Recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Well This is a reprise of an email session I held with a client two years ago. I have edited some details to preserve anonymity. She had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for six years and is well now.

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:

  • Go into your Body
  • Remind yourself that you know how to be well
  • Spend a little time in your body deciding what feels good to do next about your messages and go and do that straight away

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.

Why Chronic Fatigue Syndrome isn’t in the mind and yet it is curable too


SATURDAY, JUNE 12, 2010 AT 01:21PM

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.

More on the Enneagram

People

Some of you may have taken one of the two Enneagram Personality tests I recommended in my last article. If you did then it is important to remind you of the following principle:

Whichever of the Nine Enneagram ‘personalities’ you think you have (or scored highest for) you should fight as hard as you can not to be that particular way. In short, you should lose that ossified way of being.

For example, until recently I scored high for the Number 8. Here is a description of the Eight by The Enneagram Institute:

Eights are self-confident, strong, and assertive. Protective, resourceful, straight-talking, and decisive, but can also be ego-centric and domineering. Eights feel they must control their environment, especially people, sometimes becoming confrontational and intimidating. Eights typically have problems with their tempers and with allowing themselves to be vulnerable.

In order to avoid the fate of becoming fixated on strength (and thereby making myself obsessional about it) I had to let go of the banana about having to ‘be in control’. In point of fact I never particularly wanted to be in control of anything until I became a well-known therapist. After that point my Headmind decided that it had something to prove to people who did therapy or training with me, and then the banana about having to be ‘strong’ started to work on me. Before that particular delusion took over I usually scored high on the Number 5 personality. Here is a description of that one from the same source:

Fives are alert, insightful, and curious. They are able to concentrate and focus on developing complex ideas and skills. Independent, innovative, and inventive, they can also become preoccupied with their thoughts and imaginary constructs. They become detached, yet high-strung and intense. They typically have problems with eccentricity, nihilism, and isolation.

I would guess that I was a ‘Five’ all the way from my teenage years until about 10 years ago, when I learnt to see through that false ego. What drove it was my emerging experience of being typed as ‘deaf and therefore ‘stupid’ and ‘inadequate’. That was why I went for one banana about having to be a know-all and another one about having to live in an ivory tower. Neither obsession did me any good.

Here are the fixations that go with each of the nine types.

The One: Has to be in the right. Must never be in the wrong. The Perfectionist.

The Two: Has to look after others. Must never be rejected. The Martyr.

The Three. Has to be a success. Must never be second-best. The Workaholic.

The Four. Has to be admired. Must never be ignored. The Show-off.

The Five. Has to know everything. Must never be caught out. The Loner.

The Six. Has to belong. Must never stand out from the crowd. The Conformist.

The Seven. Has to be happy. Must not be sad. The Addict.

The Eight. Has to be in Control. Must not be weak. The Bully.

The Nine. Has to be inside the Comfort Zone. Must not get stressed. The Slob.

Why guilt is useless

Guilt
Guilt is a delusionary state. It doesn’t serve you at all and is a creation of the imagination; of Headmind’s drive towards conformity.

Here’s how Headmind creates Guilt:

1. Headmind is stuffed full of judgments about the person you could be, should be, should not be, etc. Those judgments were not originally your own but inherited from other people. But gradually you internalised them and they became self-judgments.

2. These judgments are re-activated by parents, teachers, priests, employers, children and partners who may be exploiting you.

3. Your Headmind buys into those judgments because it seeks acceptance, conformity, and admiration (even from people who don’t deserve your respect).

4. Dwelling on occasions in which guilt comes up – and Headmind judges you – creates uncomfortable Bodymind reactions: cringing, agitation, distress. Although Bodymind creates that discomfort in order to warn you not to indulge in guilt, Headmind interprets this as a signal that you are, indeed, a ‘bad’ person, worthy of punishment.

Here’s another way to understand ‘Guilt’:

1. Earlier societies did not recognise a psychological state known as ‘guilt’. For them ‘guilt’ was simply another word for ‘debt’ (as in the German/Saxon word: ‘gultig’). It simply meant that one person had harmed another and was unable to put things right. For example, one person stole another person’s property but was too poor to pay it back – therefore he was ‘guilty’ and subject to the penalties of the community.

2. Religious influences gradually changed this original meaning of guilt into ‘personal sin’.

3.  When Psychology started up in Germany and America in the 19th century it took over religious ideas about ‘sin’ and reinterpreted them in terms of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ actions. So doing one ‘bad’ thing made you an ‘evil’ or ‘guilty’ person – instead of someone who simply made a mistake.

4. Mistakes and ‘bad’ actions you committed in the past were based on the knowledge you possessed at the moment you committed them, no matter how daft. For example: you shop-lifted, knowing you couldn’t afford something but that you ‘had’ to have the item anyway. You let the Headmind state of greed get the better of you.

5. Therefore your past mistakes were based on inadequate knowledge (you thought it was ok to steal, or that you wouldn’t get caught, or that it wouldn’t matter if you did get caught). Your predictions turned out to be wrong, although you didn’t  realise that at the time.

6. Your present self-judgments are based on a false premise: your present self blames your past self even though your past self did not possess the experience of knowledge your present self now has.

Here is the truth:

1. You did not actually have free will back then when you committed your error of judgment. You did what you had to do at the time because you lacked Awareness.

2. Indulging in Headmind worry (i.e. analyzing over and over again about what an ‘evil’ person you were/are) may actually get in the way of your attempts to put things right.

3. If you have really done somebody wrong you could connect to the emotion of remorse and get on with making amends, rather than wasting time on guilt.

Image by Jsome1

Schopenhauer – a philosophy for grumpy people?

Schopenhauer In my last article – Can feeling grumpy be good for you? I mentioned one of my favourite philosophers – Arthur Schopenhauer – who was a grumpy old man already by the age of 19. I first read him at 15 and developed a ‘bah humbug’ attitude which was delicious and self-indulgent while it lasted although I no longer think it is clever – or even profound – to be pessimistic about life. Even so, I still think that Schopenhauer possessed a genius for philosophy. (He also wrote a lot about sex).

Here are a few gems:

After your death you will be what you were before your birth.

Everyone takes the limit of his own field of vision for the limit of the world.

The conscious mind may be regarded as a kind of parasite of the organism, a pensioner, as it were, who dwells within the body.

If you want to know your true opinion of someone, watch the effect produced in you by the sight of a letter/email from that person.

The two enemies of human happiness are pain and boredom.

We forfeit three-fourths of ourselves in order to be like other people.

Console yourself by remembering that the world doesn’t deserve your affection.

Change alone is eternal, perpetual, immortal.

There is no absurdity so obvious but that it may be firmly planted in the human head if you only begin to introduce it before the age of five, by constantly repeating it with an air of great solemnity.

The closing years of life are like a masquerade party, when the masks are dropped.

Compassion is the basis of all morality.

Wicked thoughts and worthless efforts gradually set their mark on the face, especially the eyes.

The greatest of mistakes is to sacrifice health for any other kind of reward.

There is no doubt that life is given us, not to be enjoyed, but to be overcome.

In my next article I will write about the advantages – and disadvantages – of pessimism for life.

Can feeling grumpy be good for you?

Moods1 I receive a mischievous communication from my very good friend Mark McGuinness who wants me to comment on a research article he has looked into, written by some ‘Australian psychologists’, which claims that being in a ‘bad mood’ can be ‘good’ for you.

Now, some of my best experiences in life have been prompted by my ‘bad’ moods. With the aid of those I have got rid of countless annoying relationships, irritating jobs and pointless activities. So my first thought was that – yet again – a bunch of overpaid academics were being subsidised to announce discoveries most of us learned in primary school. And that Mark had forgotten our many rambling midnight conversations about emotions and the meaning of life.

Yet I realised immediately that these gorgeous, Bondi-beach seeking academics have made yet another category mistake: While bad moods can, indeed, be ‘good’, those are not the same as ‘bad emotions’.

To remind you: there is no such thing as a bad emotion. Emotions are an expression of Bodymind
intelligence. A mood is different. It is a  Headmind attitude. It expresses a relationship between our attitudes and the world as we find it. You can read more about moods here.

A grumpy mood, for me, is a relationship based on suspicion. It means that I no longer trust that experiences, situations, people, or the Lord God himself are doing me any favours. And that, in turn, is a cue that I need to revise my trusting attitude towards these entities. I need to retreat, stand-off, complain, and have a moan. I may even need to disengage – permanently.

So yes – a grumpy mood can be good for you if it helps you get rid of your intellectual garbage.

The funny thing is that I actually find grumpy moods enjoyable. Entraining my suspicion and pessimism on the planet gives me a god-like sense of detachment and playfulness. It also gives me a playground for wit.

Rather like one of my favourite philosophers – Arthur Schopenhauer – who once wrote:

“If we were not all so interested in ourselves, life would be so uninteresting that none of us would be able to endure it.”

Come to think of it, Schopenhauer deserves an article all to himself, so I will write that next.

What you can learn from Gurdjieff

Gurdjieff George Ivanovich Gurdjieff died on the 29th October 1949 in the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine, near Paris. Although I have little respect for Gurus (as, neither, did the man himself) and would have found Gurdjieff repellent had I actually met him, he changed my life.

I would not be alive now had I not accidentally discovered Gurdjieff’s teachings. When I was going through a bad, depressed, suicidal patch in my 20s, I came across one of Maurice Nicol’s Commentaries on the Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky in a bookstore on the Charing Cross Road. In there, I read that all negative states were delusions. A light-bulb went off in my head. Could I actually be creating my own misery rather than being a victim of life itself?

I read on further. Not only were negative ideas fantasies but they were based on wrong work of the intellect. That the correct way out was to restore right work of the mind, the heart, the body, and the sexual instinct. That the way out from despair was to repair the intelligences in those centres and to do work on oneself in order to become a complete, fully-functioning, human being using each of those centres. That only the ego, and its relentless self-pity, could possibly get in the  way.

30 years later I am struck by just how much I had borrowed from Gurdjieff when I developed the ideas that led to Reverse Therapy. Here are a few examples:

1. That personal growth relies on hard work and humility.

2. Headmind, or the Intellect – is not necessarily the most important organ you possess. Your personal genius and your passion is equally important.

3. Headmind chatter – gossip, internal self-talk, journalism, academic writing, television – is the enemy of self-development.

4. It’s important for your health to separately pursue satisfaction for all your vital centres – emotional, physical, sexual and intellectual, on an equal basis.

5. If you rely too much on one centre you can will experience disatisfaction according to the centre you are fixated on: intellect (anxiety), emotion (sentimentality), sex (lust), or body (greed).

6. Most human beings are slaves of conditioning – out-of-date customs, insincerity, empty rituals, received ideas – which keep them asleep.

7. The task that God (Gurdjieff refers to him as ‘His Endlessness’) sets us is to wake up and serve his purpose: to wake up other people and live a more intensive life.

8. That the word Sin (in ancient Greek) means merely ‘missing the point’. No human being is born evil in the Christian sense. Our only ‘sin’ is to fall asleep again.

9. All living creatures are ‘idiots’ which (in Greek) means they try to go their own way regardless of others. Even God, in this sense, is an idiot. Realising that you, too, are an idiot, provides humor as well as compassion for others.

10. The purpose of life is self-development to the point at which you can appreciate God’s purpose. Which is love. But love is not a matter or words or fine feelings. It relates to empathy – your deep appreciation of the idiot who exists beside you. And who needs your appreciation (and humor) as much as you do hers.

Think like Charlie Chaplin

Charliechaplin

I have never been that thrilled by Charlie Chaplin. I get that lots of people admire his films but the little tramp and his amazing adventures leave me cold.

But here are some absolutely brilliant thoughts on life written by the man himself, apparently for his 70th birthday celebrations in 1959.

Thanks to Stephan Langguth for sending this to me.

As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth. Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY“.

As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody as I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this person was me. Today I call it “RESPECT“.

As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life, and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow. Today I call it “MATURITY“.

As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at the exactly right moment, so I could be calm. Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE“.

As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time, and I stopped designing huge projects for the future. Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness; things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm. Today I call it “SIMPLICITY“.

As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything the drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude egoism. Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF“.

As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since I have been wrong less of the time. Today I discovered that is “MODESTY“.

As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worry about the future. Now, I only live for the moment, where EVERYTHING is happening. Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILMENT“.

As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick. But As I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally. Today I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART“.

We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born. Today I know THAT IS “LIFE“!

Image by mansionwb

6 ways to get rid of an addiction

Brainaddict

In my last post – What Everybody ought to know about Addictions – I explained how addictions work. In this article I am going to describe how you can get rid of your addictions (if you really want to).

1. Break your slavery to the Dragon.

The Dragon is a creature who works like an Internal Control Freak. It tells you when to use, how to use, where to use, who to use with and why you should never stop. Some Addictions can seem overwhelming but they are only so because we secretly feed them our own power. Like I said in the last article, Attention is your Dragon’s fertiliser; while Inattention is its weedkiller.

The simplest way out of an Addiction is to live as if you never had one (this is easier than you might think so long as you ignore the Inner Voice – see below).

2. Reduce the power of the Inner Voice

The Dragon (i.e. your Addiction) works through a seductive Inner Voice that appears to know all the answers. Many people who hear the advice given in No. 1. (above) say things like ‘I wish I knew how!’ or ‘I wish it were that easy!’ The reason they find addictions difficult to break is due to the power of the Addictive Voice. Here are some ways to break free from it:

a) Doing something that is the polar opposite of the craving the Inner Voice counsels you to obey

b) Change the Inner Voice over to the Voice of an Idiot.

Listen to the Voice but this time use the accents and tone of someone you consider to be an Idiot.

c) Associate the Voice with someone (or something) very boring

There are endless ways in which you can mess around with the Addictive Voice. Using a voice that puts you to sleep has worked for quite a few of my clients.

3 Reduce opportunities for gratification

Like I said in No. 1 (above) the Dragon feeds on attention. The less you go along with the craving the weaker it gets. Here are some ways to do that:

a) Increase the amount of time between one indulgence and the next. If you consume every day then make it every other day. If you consume every hour then make it every other hour. If you drink alchohol continuously (for example) then have a soft drink between each consumption.

b) Delay consumption. For example, if you think you need a gamble, then go for a walk/talk to a good friend/carry on working for the next 15 minutes or so (you can do this again and again and again…).

c) Avoid situations where temptation could kick in.

Most addictions are tediously predictable. They involve the same substances, in the same quantities, with the same people, in the same places, at the same time of day. If you avoid those places, people and times then you are less likely to use. Period.

d) Stay busy.

Put it the other way around: if you have time to indulge then you are not busy enough. Or maybe you haven’t found something better to do (see No. 7 – below).

4 Go to the extreme.

This is the one I would recommend least. One of the few wrong statements William Blake ever made was that ‘The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” It doesn’t. The road of excess leads to degradation. But it has become something of a truism that drug addicts and alcholics only turn around and give up when they reach the gutter and there is something in that. But do you need to lose your health, your job, your money, your relationship and your self-respect before you make that decision?

5 Associate gratification with something disgusting.

This is a less dangerous version of No. 4 and is based on reconditioning. For example, a teenager can give up drinking after one bad hangover; someone who is sexually promiscuous can reform quickly after getting a dose of the clap.

But you don’t have to go in for misfortunes in order to reform. Instead, dwell insistently on the way you look to others when you self-indulge. Moments when you were degrading, juvenile, bloated, repulsive, ill, contemptible, etc. Or real-life experiences: in jail, in the gutter, in bed with someone you didn’t want to be with, getting fired, etc.

6. Rediscover your passion.

In a famous quote Gregory Bateson, the Anthropologist, once said:

The alcoholic’s problem is not alchohol but sobriety.’

What he was referring to was a variation on my theme that people who become addicts are frequently bored. They get bored because they have too much time on their hands. And they have too much time on their hands because they have given up on their Personal Genius. Meaning they aren’t doing enough to engage their energy, their passion, their mission in life.

In the long run addictions are a substitute for the life you were meant to live.

Don’t let it happen to you.

What everybody ought to know about Addictions

Crack-addict This is the first in two articles about Addictions. The next one – 6 ways to remove Addictions – will appear next week.

In order to eliminate an Addiction you first need to understand how it works. When you see how an Addiction controls you then you are in a position to exercise Awareness over it. From that position you can start to sabotage it.

Human beings can get addicted to almost anything: sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, alcohol, food, weight loss, gambling, therapy, attention-seeking, shopping, stealing, wrist-slashing, surgery (think Michael Jackson), relationships and the internet. Most of what follows applies to Alcohol addiction but most of my observations equally well apply to other bananas.

The first thing to realise is that Addictions are actually obsessions. Obsessions work through tunnel vision, making the problem more important than it actually is. The key to breaking addictions is to break out of the inertia, habit and routine that comes with the addiction and connect back to Bodymind and the wider world.

Addictions are created and maintained in Headmind through a dominating Inner Voice. This Inner Control Freak can be incredibly powerful as well as seductive. It says things like:

‘Go on. You deserve it…’

‘Just the one won’t harm you…’

‘No one will know…’

‘The alternative is just too boring…’

‘You can’t make it through the night without a drink…’

‘It’s no use resisting you know you’re going to have one…’

The more you listen to the voice and follow its commands the stronger it gets. I call this ‘feeding the dragon’. The Dragon started off as a worm but grew and grew until it had you in its tentacles. Attention is its fertiliser. Disobeying it (or laughing at it/ignoring it) is its weedkiller.

If you do allow the Dragon to get a hold on you then your original liking will first turn into a habit. I have worked with many addicts over the past 20 years and it’s just weird how predictable they are. They will use the same beverages, in the same quantities, with the same people, at the same places, at the same times, every day of their lives. But it is easy to break a habit: provided you have something better to replace it with (see next article).

Once a habit turns into an Addiction (meaning that the Dragon has started to control you instead of you controlling it) at that point the problem becomes part of your Personality. Meaning that you start to define yourself as a person who is a slave to something else. This process is helped along by Alcoholics Anonymous and other ‘experts’ who use labels like ‘Alcoholic’, ‘Drug Addict’, ‘Sex Addict’, ‘Kleptomaniac’, ‘Bulimic’, ‘Narcissist’, etc. Labels like these can induce pathology and keep you in a bad place you no longer wish to be in. Drop the labels and change your personality and you will be free again.

The next thing to understand about an Addiction is that it’s not all in the mind. That there is a biological basis for the craving which is relatively easy to understand. So here goes.

When Bodymind notices that you are drinking in large quantities on a regular basis it also notices that the alcohol is depleting the brain of GABA – a neurotransmitter which regulates alertness. And when that happens it seeks to compensate by increasing GABA production. The net result will leave you feeling restless, agitated and uncomfortable. And Headmind – via your Inner Dragon – will interpret that problem as a cue for another drink….which means that, once again, you are feeding that Inner Dragon.

After a while even Headmind starts to realise that the Addiction is creating fresh problems. Like social exclusion, failed relationships, unemployment, crime, financial disaster, sexually transmitted disease, and persistent unhappiness. So it will start to worry about what happens next. But worry won’t solve anything – it just confirms your slavery. But more on that in my next article.