Sunday, 21 December 2014

Dental troubles

What a few weeks it's been.
What should have been a simple dental  restoration (a crown on a back molar) has turned into a major trauma...

After having my last upper molar on the left (UL6 for those geeks who really want to know) crowned a few weeks ago my life has been absolutely altered by excruciating muscle spasms in my neck and head, my sleep disrupted with tinnitus, buzzing and a horrible taste in my mouth ever present.

This first appeared after the temporary crown was fitted (plastic) but got much worse when the permanent (porcelain/metal) crown was put on.I thought at first I was rejecting the metal (I am highly metal sensitive - I can't wear earrings for instance). But after subsequent investigations by an osteopath, and 2 trips back to the dentist it appears to be more about misalignment of the teeth. If the bite is not meeting properly (malocclusion) then this appear to set all the bones of the cranium and jaw off. Then the muscles strain to bring everything back into alignment and if they can't do it they are in permanent strain which makes them spasm.

It seems this is all much worse if you grind your teeth at night (which apparently I do) - I have TMJ (temporomandibular joint) syndrome. I never realised this until now but waking up 2-3 times in the night with my mouth open and pain in my neck I realise that is what is happening. It appears that the jaw is grinding to try to realign the bite (which with natural teeth would happen as you would grind down any that are high). With a porcelain crown it is so hard that no amount of grinding will do that so it's a never ending cycle of pain and grinding. So you get pain transferring down the neck to the shoulders and up to the top of the head. I've had sinus infections, headaches and terrible neck pain and clunking. I can't believe such a tiny thing can cause so much pain.

I am about to go and get it readjusted again (the dentist gets you to bite and sees where it is not meeting properly then he grinds it down with a drill). This will be my second time. It's not fun, and it's been an absolute nightmare overall.. I would say to anyone considering a crown - check first if you have problems with TMJ syndrome) as you may need extra work before and after the treatment from an osteopath or craniosacral practitioner. I finally found some mention of why this might be on a great website that talks about the link between the teeth and the body.  It helped explain to me why everything felt so 'off' and I felt so ill.

oddly though it has been an incredible learning experience - particularly as it brought back memories of being young and having so much dental surgery where I was anaethetised and had my tonsils and adenoids taken out. I swear I had one night where I relieved this surgery - like a waking dream. I think my mind was trying to exorcise the trauma of that event.. I had visions of people leaning over me - just shadows really and a dread fear. I know night-time is the worst for fear and worry but this was a different experience altogether. Quite out of body.

I will update when I have had another adjustment. I hope it is better..

Friday, 12 September 2014

Polyvagal theory and Trauma formation. How unresolved emotion can cause the freeze response

Am currently finalising my presentation for the Chrysalis Effect Practitioner Forum on Monday evening; my presentation is on Trauma formation and the Freeze Response (based on the work of Peter Levine) which I see as key to why people get stuck with conditions such as chronic pain and fatigue, CFS, ME, etc. I will be outlining:

*Role of the subconscious (limbic system) in dictating behaviour. The evolutionary triune brain.

*Trauma and unresolved emotion as 'landscapers' of the brain via the limbic system

*Beyond fight and flight; Polyvagal theory and the freeze response*

*Solutions to unlocking the freeze response; the psychosensory therapies; EFT, EMDR and havening

*POTS – Postural Tachycardia Syndrome - a red herring?

The event will be recorded so will be available on my website as soon as I have it. I will be sending out a newsletter with the link to my mailing list - subscribe now for my free e-book while you wait!
And if you want to know what you can do about this then see my other blogs on EMDR
and EFT.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

A letter to Jenni Murray (BBC presenter of Woman's Hour)

Dear Jenni

I read in the Daily Mail that you have decided to have a gastric band fitted to combat the weight gain you have incurred over many years and which now threatens your health. Notwithstanding all the vitriol that you have received for this decision (motivated in part by fear of other women that if you can't manage it without surgery what hope for them?) But I was just saddened. That you have been forced down this road by well-meaning doctors and surgeons who claim it will cut your risk of diabetes, heart disease and the like. Well, in the short term that maybe true but no-one knows the long term risks of these procedures.. The surgery is going to have major implications for your health as you will no longer be able to absorb nutrients like you used to. This could increase your risk for cancer and other immune problems.

But the point of my letter is not to pour scorn on your decision but to tell you that there is another way that you haven't considered (at least not from your article anyway). You talked about having tried all the diets out there and they haven't worked. Of course not. Very few people manage to keep the weight off that way and in any case it requires constant vigilance and willpower. Wouldn't it be great if you could 'eat normally' and still lose weight? Well if you approach the psychological drivers of weight gain and treat them, you would be able to. Most people don't appreciate the huge part that subconscious processes play in our behaviour as they are, well, so unconscious. We eat to assuage a deep longing/need - for comfort, for protection, for freedom from boredom or because it's a quick fix that makes us feel temporarily better.  Our psyche tell us we are 'not right/good enough/loveable and we eat to contain that uncomfortable feeling. What I am talking about here is the role of emotions in unconscious eating. We all suffer from this to some degree but, depending on your background, and experiences when growing up, some of us have a more faulty self-image which no amount of diets or surgery is ever going to cure.

So, if the problem isn't 'physical' then why should the solution be? You need to look at using one of the new techniques that are just being developed under the term 'energy psychology'. In fact what they are is using electrical stimulation to change the neural programming in the emotional brain (limbic system). The one I would particularly recommend for eating problems is EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique. A book I would suggest to get you started would be 'Tapping for Weight loss' by Jessica Ortner who has used the technique herself to rid over 3 stone - without diets or restriction. and the benefits go beyond weight loss - they affect every part of your self-image so increasing your self-esteem and healing many old wounds and erroneous beliefs about yourself.

I don't know your story Jenni, but I know most of us have childhood trauma of one sort or another. Although we think we have 'dealt with it' we find that in fact it exists as a deeply embedded memory and belief structure that continues to affect us today. With a skilled therapist to augment the book you may be able to uncover these and deal with them but even without paying more than the cost of the book you can get great results. And it will certainly be cheaper and less dangerous than the surgery you are contemplating. I know that this is the best method I've ever come across - second only to hypnotherapy which also deals with subconscious process -  check out the hypno gastric band - that's another potential solution where you make your body self-limit it's own intake with feelings of fullness but without the surgery.. This is a subconscious problem and it needs a subconscious solution.

One day medicine will be unified- it will stop seeing things in terms of physical vs. mental and realise we are mind and body and one affects the other in profound ways. We will stop looking for the magic bullet of chemical medicine and look to supporting the body's innate healing powers instead. I hope that this new medicine will use some of the advances in modern medicine but doing so in a more intelligent, integrated way with knowledge from psychology and spirituality. These aren't flaky ideas. They are being proven  time and time again in myriad ways in labs and therapy clinics across the world. Don't be persuaded to give up your body to the knife until you've explored this. If I could intervene for you I would, but perhaps that's best left to you. I have learnt through hard experience that trying to persuade someone before they are ready is pointless. I just hope I'm not too late.

Best wishes
Patricia Worby

p.s orginal Daily Mail article is here

Saturday, 16 August 2014

POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome).

I see the Daily Mail ran a story recently saying that POTS could be the 'cause' for 1 in 3 people with CFS. Having heard the woman who heads the research team at Newcastle university talk a couple of years ago I remember thinking at the time she is never going to work out the neurology of this because she's too narrow in her focus. She spent the first 20 mins of the talk (to University Researchers) justifying that CFS is a real disease and not just malingering (presumably the medics that she normally lectures to have that belief). Then when she got to the heart of her presentation and described how they put people on a 'tilt' table to measure their responses (this apparently is how they diagnose it). sounded barbaric and very unpleasant! However, my main bone of contention and one that has been repeated by the Daily Mail is that this is somehow the 'cause' of CFS when clearly it is just another result of autonomic dysregulation (mediated by the limbic system). A client of mine has pointed me to a training programme called DNRS (Dynamic Neural Retraining System) which she uses - I noted they had an article on POTS too. They say;
Symptoms can include but are not limited to:
  • Increase in heart rate, dizziness, fainting, headache, sweating, shakiness, nausea -  mostly worse with standing
  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Discoloured hands and feet
  • Sense of anxiety
  • Chest pains
  • Nerve pain
  • Hyperacusis (sensitivity to noise)
  • Photophobia (pain/relapse on exposure to light)
  • Changes in taste and smell
I can remember having most of these symptoms when I was ill 15 years ago - however, no-one seemed to be able to link all of these symptoms - they were all treated separately. The first thing I was given was tablets for the dizziness which made no difference at all. However, had I been diagnosed with CFS or POTS for that matter it wouldn't have helped as it is still a descriptive diagnosis of exclusion (i.e we don't know what it is but it's not something neurological/structural, it's characterised by these things so we'll call it CFS/POTS, etc). So, given a diagnosis like that people are left to manage the symptoms with no idea that the limbic system controls all of these things and that ongoing subconscious stress is triggering the limbic system into sympathetic dominance or vagal freeze. Without understanding what is behind it all people are left powerless and controlled by a medical system that then feeds them expensive drugs and surgery as the answer. It would be quite criminal if it wasn't legal...

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Polyvagal Theory and the origins of Chronic Fatigue

My recent reading has led me to discover a theory first identified by Stephen Porges on Polyvagal theory of development. This states that there are three levels of the autonomic nervous system which relate to which era of our evolutionary development they originated in.
  1. The unmyelinated vagus nerve which developed 500 million years ago in the fish. Myelin is the covering or sheath around nerve fibres which makes them insulated and able to transfer nerve impulses very fast so without it the messages are necessarily slower. 
  2. The sympathetic nervous system (or fight' and flight' system as many know it) which is based on basal ganglia from the spinal cord - this comes from our mammalian past.
  3. The myelenated vagus belonging to the parasympathetic system which is the opposite to fight and flight in that it is responsible for calming us down and giving us time to relax and enjoy interaction with others (the social bonding system).
If this is down-regulated as it often is with chronic stress we will be forced into the level below (i.e. sympathetic dominance) where we are ready to 'fight the tiger', our heart rate will be high, and our gut unable to function as blood is diverted away from it - hence churning and IBS symptoms. If our systems are even more exhausted (as they are with years of chronic pain in for instance chronic fatigue syndrome) then the other two levels are hijacked and we operate in the 'freeze' mode of the unmyelinated vagal system (freeze state) whereby nothing works. Our energy levels are so low we cannot function, even the most moderate tasks exhaust us. Our mitochondria are getting the signal to 'go slow'.. It down-regulates all metabolic activity. We are operating at the level of a reptile.

The next question is why and this is where my researches and experience working with people suffering from chronic fatigue shows me that subconscious trauma (perhaps more accurately termed unresolved emotion) seems to be the key here. If, in early life, the person suffers a traumatic experience and interprets that they are worthless or dangerous, then any subsequent event which plays into this subconscious belief system will trigger the body to go into a meltdown freeze state. The earlier the traumatic event in the person's life the more likely this is. Women also seem to be more biologically prone to this as men are more likely to go into fight and flight.

There may be periods of remission where the person has a reasonable ability to function but the next event which triggers these subconscious beliefs they will go downhill again. Thus it explains both the metabolic fatigue and the relapse and remission cycle common to all fatigue syndromes (ME, CFS, Fibromyalgia). Remember these events are recorded in the emotional brain or limbic system with the sensations and emotions that they first caused. They are processed differently from normal memories and may get 'stuck' in the emotional brain/limbic system where they continue to dictate behaviour and  symptoms.

I want to present this theory to the chronic fatigue community - including other clinical professionals at a webinar specifically set up so that we can understand why tinkering at the top level i.e. with diet and pacing can seldom work, if it doesn't approach the real underlying causes of the subconscious neural processing. Thus in summary, we are emotional beings with three increasingly sophisticated nervous systems overlaid on top of eachother (note also this occurs in the brain as well - see the Triune brain theory) - the final one belonging to a reptilian past. If, due to life circumstances this one becomes dominant as the others are suppressed, then our life becomes severely and devastatingly limited. In the next blog I'll be talking about how we can reverse this suppression with various tools from energy psychology.

With thanks to the writing of Peter Levine for these insights and my clients for their practical application.

Monday, 4 August 2014

August musings on mindbody medicine and trauma

August the month of holidays... someone said on the radio today that August is the 'Sunday' of the months and I agree. It feels like a last-ditch effort to enjoy the sun and note how the nights are drawing in. And yet it's just part of the cycle of life really.

Interesting how in having 'down-time' the mind will remember other times you had that response. I had a client in recently who was about to go on holiday but was having very mixed feelings as she has lost her father recently and she was about to return to his former home in Italy. This manifested though as odd sensations and aches in her back and down her legs. Now, you will know if you have read anything I've written before that I am very much a believer in the mindbody connection. I told her it was very likely that these odd pains were linked to her imminent departure but that she should get checked at the doctors just in case. The doctor gave her a clean bill of health so we were left to work on the symptoms from a mindbody perspective.

According to my experience and the work of Dr. John Sarno, it seems that the mind will create aches and pains to distract you from the more painful and serious emotional pain that you are trying to avoid confronting. I know if you haven't come across this idea before it may sound strange but time and time again I have proved this. Anyhow, it seemed a classic case to me as these pains had come on suddenly a few days before her intended departure.. In our therapy session we started with EFT (emotional freedom technique or tapping) which allows you to both own the symptom but also release it. As we worked together I saw a wave of emotion appear to come from her stomach (where she had located the current pain) and wash over her face - tears soon followed. There was a tremendous amount of grief pent up in this person, which she hadn't really dealt with.

Leaving to go away was both pleasurable (it was a holiday after all) and painful as it was the place she had last seen her father AND in order to go she had to leave her elderly cat who was also very dear to her and who is on borrowed time already. This is a classic case of internal conflict; you both want to do something and you don't want to. The guilt and conflicted feelings come out with back-ache or sciatica or whatever. How can you tell if what you have is a true pathology (i.e structural problem) or a mind-body issue? Chase the pain. What I mean by this is use the EFT protocol (detailed and described in detail on my website to apply the tapping protocol and see if the pain moves. it usually changes in some fundamental way pretty quickly.

For my client, I had instructed her to do this the night before she came to see me as it would give me a strong clue as to whether to treat the pain with physical or mindbody therapy. She reported that it went from her legs to her stomach. So, I had a pretty good idea we were dealing with a mindbody problem. In the therapy we did together the pain moved again from a tightness in the stomach to a constriction in the throat (interesting as this often reflects something unspoken). As we continued this developed into a full blown panic attack so I asked her to move to the table and we worked on calming the autonomic nervous system with belly breathing (which helps to break the shallow breathing- oxygen deprivation cycle triggering panic in the brain) and then I helped her speak her pain and then we shook her limbs to release the pent up emotion  (this last approach has been detailed in Peter Levine's work - Waking the Tiger and Healing Trauma). I find it helps people to experience their emotion through their body which is where it resides. There is much theory around how the mind and subconscious process interact. Again, see the information on my website.

Suffice to say I was successful in this treatment and my client left -shaken obviously but no longer having the trauma in her body. Her pain disappeared immediately and she has recently sent me a text from holiday saying how much she is enjoying herself. (though it's worth noting for accuracy that she did experience another panic attack at a subsequent time - one session is not going to undo 40/50 years of trauma!).

If any of this sounds interesting or you have anything to add please contact me through my website or facebook pages.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The unspeakable Speakmans

Someone in the clinic where I worked asked me if I'd seen this TV show 'The Speakman's' yet.. I hadn't even heard of it (I don't watch live TV- takes up too much time) but am always interested in catching something that's been recommended. I was told 'they do amazing things like cure phobias' - really fast!' I was intrigued.

I watched the show on itvplayer - with my mouth open most of the time. The programme is very much in the shlock reality TV mould with frequent add breaks and reminders after of what you've just viewed (in case you've forgotten!). My first reaction, I'll admit was one of horror. These people look like your worst idea of celebrity chasers. He (the husband of the man and woman duo) looks like a middle aged man trying to look young - hideous haircut, and his wife is the blond bimbette type. They have a 'fabulous' house in Rochdale, several ridiculously expensive cars, surrounded by the obvious trappings of wealth, but with no taste. Never mind. I got that bit out the way and then I tried to concentrate on their methods...

Hard to decipher as in fact, the TV format doesn't really go into detail - they have a conversation, they isolate the causative event in the persons life and then they do basic NLP manoeuvres on those memories. They also aren't afraid to humiliate the client if that is what it takes. They call it 'schema reconditioning'. So, they use eye movements, sometimes body movements, freeze framing and running the story backwards, etc to break the link between the memory and the disabling beliefs that surround it.. Fascinating. Now, it's difficult to know exactly how much of what you see is edited out from what actually happened but, on the surface at least, it gets results.

And, in time I must admit I began to think well they're onto something here. So, then I began to think about how I run the 'fast phobia cure' which is an established hypnotherapy technique - it's not dissimilar. What, works for them I think is the expectation ('therapists to the stars!' is how they're billed). As we know, in treatment setting up a positive expectation is 3/4 of treatment. But as for the rest, I don't quite  know how to explain their success. He, certainly seems to know his stuff, she is probably the bubbly, bright eye candy component but you can't fail after a while to start to like them in all their exuberant awfulness. They LOVE their life as they keep telling you and want to spread their joy around. As Nik Speakman says - you're only born with 2 phobias naturally - fear of confined spaces and fear of loud noises (he's not quite right there there's a couple more) - everything else is learned behaviour and can therefore be unlearned.

So, that, my friends and followers concurs with my attitude to life. We deserve more than to be stuck. We deserve to live life in joy and health. I can't quite agree with his saying 'what do you want qualifications or results?' - because  ideally you'd have both. You'd want your therapist to be accredited, to really know their stuff, and to be effective. That's my aim anyhow. Go Speakmans!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

The downward spiral

I went to visit an elderly friend in hospital this week and was aghast to see how several weeks in hospital has rendered her. This once independent, feisty woman is reduced to as shadow of herself - literally and metaphorically. the most noticeable difference is the amount of weight she has lost. Now down to less than 5 stone. The cause of this? she broke her hip 3 months ago in a fall at home. She was admitted to hospital and has had numerous operations to try to mend it but she is now so weak she cannot stand. now hospital is obviously the place to be when you have a broken bone, and particularly when you are 95 and live alone. But I really take issue with the type of care she has received. The nursing staff for the most part are lovely, but the problem seems to be with they system.

This elderly lady has been moved 11 times in her 3 months stay - both to another hospital and to different wards within the same hospital. She has also been given food she cannot eat, over cooked meat ('which all tastes the same') and ends up bringing it all back up again so she has simply stopped eating it. Nutrition is so key with someone like this. The elderly have very weak digestion and need lots of fluid and dilute protein - so vegetable/ meat broths would be ideal. Her friends have noticed and try to bring things in for her. But all she gets is cake which she doesn't want and won't help her body heal.

I know, she's 95, what can you expect. But if only as much attention and money were paid to the diet of the ill and convalescing as is spent on expensive surgery then people might get better a lot quicker and we'd have less of a crisis in our health system.

Friday, 20 June 2014

The Road less Travelled; natural approaches to health and healing.

I have borrowed the title of the famous book by M Scott Peck not to talk about self improvement, and psychology like he does, but to look at naturopathic approaches to health and healing. I went to
 an interesting talk on Saturday by Naturopathic guru's Joe and Lara Pizzorno (authors of the seminal Textbook of Natural Medicine) about Acidiosis, Mercury toxicity and Osteoporosis and natural approaches to reversing these issues.

The approach is basically one of supporting the body's detoxification systems - specifically the liver - rather than suppressing symptoms with increasingly dangerous drugs. For example in osteoporosis the available pharmaceutical methods are pretty much all very harmful - one class of drugs the bisphosphonates - e.g. Fosamax and other trade names... promotes cancer of the jaw and oespophagus!) In the US, dentists are refusing to treat people on this class of drugs because of potential litigation..

No. 1 recommendation was to alkalise your diet, reduced salt (sodium competes with Calcium in the bones) and stop drinking sodas/fizzy drinks - diet or not, the phosphates in these are very damaging to bone rebuilding activity . If you  mess with this process either by not having enough Calcium to build the bone or having too much toxicity in your blood (heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants - 'POP's' from water, etc) or worse, taking the pharmaceutical medicines !! you will end up with osteoporosis.
Top recommendations are; Add sea-algae to your diet, reduce grains and sugars and supplement Betaine HCl to help your stomach to digest properly (> 40& of postmenopausal women are deficient in this vital stomach acid and Calcium in the diet cannot therefore be absorbed).

Use milk thistle to support the liver, make sure you do de-stressing activities to balance your system and prioritise sleep as this is the time when we do our vital detoxification.
There is so much you CAN do to help yourself. . If anyone is interested in ordering my downloads on various subjects with specific recommendations for different conditions then please see my website

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Chronic Pain and TMS – the hidden cause

When, in my mid-thirties I became struck by a mystery illness which rendered me incapable of more than 3 hours work a day, I feared the worst. The symptoms were very varied but began with incredible fatigue. Then my joints swelled up so that walking became painful. I had unexplained rashes and itching, dizziness and headaches, it went on and on. I went back and forth from the GP and various hospital and blood tests. They could find nothing organically wrong with me and left me with a 6 months prescription for painkillers telling me it would probably get better of its own accord!

So, I determined I would find out more about chronic pain and fatigue and see if I could unlock whatever it was with alternative methods. I tried acupuncture (which was helpful), homeopathy (which was not – for me anyway). Then I tried massage and chiropractic and finally some Chinese herbs which were incredibly effective as they detoxified my body and enabled it to begin to heal. I started to see that health and wellbeing was more than curing myself of disease. It was about bringing my body back into balance.

Fast forward 15 years and I am now a fully qualified therapist specialising in Chronic pain, specifically TMS or Tension Myositis Syndrome (which is closely related to Chronic Fatigue syndrome although they may manifest differently). It is a stress-related illness – by which I don’t mean necessarily due to an obvious stressor but it can be accumulated, low-level stress like being in the wrong job, relationship for you, or by burying your emotions of loss, grief or anger. Men and women are different in this respect as their emotional landscapes are different which may explain the huge preponderance of women with CFS/ME as compared to men. Men on the other hand may get unexplained back pain, or auto-immune diseases. Modern medicine calls these conditions different illnesses, and attempts to treat them symptomatically. This doesn’t work as the central cause isn’t in the affected part but in the brain.

Now, here’s where this gets tricky as people in pain do not like being told ‘it’s all in the mind’. That isn’t what I’m saying at all. The pain is very real and there is real physical disturbance in the tissue causing that pain. However, the ultimate causation is in the imbalance in the nervous system which comes from undischarged emotion. It is a simple biological fact that we are hardwired for emotion – the two most primitive are fear and defensive anger (rage). In the animal kingdom (of which we are part from an evolutionary perspective) animals will display these emotions as a survival tactic. If we didn’t have fear we would be incautious and perhaps get eaten, if we didn’t have rage we couldn’t stand up to our attackers with the same result. The part of the nervous system that controls this is the autonomic nervous system and it is composed of two parts; the sympathetic and the para-sympathetic. They are like the accelerator and brakes respectively that modulate the body’s responses to outside stimulus. But they also response to internal stimuli – our feelings and emotions.

So, if we are afraid, our heart rate increases, our breathing is rapid, we are geared to the so-called  ‘fight or flight’ response which involves the brain and endocrine (hormone) system. If we have a situation where neither of these is possible we can exhibit a freeze response where our body is in perpetual slow motion – lacking energy and vitality. This is probably the basis for Chronic Fatigue syndromes – much more common in women whose nervous systems tend to freeze more than they fight. [i]That our mind can create this may seem nonsensical until you begin to understand our evolutionary heritage. As animals, our mind is incredibly complex and designed to deal with threat- it cannot differentiate between real threat and perceived threat – perception is everything! So, for instance we can get anxiety because our mind is interpreting a situation as threatening even when it is relatively innocuous. This is because the brain is a pattern recognition machine and it links certain events together by their associated senses or emotions. So, for instance a certain smell will evoke a memory as will feeling fearful – but the associations may be unconscious, so for instance your boss may remind you of someone you once feared so they trigger that response in you causing unconscious stress.
TMS is the physical response of the body to that cumulative, low-grade stress. It inhibits blood flow to the tissues casuing local ischaemia (or oxygen deprivation). The tissues become hypoxic, lactic acid builds up and pain and fatigue is the result – especially in muscles and tendons. There only needs to be a small amount of reduction too to have serious effects. If the nerves are affected then the pain may be accompanied/replaced by tingling or odd feeling sensations. But because the root cause – stress – is never addressed all physical approaches be they massage, physio, pain killers and surgery will never work. It has been noticed of instance that in people with Fibromyalgia most pain killers are ineffective.
There has been a lot of research into TMS but the main author who first coined the term was Dr john Sarno[ii]. He was in rehabilitation medicine for 30+ years and began to notice patterns of trauma in his patients that, if he encourage them to highlight and address their unprocessed emotions, they were able to reduce or remove their pain altogether. He hypothesised that the mind was creating pain as a diversion to these uncomfortable emotions – in the mind’s view physical pain is less damaging! He also noticed  that the pain could shift and move around when these feelings were addressed. Combined with his research into normal pathology of the spine and tissues with ageing, he came to the conclusion that the root cause was not physical but emotional.his work has since been furthered by clinicians such as Dr James Alexander[iii] who being a psychologist, was able to hypothersise how this mechanism might be mediated.

I have written extensively on this in other blogs and won’t repeat here, but mindbody medicine which acknowledges that we are both mind AND body is really the only logical way forward to solve the epidemic of mindbody disorders that we are currently seeing. These include in no particular order; CFS/ME, auto-immune disease, IBS, anxiety/panic disorders, headaches/migraines, insomnia, etc. In my practice I work with people on a mindbody level - we investigate the whole person not just the physical symptoms.  I use massage and Reiki to stimulate the body and rebalance the energy system, and then various psycho-somatic techniques such as EFT (tapping ) and EMDR within a hypnotherapeutic framework (which emphasises safety and self-empowerment).

[i] Peter Levine:  ‘In unspoken voice- how the body releases trauma
[ii]Dr john Sarno: ‘The Mindbody Prescription’ and ‘Healing Back Pain’
[iii] Dr James Alexander; The hidden Psychology of Pain’

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Medical contributions to psycho-genic pain

Further to my first blog on reading The Hidden Psychology of Pain by Dr James Alexander, I thought I'd add some more thoughts. I thoroughly agree with his contention that the medical establishment contributes in no small part to the perpetuation of the notion that pain can only have a physical cause. The idea that emotions can cause pain is dismissed in the main, especially since both physician and patient make the mistake of thinking that this means the pain is 'all in the mind' and therefore not real!. Psychogenic pain is completely real - it has a physical manifestation - which can be due to lack of oxygen supply to the tissues or over-contraction (spasm) but the over-riding cause is an emotional memory which has not been released and continues to replay the motor action that was in place at the time that the encoding traumatic event first occurred. So, in simple language the body holds the trauma in memory and, as this is never discharged, chronic pain ensues.. This may take the form of back pain, shoulder pain or in very severe cases, fibromyalgia and other chronic fatigue-related syndromes. There is usually complex childhood trauma at the heart of these syndromes.

The brain is able to create physical symptoms via the combination of limbic system (deep brain) which triggers the Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Adrenal (HPA) axis mediated by the autonomic nervous system; the body is flooded with stress chemicals (mostly cortisol from the adrenal glands) and the stress cycle begins. Cortisol will cause most of the symptoms seen, especially if it is released continuously.

Unfortunately, when a person is misdiagnosed with a physical cause of this (via increasingly sophisticated technological scans which reveal 'pathology' of the various tissues), the belief that there is indeed something physically 'wrong' is corroborated. What you are not told is that many people who are not in pain have the same 'pathology', but since they do not consult their doctors, this is rarely appreciated. However, there are many reliable studies that have confirmed this, it just does not fit the current model. If the pain was caused by the structural abnormalities then why doesn't everyone who has these abnormalities have pain? It just doesn't make sense.

With some chronic pain/fatigue syndromes like CFS/ME the symptoms are so varied that it is hard to see how they relate at all. They can range from cognitive disorders, digestive issues, cold hands and feet, postural hyptension (low blood pressure when standing up), etc, etc. The brain lies at the heart of all of these symptoms via, as we have said, the HPA axis and excess cortisol but for someone suffering it is hard to believe this.

I recently had  a client tell me that she has finally got a diagnosis of Menieres disease, a disorder of the inner ear that affects hearing and balance. It causes sudden attacks of vertigo (a spinning sensation), tinnitus (a loud ringing in the ears), and a temporary loss of hearing. She seemed relieved that at last there is an explanation for the very disabling symptoms she has been experiencing. However, I am not convinced that this 'disease' is not simply another manifestation of the autonomic nervous system imbalance. Sadly, it is hard to contradict the medical view as it is so supported in our culture, and, for someone in pain, they need to have an explanation or they fear that people will think they are making it up or 'swinging the lead' as it used to be called. Being told by a doctor that you have 'x disease' and then, worse, being told it is bad enough to merit investigation, usually by tests (in this case MRI), further traumatises the patient and ensures the symptoms will continue and usually get worse. For traumatisation to occur requires that the person be helpless. There is nothing like being subject to medical investigation with complex interventions by 'experts' to make a person feel helpless. They are totally disempowered from their bodies, their self-determination and become stuck in the anxiety loop.

Unless they are able to work with a trusted holistic/mindbody practitioner who can demonstrate the real meaning of these symptoms and give them tools to alleviate the stress, the likely prognosis is poor. We have seen people die from these chronic fatigue related diseases, and most live a thoroughly reduced quality of life. It takes a lot of courage to break free of the medical model, with its round of tests and specialists who each corroborate the view that this is lifelong and nothing much can be done. And the social care model, that only pays disability payments to those with defined conditions simply adds to the burden that these people feel. If they then get better does that mean they never had it in the first place?? how will they live while they are recovering but are still not well enough to work? This places such a pressure on people that they are unlikely to step outside the system, especially since this means losing the little certainty they had.

It is a very challenging field in which to work. But I have no doubt medical science and psychology will eventually unite and prove that this psycho-genic model is the correct one. We will in the future be able to understand our emotional fallibility without blame - and have a collaborative healthcare team to work with us to re-write the programme and release us from pain.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Ruminations on The hidden Psychology of Pain

Top of my reading list at the moment is The hidden psychology of pain by Dr James Alexander who's ideas support and further develop the ideas of Dr John Sarno re the origins of chronic pain. Sarno's ideas were that a lot of chronic back pain and pain syndromes like Chronic Fatigue Sydrome/ME are a psychologically driven response to unresolved emotions. Sarno's ideas are revolutionary and challenging to current medical thinking but as he is an MD and has treated a lot of people using his protocol, there are many clinicians who are beginning to take him seriously. John Alexander is one of them but he differs in that he is a psychologist so has, perhaps more of an idea on the psychological determinants of this. he has suggested that our response to pain is determined by our thinking about it - i.e. whether it dominates our lives, we catastrophise it, and interpret its meaning as one of 'things getting worse'. Certainly in my clinical practice I have noticed this tendency in the clients who fail to get better and I remember my own experience here too. I think I belong to that category or 'ruminators'. He refers to a couple of Pain Questionnaires1 that help determine these responses and therefore allow us to rate our contribution to pain and therefore suggest ways of re-training the mind (via hypnotherapy, psycho-sensory techniques such as EFT, etc).
My contribution to this debate is that trauma may be at the heart of this 'sensitisation' of the mind. I am coming to believe that all of us have traumatic memory - some small, some large but that the cumulative effect of these poorly processed emotions is one of priming the autonomic nervous system (the fight and flight mechanism) to one of hypervigilance - and the end result of that is that when challenging events do occur in later life (like accidents, viral infection, etc) our system (especially the adrenals) are so severely compromised that the immune system is depressed and we end up in a cycle of pain and worrying about pain...

This then becomes our focus and we start our journey to find external solutions, whether it be conventional or alternative. We fight the notion that the answer is in us as that seems like blaming ourselves for our pain when we feel innocent (which is correct - we are). But we need to take responsibility and begin to explore the old hurts (without endlessly recounting them) so that we can heal. I recommend Eye Movement Desensisation and Reprogramming (EMDR) for this as it heals the hurt without retriggering. It is quite profound.

I myself and having (EMDR) therapy so that
i/ I know what it feels like and
ii/ I can be cleared of my triggers to get my mental attic cleared
Both of these help me to be clearer when helping my clients.

I started by looking at my blood phobia which is something that limits me and makes me embarrassed (I feel faint if I even look at it). This seemed simple enough. But within a couple of sessions other images and ideas popped into my head unbidden and these have to do with my grandmother and mother and certain panic feeling they had. I have no doubt for myself that I have trauma from my early years (ages 2-3) which I don't remember but seems to keep me forever looking out for failure and disaster. This inner exploration is very interesting and has had the useful corollary of reducing my Reynaud's symptoms (white finger) and generally my anxiety levels.

So, I look forward to a day when I am free of these things and hope to be able to use my learning to help clients in pain - those who are willing to go beyond the external search anyway..

1 The Pain Catastrophizing Scale by
Michael JL Sullivan, PhD

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Daring Greatly

Vulnerability Researcher Brene Brown claims on page 165 of her book 'Daring greatly' states 'we are still awaiting the neurobiology to show that shame is perceived as trauma'. I have written to her to ask if she has come across the work of Ronald A Ruden MD PhD, a clinical research scientist in NYC. In  his book 'The past is always present' he claims that: Shame, guilt,, etc are reflective emotions linked to attachment - he has described the process of traumatization in the limbic system as being a process of the Basal lateral complex BLC sending a message to the Central Nucleus (Ce) within the amygdala - it is potentiated by the neurotransmitter glutamate (released at the time when helplessness is present - ie. the situation is inescapable - such as being shamed by one you love and trust) - and processing inhibited by norepinephrine (which prevents it being rationalised consciously at the time - and is thus subconsciously encoded). Anyhow he explains it way better than I can - but shame is definitely identified as a trauma trigger by neurochemistry - perhaps one of the most important..
My particular interest is in releasing childhood and adult trauma through bodywork and EMDR to release chronic pain and anxiety states. I am just learning my craft but am doing a lot of research on the subject to try to pull together a full understanding of the process. People find it difficult to understand that physical pain can be caused by emotional triggers but this is also beginning to be described in the literature. Your work on shame and vulnerability has meant a lot to me and when I point them in your direction, my clients. it helps them to understand the meaning of their experiences and how they can move beyond their self-limiting beliefs about themselves. As I work with a lot of academics (particularly women), her work has a lot of resonance from women who have striven to achieve and succeed despite their shame experiences. I aim to move them to a point not just of acceptance but of realisation that they can love themselves not despite but because of those experiences and the understanding and compassion it has given them for themselves and others.
I love Brene's work as it complements my own researches so well and her willingness to connect and share her personal experience. I think she's amazing - a much needed light at the end of a dark tunnel.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Courage, Compassion and connection

This week I have been practising my presentation skills for a talk entitled 'Recovery from ME/CFS'. My plan is to be able to present this sometime in the spring - I want to do a joint presentation with a colleague of mine who is a therapist and iridologist. I think we make a good team. As a Chrysalis Effect Practitioner specialising in these chronic mind-body conditions you need a multi-factorial approach - one therapy cannot do it. One size does not fit all. The team-based approach is one which makes me different and I aim to be promoting this shortly. Ali will be working alongside me as a VIP (Vital impact Practitioner). We will be offering packages of care rather than ad-hoc appointments.. anyhow all looking exciting.
While I was thinking about what it takes to be able to present to people, I was reminded of US researcher Brene Brown talking about Shame and Empathy - something that is very much a part of what I do. I listen to people's stories, and I have to learn how to connect without judgement so people are able to tell me things that shame them, and thus release it. Without compassion this is impossible. It's what makes it possible for me to do this work. so it is timely that while looking up some information on Google I came across Brene Brown from a Tedx talk she did which has become an international sensation and launched her career as a speaker/storyteller. She has the most amazing effect on me - mainly because she talks from the heart about subjects that most of us try to avoid. And because this understanding is influenced not only by her research but by her own experience (and subsequent breakdown) when she realised that the quality of the life you live is largely down to how vulnerable you are willing to make yourself. The quality of your relationships, worklife, and spiritual expression are all down to how open you can make yourself to hear others, and yourself, without shame or judgement.  This was very challenging to the person she was and to most of us.
Indeed, to do the work I do, listening to people's often painful stories, it requires Courage (talking from the heart- from the French word for heart - Coeur), Compassion and Connection. When I am able to do this I see tremendous shifts in people, who trust me with their shame, who have faith in me to hold the space while they work it through. This is an amazing journey that we undertake together and for all the people that have allowed me to do this, I thank you profoundly. Long may it continue.
Catch up with my work on

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

10 Tips to improve your health

Here is some information taken from my studies in nutritional medicine over the years..  

1. Change the fats you consume – use unrefined oils like extra virgin olive oil (for dressing, steam-frying) or groundnut/ coconut oil (for stir-frying). never re-use old oil, keep out of the light and away from heat (decant into coloured glass bottles and store out of light). Use butter or olive oil spread rather than margarine (and don't be fooled by those ads claiming this new polyunsaturated, butter-like margarine is better for you). Absolute hogwash. Organic butter is a natural product full of Vitamin D and A - animals are grass fed and the nutrients get concentrated into the milk. Avoid anything with trans-fats in (sometimes disguised on labels as ‘hydrogenated’ vegetable oil). But you won't always know. Most processed food has it unless is specifically states otherwise.

2.     Buy fresh (preferably organic) food in season – or grow your own. Find out where you nearest farm shop is or subscribe to one of the many vegetable box schemes which deliver. Many offer recipes on their website to help you use the vegetables you are unfamiliar with. Including one or two raw ingredients into your diet per day will make a huge difference e.g. raw carrot sticks with oatcakes and humous for a snack, seeds sprinkled onto your salad or soup. I make my own muesli now to avoid processed cereals (which are not health foods despite the advertising hype!). Use organic oats as the base.

3.     Avoid poor quality processed ‘foodstuffs’ - anything with more than 5 ingredients. These are not foods they are chemical foodstuffs designed for long shelf life/palatability rather than human nutrition. Avoid cheap carbohydrates - (especially fizzy drinks) and anything with health claims. 'Low fat' products are often high in sugar which is stored as fat anyhow. Sugarfree drinks are full of nasty chemicals which actually make you fatter. Drink water, natural fruit juices (not too much) or juice your own vegetables.

4.     Drink more water. Most of us are chronically dehydrated as we turn to sugary drinks, tea or coffee to quench our thirst. This causes more dehydration from the caffeine and will destroy our blood sugar control. Use filtered water to reduce the toxins (nitrates, organochlorines) in tapwater. It tastes nicer! Carry a water bottle around with you so you always have some to hand. Check your feet for a good indication of your levels of hydration - if the skin is dry and cracked it's a pretty good indicator.

5.     Supplement - most people are deficient in vitamins and minerals as our food no longer contains them in sufficient amounts due to intensive farming.  Most importantly Vitamin D3 which most people are deficient in (it is now known that it is a pre-hormone that is involved in a vast array of processes from immunity, cardiac and bone health and needed in higher amounts than previously thought). Also supplement omega-3 fatty acid EPA - modern diets are so imbalanced in this that even eating more fish might not be enough to redress the balance. A high dose purified fish oil with at least 500mg EPA is best. you will have probably heard the various stories in the press that supplements are a waste of time as they just go through your body and get flushed away - they do if you have enough already - but if you are deficient they are needed. I am not encouraging high levels of supplement-popping as a panacea for a deficient diet. Diet should come first. But please understand that certain vitamins and minerals are commonly deficient - the two highlighted here are the most common but also Magnesium (chronically low in women - causing PMT, restless leg syndrome, etc), iron and the trace minerals. That's why a good quality mult-vit helps redress the balance. But I am also of the opinion that we should use whole-food supplementation more than pills - things like Maca root, raw chocolate, chlorella, etc are storehouses of good things without the chemical fillers in pills.

6.     Aim to cook/prepare at least one meal from raw ingredients every day (even if it’s only you own home prepared muesli!) Try and share meals with friends and family as it makes you more likely to enjoy the social aspect of eating and may encourage you to try new recipes. Sit down to eat and remember to chew properly – this really helps your digestion. I call it ‘conscious eating’. Shovelling down something infront of the TV is counterproductive. As is dieting.. Anything that encourages an unhealthy relationship to food (and restriction and reward is a common pattern for most of us) needs to be broken. Learning to cook, using more natural ingredients takes us out of the passive, processed food consumerist fantasy and into natural relation to the food that we eat.

7.    Start Juicing - blending combinations of fruits and vegetables is an easy and nutritious way of enhancing your diet. With a blender you can consume far more vegetables than you would be able to physically eat and because they are already liquidised they are easily digested. My favourite combination is spinach and orange juice. You can't taste the spinach but you get all the benefit as Vitamin C aids Iron absorbtion. You can experiment with your own combinations or buy a book to encourage you. Juicers are also good though they reduce the fibre, but this may be good/bad depending on your digestive capabilities. The latest bullet-type juicers seem to combine the benefits of both.

8.    Add superfoods to your diet. These are foods that have particularly powerful effects on the body. Examples are; garlic, ginger, broccoli, green tea, blueberries, turmeric, cinammon, raw cacao, chilli, seaweeds (tulse, etc), spirulina and barleygrass. Some of these are protective against cancer, others help balance hormones or blood sugar. You can buy them from health food shops or online and sprinkle them in your juices, cooking, and salads. Add cinnamon to your (natural, organic) coffee in the morning. you don't need to restrict  to enhance your diet. It's all about adding better choices.

9.    Combat stress. Ongoing chronic stress is the modern disease. We are not even aware how stressed we are till we take a break.  This lowers the body's natural immunity (highly implicated in more serious diseases like cancer too). Learn mindfulness techniques or practice meditation - just 10 minutes a day devoted to something relaxing can make all the difference. Do something that you love that stops your incessant thinking.  Deal with your emotional issues that lead to stress. See a therapist if you feel you need help. Mindfulness, Meditation, Hypnotherapy and EFT are all powerful tools which help us to understand and deal with our subconscious influences that cause us to have addictions (smoking, drinking,etc) and to live lives to less than our full potential. Contac me if you would like to know more.

10.   Take responsibility for your own health. Learn everything you can about health and wellbeing – via books, the web and courses. Encourage your friends and family (especially children) to understand why it is important. Maintain your health actively with help from diet, exercise and therapies. Prevention is much more powerful than cure and is our responsibility. Begin now as I have done. Small changes have big results. Don't wait til you get ill to act!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The road less travelled...treatment of depression and mood disorders with hypnotherapy and coaching

Reading a paper by one of the speakers at the upcoming NCH hypnotherapy 'extravaganza' (Michael Yapko  on a live transatlantic hook up on 15/2/14 at Royal College of Medicine), I came across this statement about the value (or not) of CBT in treating depression - that it wasn't so much changes in cognition (thinking) that brought about positive results as 'the activation of purposeful
and goal-oriented behavior'. And this set me thinking that this is exactly what coaching does (with a bit of hypnotherapeutic technique thrown in). This is what I am currently learning. I am in the throes of completing the last of my 4 case studies. When finished by the end of this month I hope to become a fully ILM accredited wellbeing coach.

Hypnotherapy and coaching have many things in common even though the latter does not specifically use hypnosis. For one thing they both empower the person to bring about improvements in their lives by tackling unconscious beliefs and behaviours. They also go beyond the therapy room in that they both require tasks to be completed outside of the session. In case there is any doubt about why this is necessary therapeutic change is likely to be greater in those therapies that employ homework (according to much research quoted by Yapko in his paper Intl. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 58(2): 186–201, 2010. This concurs with what I have found in my experience too. Those people who engage fully outside the session are likely to gain a lot more than those who are passive and dependent on the therapist to effect a 'cure'. In fact this is the basis of all the therapies that I employ - to believe in the person where perhaps they don't believe in themselves and to educate and empower them beyond the therapy to create meaningful changes in their lives. Erikson always believed the client had everything they needed already within them (so called 'utilisation' approach) but clearly modern medicine has the opposite belief.

My recent experience at the dentist confirms this - my dentist wanting to take all the credit for the rapid healing of my tooth when I have been doing so much to restore it (Neem oil pulling, taking extra doses of vitamin c and chlorella for detoxification etc.). His comment to me when I suggested this, was to point to the credit card I was about to pay with saying 'that's your credit!'. I hope he was joking...