that thinking doesn’t just take place in the head but in the body too. In a way we are only redressing a wrong turn that was taken with Descartes and other seventeenth century writers who argued that only Headmind, or ‘Reason’, can think. Intelligence, for people like Descartes and philosophers like him, means thinking with concepts.
But our new take on intelligence is that it is shared by all forms of life and that it is much, much wider than thinking with thoughts.
An intelligent response occurs when a) information is received, b) the information is evaluated, c) an appropriate response is emitted d) the results are monitored and learning occurs. Even a single-cell creature like an amoeba is intelligent as it can change the direction in which it swims according to the information it receives about the amount of food in the area. A dolphin, going much higher up the scale, can not only change direction but communicate its reasons for doing that to other dolphins in the school. And amoebas and dolphins, like humans, make the vast majority of their decisions without any involvement at all from mental intelligence. Those decisions are taken by what we call Bodymind.
Here are some examples of the way in which Bodymind ‘thinks’.