Thursday, 1 September 2016

The hidden dangers of GMO's

You've no doubt heard of the fact that genetically modified organisms (mostly bacterial DNA) have been incorporated into some food crops in order to make them resistant to herbicide. The idea behind this technology was to enable farmers to spray their fields with glyphosate based herbicides which would then only kill the weeds and not the crop. This sounds all well and good on the surface. But there is a terrible cost to us which is only just beginning to surface as our understanding of what goes on inside our gut becomes more well-known.

We are a community of micro-organisms. They reside on our skin, and inside our guts. They constantly breed, metabolise (providing us with a host of organic chemicals like vitamins and neurotransmitters) and most importantly for this discussion interchange their DNA with ours. Now if you put foreign DNA into these bugs (as happens with GMO's) they begin to interchange with our DNA. We start to get leaky gut symptoms as our mechanisms for regulating the opening of spaces between the gut 'skin' or epithelium are largely controlled by the metabolites of our gut flora and the interaction with food molecules.
In other words when you start messing with our food you cause irrevocable changes to our own DNA and cellular functioning. Hence we start to get sick.

Sickness of workers in developing countries where GMO's were largely trialled first pointed to the problem. Their kidneys began to fail due to the build of toxins which they were unable to get rid of as glyphosate, the active ingredient of Roundup, chelates (binds) minerals in their bodies and prevents absorption. Now it is beginning to be felt in western nations, particularly the US. However, such are the vested interests of the pharma/agribusiness monopoly, you are unlikely to hear about it in national newspapers or magazines.

When our gut flora are imbalanced we cannot absorb our food properly, we are undefended against attack by pathogens (bad bugs). and our mental health suffers as most of the neurochemicals in our brains are made in our guts. The rise in depression, anxiety, obesity (due to unregulated eating), and a whole host of chronic illnesses like autism, auto-immune conditions, are linked to this problem.
The best solution is to eat organic, non GMO food. And heal your gut with a proper protocol of nutrient rich food and supplements. De-toxify with support for your liver, sunshine  (for Vitamin D), sleep and infra-red saunas.  I'll be covering that in another post.. This isn't a luxury, it's vital if you want to live a happy, healthy life to old age.

The leading researcher of this field, Dr Jeffrey Bland, has called it 'completely irresponsible' to let people eat GMO foods as the pollution of the gene pool through cross-fertilisation is permanently contaminated for all future generations,  See his book Genetic Roulette and his website I think even he understates the case here. This is a ticking time bomb; our longterm survival as a species is at stake!

This is an extract from the soon to be published book 'The World within; how your gut bacteria make you who you are'

Friday, 22 July 2016

The importance of Lymph on brain function

Listening to a video and reading the article by Dr John Douillard about the importance of the lymphatic system on our health. I think this is probably the issue I had recently. I thought it was something else entirely. but it matches what was happening to me - and you have lymph nodes just above the gut which is where I swelled up.

This article also highlights the importance of the brain's 'glymphatic' system, (lymph vessels around the glial cells) only recently discovered, which drains toxins out of the brain at night - hence the importance of sleep to our overall wellbeing and avoidance of dementia.

Does anyone remember Margaret Thatcher famously only slept 4 hours a night? - and you know how she ended her days.. Probably the same was true of President Ronald Reagan. He also got dementia.

Sleep on your side for best drainage - and try to get 6 - 8 hours.

I shall be talking about this amongst many other fascinating subjects in my next book 'The world within - how your microbiome makes you who you are' due out 2017.

See here for more details on this issue.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Frozen shoulder - the double burden

Frozen shoulder is something that I come across often in my practice. In my initial training as a massage therapist we were taught it was an unexplainable condition that came on suddenly, mostly in women of middle years and would last 1 - 2 years and disappear as suddenly. This intrigued me. How could a condition just disappear?

It is characterised by an inability to move the arm out from the body more than a few inches before intense pain is felt. usually when it first comes on it is noticed in the act of difficulty moving behind the body (as in doing up the bra in women). As it progresses movement will become increasingly limited and painful. What lies behind this symptomology? Is it a trapped nerve, or fascia - and if so how does it spontaneously resolve? What can a physical therapist do to help alleviate? These are some of the questions that have been troubling me.

In my subsequent study and practice of mindbody medicine, there appears to be a more logical explanation. If any of you have come across the work of Peter Levine, author of 'Waking the Tiger' (1) you will know that the mind and body work to keep the organism safe in times of danger or trauma. But, unlike the rest of the animal kingdom, we often do not discharge this energy after a brush with danger. The instinct to shake is often suppressed as we are told to 'pull ourselves together' or have a stiff drink. But in fact this normal body movement is necessary to remove the energy of the stress response from out of the muscles and if we don't do it, or can't do it we can get 'stuck' in an unresolved mobilisation to stress.

Now it is a fact that muscles move in concert with one another. Any movement needs the controlled response of two sets of muscles- the agonist and the antagonist. It is also true that emotions play a part in mobilising this response. Say for instance you are involved in a car crash and you go to move your hands up to protect yourself but they are held by the seatbelt. your instinct is thwarted. your life or the threat of injury has undoubtedly been saved but there may be a lingering response in your brain which is not discharged. It appears that this may be what lies behind such conditions as frozen shoulder. As Peter Levine himself states "the motor expression of two intense instinctual responses creates a conflict and results in frozen states... the energy bound in inhibited (thwarted) responses  is so powerful that it can cause an extreme bracing that often has profound effects" (2, P196).

But it's not only extreme trauma like accidents or shell-shock under war conditions that create stress in the body. I have already written extensively about 'everyday trauma' of common events like poor parenting, bullying, surgery, etc in my recent book (3). These stimulate our stress responses too. And it may be that when this is not cleared from the mind body of the person that conditions like frozen shoulder, or sciatica represent those undischarged muscular and nervous responses to threat.

What can we do then as therapists - or sufferers ourselves to help discharge and heal? Well, there are many ways but all of them involved becoming more aware of the body and helping to tune in (interoception) to the movements our body is trying to make. With frozen shoulder it is suggested to make the small movement you can make without pain extremely slowly while concentrating on what your body is telling you. with gentle encouragement you are often able to increase the range of movement when you discover what messages are being sent to the muscles which are stimulating both the agonist and the antagonist at the same time to lock the range of motion. Go even slower and do it again. The answers will often come spontaneously as a wave of shaking, crying or sweating relief - the is I sympathetic activation and shows you that your body is releasing. obviously for some people this happens spontaneously within 1 - 2 years. but to be able to do this yourself means you don't have to suffer so long.

Peter describes these techniques in much more detail in his books - but for now I leave you with one thought. As an example of how this ant/agonistic muscle stimulation happens - people who jump from burning building often break their legs before they hit the ground (or the net) due to the simultaneous in tense contraction of the leg muscles putting intolerable strain on the leg ,bones!  (2, p198). Food for thought how smaller but perhaps more chronic stresses, especially in a helpless situation may change the brain to lock the body in a protective response cycle. This, I believe explains frozen shoulder than any other explanation I know of. And it may explain too, why women suffer far more from this than men. helplessness is a state characterised by childhood but also by some women (and men of course) in their adult lives. A bullying boss, husband or just the intense suffering caused by living in a world that does not support or encourage you can be enough. Food for thought indeed.

Copyright Patrica Worby 2016. and

  1. Levine, Peter (1997). Waking the Tiger. North Atlantic Books.
  1. Levine, Peter (2010). In an Unspoken Voice; How the Body releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. North Atlantic Books
  1. Worby, Patricia (2015). The Scar that Won't Heal; Stress, Trauma and Emotion in Chronic Disease. CreateSpace.

Friday, 18 March 2016

The Neuroscience of Being 'Us' - Part 2 How threat and unresolved emotion changes the brain

Interactions between the cortex (frontal lobe) and limbic system; the anterior cingulate and insula

(Part 2 of a 2 part series see here for part 1)
There is another important part of the mid-brain (adjacent to the amygdala) that has a function in registering threat and helping to lay the foundations of trauma. It’s called the Anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and is important as a filtering system. It is another part of the brain that is functionally degraded as a result of trauma. It possesses structures called spindle cells which wrap around the nerve bundle of fibres linking the left to the right sides of the brain. These connections between left and right may be very important for how emotions are integrated and the meaning made of the emotional events in our lives– and it may be key to why techniques such as EMDR which stimulate better integration allow re-wiring to occur .

The Anterior Cingulate Cortex ACC is primarily involved in fear conditioning as it normally inhibits the amygdala, which as we know is the primary area for threat encoding. However, it also appears to play a role in emotionality, selective attention, and certain social functions, including emotional attachments and parenting, as well as generation of the concept of the self in relation to society. It is my contention that this is the part of the brain that fails in attachment disorder, and other more chronic relational trauma disorders. I have particularly noticed that the sense of self is often highly distorted, even in very outwardly functional people. They operate despite their own self-loathing to become very respected/hard-working/ achieving people but when questioned they cannot see that anything they have done has any worth. If you press them they will acknowledge grudgingly that it might have value but they do not feel that emotionally, it is more of an intellectual awareness. The ACC might be the part of the brain that we bring ‘online’ in trauma treatment, as when we do EMDR. We rewire the responses by a process of extinguishing the conditioned response of self-hating or limiting. I will discuss this within the tools section.

The insula (another part of the cortex just behind the PFC) is an area that helps interpret incoming sensation, rating it dangerous or not. It is highly involved in our subjective experience of pain, for example, and can become active just by imagining pain as well as in more pleasant experiences like music appreciation. It monitors incoming signals from the body (particularly the physiological experience of emotions like sadness, fear, anger, etc) and combines this information with the limbic system and brainstem to generate appropriate responses. As we will see later, when the signals get scrambled by unresolved emotional memory, stress is able to overwrite any inhibitory stimulus and most incoming signals are interpreted as painful, dangerous or life-threatening, causing all sorts of chronic pain and stress-related diseases.

Left and right sides; the Corpus callosum connection

Despite the fact that the cortical structures are split into left and right hemispheres, the brain remains undivided at the level of the lower reptilian brain structures - sometimes referred to as the ‘subcortical bridge’ In treatment, the client and therapist may also be able to capitalise on this. Nonverbal information, including “unconscious or preconscious codes, nuances we can never attach a name to,” cross most readily (Austin, 1999) . Using somatic experience as an entry point in therapy and maintaining mindful awareness of the body may facilitate information processing by enhancing information transfer between the hemispheres. This is what is aimed for in clinical hypnotherapy intervention by engaging the imaginative right hemisphere. However, there is controversy in hypnotherapy as to the nature of hypnosis as we have already shown with regard to whether it is a state separate from normal everyday experience or not. This was developed further by the great hypnotherapist and psychologist Pierre Janet.

We have already intimated that in subjects with PTSD and other lesser traumatically encoded states, the amygdala may become hyperactive towards “a generalisation of the fear response” or conversely underactive which “may allow continued functioning in situations characterized by ongoing threat” such as that experienced by a child who is under threat from their caregiver. That this may be in part to do with the alteration in function of the left and right hemispheres and specifically their inter-communication is an ongoing debate with psychotherapy.

This is an extract from my book The Scar the Won't Heal - available now on amazon. In the next instalment I look at Interactions between the cortex and the limbic system.

The Neuroscience of Being 'Us';Part 1 The cortex and emotion

The region of the brain called the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is really what defines us as human; it is crucial for how we pay attention, it enables us to put things in the ‘front of our mind’ and hold them in awareness. It is the basis of our moral system and capacity for empathy. Studies of people who have suffered injury to the PFC show us that it is an important brain area for creating our ‘map of the world’ i.e. the mental representation of our outer experience. Various different parts of the cortex have specific functions:

The Pre-Frontal Cortex (PFC) regions in the two hemispheres

  • The Medial Pre-frontal Cortex (MPFC) is the integration centre involved in coordinating left and right sides with direct connections to the amygdala in the limbic system. This part is involved in our sense of curiosity and awareness and is the part that we target in therapy particularly for dissociated clients who have lost connection with their bodily self. It is activated during mindfulness meditation, mindful awareness or psychotherapy.
  • The Dorso-lateral Pre-frontal cortex (DPFC) is the site of our short-term or working memory and has no direct connection with the limbic system. It is the last bit to develop in the human and often the first to go with ageing. We’ve all had the experience of walking into a room and forgetting why we went there – this is a failure of this part of the brain to hold the requisite information for long enough for us to commit it to longer term memory.
  • The Right Orbital Pre-frontal cortex (ROPFC) (so called because it is directly behind the right orbit of the eye) is most specifically concerned with emotions and arousal regulation as it has good connections with the limbic system and can inhibit activation (this is important in trauma therapy). It develops early in life and is the social centre of the brain, which, if given support and trusting relationships in those early years, becomes more capable of regulating emotion but it depends on good parental attachment (Shore, 2007) . It becomes our 'soothing centre' if promoted by secure attachment. Self-soothing or auto-regulation is very important for subsequent adult emotional regulation. If childhood experience failed to develop this part of the brain a pattern of dysregulated ‘up and down’ or entirely absent emotions results. Our prisons are full of such people where auto-regulation has never been learnt successfully.
Through its links with the limbic system, and the immune system (via regulating levels of cortisol in the HPA axis), the PFC acts as the interface between mind and body and so is implicated in such medically unexplained conditions such as fibromyalgia, whiplash or pelvic pain. These could be construed as the body’s way of expressing emotions through pain; this is termed somatisation. Defined as feeling emotions through the body rather than as feelings, these issues are common in people “in whom emotion is undifferentiated and unregulated” (Shore) . In other words they can’t tell one emotion from another and they may find it difficult to put words to feelings; memories may also be completely dissociated from feelings. This is common after trauma – particularly attachment trauma. The brain gets confused as to what the input represents and may conflate pain with the emotional pain of betrayal/abandonment – they share many of the same pathways.
I met one such person who was on a training course with me. He described some awful events that happened in his childhood without emotion of any kind. He was suffering from this condition, termed alexithymia, (an inability to describe emotions with words) which could be seen as a failure of the ROPFC. Somatisation is not a commonly understood concept in conventional medicine although, in fact, it lies at the base of many of the chronic pain syndromes I am exploring in this book. It is a direct example of how poor relationships and unexpressed emotions make us ill.
The cortex is known to go ‘offline’ in the aftermath of trauma which may explain the sudden switches from hyper to hypo arousal of conditions such as PTSD and other trauma related conditions. As the cortex is normally the modulator of experience, helping to bring logic and a ‘wider view’ its failure to inhibit the limbic system prevents such fine tuning of curiosity and reason. In trauma work we often talk about ‘getting curious’ as the antidote to these limbic states. We need to engage people in what happens when they think a certain thought or act a certain way, enabling them to tune in to their body states – something that they may have actively blocked from childhood onwards. When they begin to look at their reactions as symptoms (i.e. “I've been triggered and this is my survival brain in charge”) and not from an underlying pathology (i.e. I’m mad, bad or weak), they begin to see how extraordinary the human brain is and their curiosity (MFPC-mediated) is aroused . This is a direct antidote to the dissociation and emotional dampening that many people suffer after a traumatic experience. It is the direct target of intervention, whether by linking the two sides of the cortex as in EMDR or by hypnotherapy and CBT whereby we engage the imagination and the thinking brain respectively. We cover these therapies in more detail in my website. Suffice to say no-one need suffer permanently; these states can be reversed as the brain is plastic (neuroplasticity).
This is an extract from my book The Scar the Won't Heal - available now on amazon. In the next instalment I look at Interactions between the cortex and the limbic system.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Fibromyalgia - a mindbody phenomenon

I read a really good update on Fibro today by an experienced bodyworker (fascial work is his thing). Find it here. The criteria for diagnosis may have changed (which is a good thing as it used to pretty much ignore the gut and other symptoms to focus exclusively on the trigger point pain pattern. This would exclude some people for whom the condition hasn't fully expressed itself yet.

My understanding of Fibro is elucidated in my book The Scar that Won't heal - I think it's a mindbody phenomenon brought on my stress, nutrient depletion and hormonal dys-regulation that ultimately affects the mitochondria so they can't produce enough energy. In that is shares much in common with chronic fatigue. But in fibro the body expresses this as poor muscle and connective tissue function so that pain and tightness dominate other symptoms. Lactic acid formed from anaerobic respiration in the tissues causes pain and then the nervous system becomes sensitised to pain so that even non-painful stimulus becomes painful. This brain pain is called central amplification and is a theory proposed by Prof Daniel Clauw which I support. There have been other interesting theories like problem with the small blood vessels of the hand which fail to divert blood to the periphery (hands and feet) properly and another about problems with the heart (POTS). All of these I think are secondary to the stress response (from trauma).

Why is fascia involved? Well fascia is the bodystocking that transmits force throughout the body and it reads subconscious processes in the limbic system, which , if they are activated in a stress response, causes everything to go tight and restricted. It's a fascinating mind-body link which few people outside the body work profession are looking at. In my holistic practice, I use both bodywork and emotional release to help resolve these subconscious tensions. We are not saying everyone can recover completely only that there is much relief to be had and some people DO recover. It is my believe it is possible for everyone but you have to approach the hidden emotional part of your brain and not everyone is willing and not all practitioners are able. We need a new model of the mind and body as interlinked in order to tackle these new phenomena.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

The microbiome may be the answer to life, the universe and everything.

Oh my goodness this was a marvellous summit (just finished) which I plugged on my website and on twitter.

Back in 2010 when I studied Nutritional medicine the information I gleaned was that basically an imbalance in the gut was at the basis of all health and disease. But we were still unclear how this worked. Now we know!

The trillions of gut bacteria outnumber you by 10 to1!. And genetically speaking they outnumber your genes by 100 to 1.. Now we know why a human being can operate with about the same number of genes as an earthworm!. I kid you not. An earthworm has around 20,000 and we have around 24,000. This I called the human genome paradox and it seems the answer is in the genes of all the bacteria inside us.

Now, get this. If they are out of balance, and lacking in diversity (due to toxicity, stress, poor food choices, etc) you can never be healthy in mind or body. We are witnessing an epidemic of chronic disease right now that modern medicine struggles to deal with. It seems that because they have only just begun to realise the importance they aren't really tackling the right thing. For instance did you know that most of your neurotransmitters are not made in your brain but by the bacteria in your gut. So they could offer the solution to mental ill-health like depression and anxiety too.

This webinar over 10 days covered everything about the microbiome; what it is (an intricate ecosystem of bacteria, fungi and viruses in your gut), its importance, and how to optimise it. one of the subjects they were talking about was fermenting vegetables - a subject I'm very passionate about as it's something we can all do from home. I hope to start in the next few weeks and will be updating you with my progress.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Slow cooking

Forget juicing - it's so 2015!! Get yourself a slow cooker! - it's a fab little thing... slow cooked food (particularly meats on the bone) allow us to heal the gut lining which improves everything from allergies, skin conditions, inflammation (arthritis, heart disease, anxiety, etc). I'm not joking... the gut flora balance is key to everything we are and do. My next book 'The World Within' will be on this. The evidence is overwhelming that we are all progressively becoming more and more imbalanced - due to toxins, high carb diet (which our bodies are not designed to handle -see below), lack of breast feeding and high rates of Caesarian births (which fail to innoculate the new-born), stress, anti-biotics and anti-bacterial products (which kill everything good and bad).

As a demi-vegetarian (strict veggie from 21 - 34), I was surprised when I started to get ill with allergies, skin conditions, anxiety and joint pain (all manifestations of inflammation in the body). I thought vegetarianism was the answer but it didn't suit me completely - though please note I'm not saying one should eat loads of meat - this is obviously environmentally unsustainable AND unhealthy. The main thing is - vegetarians in Western countries tend to rely more on carbohydrates to fill up when they lack protein and fat; for me this was cheese, grains (rice, bread, pasta) so my diet was anything but healthy. Carbs promote inflammation - particularly processed ones by increasing production of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines. This in turn sets up an inflammatory cycle in the body, unbalances our gut flora, increases our blood sugar promoting diabetes and Alzheimers to name but two chronic conditions. Check out Grain Brain by Dr David Perlmutter for the full story on this.

Now I have done the research and it appears that slow cooked meats on the bone may be the key to healing the gaps between the cells in our guts (leaky gut syndrome) which afflicts so many. See the GAPS diet here. This was a shock to me as I assumed that vegetables were the way forward; juicing of course uses this idea. However, although most of us certainly could do with increasing our vegetable intake massively, we do need the gelatin from collagen provided by slow cooking on the bone. It increases the intake of essential minerals and important amino acids tyrosine, proline and glycine helping to close the gaps of leaky gut. However there are some important variations in the protocol when you're following a truly GAPS diet; see here for more information.

So for now, keep an eye out for news of the Microbiome Medicine Summit happening from Feb 29th to March 7th. Here's where you'll really learn of the importance of the gut in health. It can't be overestimated. I'll be publishing more details on my Facebook page for Alchemy therapies.

Monday, 1 February 2016

More on trauma, attunement and attachment

Trauma changes the way we are wired. And its effects can be lifelong.  Particularly attachment trauma from our earliest experience of attachment to our parents.
As recent research has discovered, the brain is “hard-wired to connect to other minds, to create
images of others’ intentional states, affective (emotional) expressions, and bodily states of
arousal” via a set of specialised neurons in the brain called mirror neurons. They are the basis of empathy and emotional resonance with others. These neurons allow us to interpret the world
around us by anticipating the actions of others by studying their facial expressions and bodily
movement. Young children will instinctively make eye contact with their mother to communicate,
well before they have verbal language. The mother’s attunement to this mutual dance of eye and
facial expression is absolutely vital in landscaping the infant brain to regulate arousal (i.e. calming
the child in the face of distressing stimuli) and thus ensuring empathy between them. If a child is not
soothed, and therefore doesn’t learn to self-sooth in the childhood years, they are likely to switch
between states of hyper- and hypo-arousal at the least stimulus without warning.
Imagine then if the mother is distracted, conflicted, in pain, or depressed. This fine-tuning, which
directly drives the neural development of her infant’s brain is distorted, fractured and sometimes
destroyed. In fact, as infant brain maturation is based on this “emotional interaction between mother and child, a negative maternal response will elicit a state of shame/withdrawal, characterized by a shift from sympathetic to parasympathetic arousal” producing a typical dissociation or freeze response which many never be recovered. This pattern of shame will result in inadequate development of coping strategies by the child, and contribute to problems with character expression and brain development. Normal development may actually be inhibited by excessive elicitation of shame, rendering these infants more vulnerable” to further trauma by relatively innocuous events.
Shame becomes the default position for children with this experience.
The future implications for that child, especially if not remediated by the mother or another
caregiver later, are lifelong. The child is sensitised to emotional stimuli, finds it difficult to find
emotional resonance with others and may withdraw or act out its distress in ways that the parents
find hard to deal with. As the child then grows and interacts with other children and adults their
inability to self-soothe will create more trauma as their actions are misinterpreted by others and they
become further subject to painful experiences of rejection. Many of my clients describe this process
of having been misunderstood at home and then bullied at school – a double whammy of emotional
pain which keeps them locked into a stress response, their brain failing to break its cycle of fight,
flight and freeze.

It’s not that most parents are deliberately abusive (although some are); it is often more a
systematic failure to connect with their child and create a harmonious living situation (as my
experience clearly demonstrates). The child grows up knowing this, but it is a wordless knowing,
doubly baffling as no-one talks about it, and in some cases you are given the opposite message
‘you don’t know how lucky you are’, etc. Unbelievably, some very cruel parents do
tell their children of their disappointment ‘I wish I’d never had you’, ‘you ruined my life’, etc but in the main it is an unspoken message of failure. A child is unable to make sense of this duality, and, being a magical thinker, believes they are the cause.
The child then develops strategies to overcome this by desperately trying to please the parent,
such as being the ‘good one’, burying their feelings and sometimes even becoming the parent
themselves. They develop certain habitual behavioural patterns that become fixed responses to
emotionally charged situations. Thus, if, as an adult they are similarly threatened (e.g. by a bully at
work for example), their responses are conditioned by this early experience to those of a child. They
will have no idea of this of course, because their thinking brain has constructed a very reasonable,
logical argument for why they feel the way they do (rationalisation) that does not see the response as a conditioned memory - it feels like the current situation that is the problem.. For example, the boss is just ‘a monster’ or the partner in the relationship is ‘impossible’ - 'they made me feel that way'. It’s the other person’s fault because you cannot conceive that you are triggering automatic conditioned responses to similar experiences in your past.
Thus, without your conscious awareness, you have contributed to the situation, as you have acted
in ways that conform to your map of the world governed by your emotional landscape and it is
difficult to perceive otherwise. In subtle ways even your choice of partner may even be dictated by
this; often you are attracted to people who have the same experience of trauma but the opposite
coping strategy6. For instance a couple I worked with both had difficult relationships with their
mothers which left them feeling worthless, but for the man this made him angry and volatile when
confronted, and for his partner her approach was to be the ‘good one’ and acquiesce her needs to
please others. They often struggled to be understood within the relationship as each would trigger
the other into these stereotyped behaviours. By being able to witness these behaviours rather than
get caught up in them, they had a chance to break the old habits and reveal their true selves to
each other.
This is an extract from my book The Scar the Won't Heal - available now on amazon. In the next instalment I will look at how this results in different attachment strategies in the child and later the adult..


Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Connection and the Heart - the science

We have long known that the heart is an intuitive organ – we understand that things are ‘heartfelt’, and a broken heart is what we feel if we are very sad. These colloquial terms are not just random, they express what we have always known, that the heart with its has a central importance to health and wellbeing, and often senses things before the brain (McCraty, 2004)[i]. Indeed, “the heart has its own intrinsic nervous system that operates and processes information independently of the brain or nervous system”[ii]. This is what enables a heart transplant to work before the vagus nerve is fully functional. It is also an endocrine organ producing oxytocin, the bonding hormone with others. Its electromagnetic field is huge and is largely responsible for allowing us to attune to other people (or not!).
It is an organ of coherence; when its electromagnetic rhythm is in harmony with others we feel at ease and at peace with the world. This is the desired outcome of all meditative endeavours and is an essential pre-requisite to fully achieve health and wellbeing. The origin of coherence is in the heart and its connection with the brain however; specifically the amygdala which it innervates via its afferent (towards the brain) nerves. When these two are in harmony you feel at ease with yourself, motivated and authentic in thought and deed. You can see therefore another instance of the mind-body connection in operation that we are only now beginning to ascertain.

Did you know there is an easy way to measure your heart coherence? It's called HRV (heart Rate Variability) and it used to be something you could only measure when hooked up to a specialised electrocardiogram (ECG) machine but happily this is now made a lot easier by simple free ‘apps’ that you can download onto your smartphone or tablet. They work by reading the blood flow in your finger through holding it against the camera light. I have used the most readily available free one, HeartMonitor and, although I cannot vouch for its accuracy compared to a professional machine, as a relative tool for marking your stress levels it is brilliant as you can take different measurements at different times in your life. For instance, I measured mine after a stressful day at work (where my day is not my own but I am subject to the deadlines and priorities of others) compared to a day at my clinic with my clients. The differences were startling – a 50% difference. HRV is a powerful, objective and non-invasive tool to measure your body’s finely tuned hormonal, behavioural responses to the day to day stresses. I urge many of my clients to begin noticing theirs and seeing if, by consciously focusing on the screen output, to alter it.  This is a useful biofeedback tool which sets the stage for tuning in to the body’s response; you alter the output by ‘focusing’ on trying to make the waves increase in amplitude (height) and become more regular. This is biofeedback in action.

This is an extract from my book Stress and the Mindbody connection available now on Amazon See here to purchase copies (digital or paperback) . I am a practicing therapist who offers mindbody therapy and trauma transformation here;

[i] McCraty, et al (2004). Electrophysiological evidence of intuition: part 1. The surprising role of the heartJ. Altern Complement Med. Feb;10(1):133-43.
[ii]Salem Mohammed Omar, Prof. The Heart, Mind and Spiritaccessed at,%20Mind%20and%20Spirit%20%20Mohamed%20Salem.pdf

Friday, 1 January 2016

Happy New Year - findng joy through understanding Human Needs Psychology

Happy New Year to you all.
Spending a quiet day on the sofa nursing a cold taking the opportunity to rest. Now, having a cold on the first day  of 2016 seems a bit unfortunate as I pride myself on keeping well - especially as I am in the business of helping others with their health issues! But I realise of course that I must rest and restore myself by not rushing around today but keeping warm, taking Echinacea (a powerful immune stimulus), and loosening my grip on my need to do something.

I have long struggled with this issue and I know that a lot of my clients do also - the need to be a Human Doing - where we get our self worth from our achievements in the external world - the 'doings' rather than making changes internally. Indeed if you want to achieve lasting change in your life (and New Year is a good time to commit to that - whether it be weight loss, a better relationship or a more satisfying work life for instance) then you need to look at what your current behaviours are doing for you in terms of satisfying the basic human needs.  Anthony Robbins and Chloe Madanes talk of the 6 Human Needs:

You can see that the most basic ones are lower down the triangle. I would maybe disagree with some of the terminology; I would call certainty safety for instance. We all need to feel safe and free from pain. Uncertainty I would call 'variety' and this one has led me to end relationships so is very key for me. Significance I have already talked about and led me to the work I now do I think. But some of these things are in competition with eachother - we cannot always have love and connection when we feel unsafe,  and certainty and uncertainty are in precarious balance usually. If we get our significance from our job or relationship and then we lose it, this can lead to much suffering until we find a way to generate this for ourselves again. For growth to occur we need to all these pillars in place in the right proportions for us. You see that it is a hierarchy (much like Maslow's triangle).
But most of us have never examined what our behaviours give us in these terms. For instance, does over-eating give us certainty? In many ways it does. Better than the difficulties of relating to others, as it is a reliable way of seeing comfort - even if it damages us in the process... When we see that what we are really seeking is to feel joy in our lives, but it is our behaviour based on an unconscious belief that is driving us, we can choose to do something differently. Our self-worth comes from our unspoken beliefs about ourselves - and mine was certainly unhealthy and led me to overwork  and ultimately illness.
So, today, I thank my illness for the insight it gave me and the will do it differently now . I will rest and restore today. Wishing you all the best for 2016.
p.s for more information about this work see the RobbinsMadanes website and also my other blogs on the theories of the Human Givens Institute which uses the Maslow hierarchy and has developed them.