Your Brain: Friend and Foe

Recovered_JPEG_3907“Remember, the purpose of the pain is to divert attention from what’s going on emotionally and to keep you focused on the body.”

~ Dr. John Sarno, The Mind Body Prescription, p. 148

How many of you learned to think about your feelings, talk about them, but God forbid, don’t feel or express them? When shared in childhood, you might have encountered a caregiver or loved one who also struggled with understanding and/or expressing  emotions. Your feelings triggered their feelings, the ones they were avoiding. So they shut you down quickly with a dirty look, sarcastic remark, guilt, shame, misunderstanding, or silence. And your brain said “Enough of this.” And it shut down your emotions, too.

Feelings seem daunting. For many years I saw a brilliant but intellectualized therapist, who explained everything to me in great detail. But again I didn’t learn how to express emotions. I could write a treaty about them but still walled them off. I learned a lot, but it was more intellectualizing.

Expressing emotions is a way of releasing the body’s truth. As you express emotions, that teaches the brain that feelings come and go, explains Alan Gordon, L.C.S.W., a psychotherapist specializing in the treatment of chronic pain and Director of the Pain Psychology Center in California. “Your body is trying desperately to get you to feel, but it doesn’t have the power of speech,” says Gordon.

We’re afraid if we allow our feelings, they will overwhelm us, that we might lose control, go insane, and do great damage to someone or something. Terrified of my anger, I maintained a vision that I would grab someone with whom I was angry and beat them to death. That was one way my brain protected me from expressing anger. It offered a terrifying image to stop the anger dead in its tracks. I certainly didn’t want to beat someone to death even if I felt like it. I suspect your brain has fooled you into thinking you could do more evil than good, expressing negative emotions.

In time and with a different therapeutic approach, I learned how to express  my pent-up emotions in therapy where it was safe. You might need to do the same, although not everyone who has trouble revealing emotions needs therapy. You must decide for yourself.

The brain is a remarkable organ. It’s your friend. It adopts not only scary images but bodily pain to divert attention away from what it considers a dangerous emotion or situation. The brain of mind-body students uses pain to divert your attention away from what is perceived as alleged danger.

Instead of feeling angry, sad, anxious, lonely—whatever emotion feels threatening in the moment—the brain reminds you of pain in the body. Now, you are thinking about your back, knees, shoulder, hips, herniated disks, and so forth. The brain has successfully diverted your attention away from your negative emotions.

Now, you are thinking about your pain, not your emotions. Get it?

The brain, however, is not your enemy (even though it leads you down a useless path at times). It’s trying desperately to be your friend, to keep you safe from what it considers an unsafe situation, away from alarming emotions which could result in a potentially harmful situation. It believes it’s job is to protect you from harm.

For instance, you want to punch your sister-in-law in the face for the cruel comment she just made about the size of your hips and suddenly your hip hurts so much, you can barely walk. Your emotional situation might not be that obvious but you get the idea.

Don’t spend futile time in anger toward your brain for using these techniques of intellectualizing and diversion. Thank your brain for caring about you enough to protect you from what it considers a dangerous situation. Merely thank it for the message.

But then let the brain know that YOU are in charge of your life.

Thank you, brain, for wanting to protect me. Thank you for loving me enough to keep me from danger. But now I can handle these emotions. I don’t need this diversion of pain anymore. I can handle this. Thank you.

Be kind. Be gentle. Some people say they have to speak loudly and aloud to get their brain to hear the command. Some might yell “STOP IT!” when suddenly aware that the brain sends a pain signal to avert a threatening emotion. But whatever way you need to take control, use that method. Don’t let it run wild like an unsupervised, out of control three-year-old.

And then report back to me on this blog what happened to your pain. It most likely will take more than once for this technique to work, but don’t give up. Soon your brain will learn that intellectualizing and diversion tactics no longer work with you. They are unnecessary. You are strong. You are ready to deal with your emotions straight away. That also releases your brain to work on your behalf in other areas of your life.

The next time pain pops up in your body, ask yourself:

What am I not feeling? And then allow yourself to feel it, knowing you are safe.

MBS For Food Disorders and Other Compusions

MBS Personality Traits
Those who suffer with MBS, says Dr. John Sarno, “tend to be perfectionistic, compulsive, highly conscientious and ambitious; they are driven, self-critical and generally successful.” (The Mindboy Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain…page 22). Other mindbody experts agree with this as well.

Another dominant trait is the need to be good (coined “Goodism” by Dr. Sarno). We desire to please, to be liked, and to be helpful usually at the expense of self-sacrifice. We develop restrictive personalities, repressing or suppressing emotions such as, rage, anger, aggression and guilt.

We want to be viewed as “nice” people. The problem is, we put far too much pressure on ourselves, trying to live up to high expectations that are difficult or impossible to meet.

Interestingly, none of us ever grows out of the need to be comforted. It is the human condition. If we do not have healthy outlets at the time of our need, we seek solace or pleasure through other gratifications, such as overeating, smoking, sex, drinking, gambling and other forms of entertainment and play.

This is one reason why food disorders are identified with MBS. Knowledge therapy, then, is not only for the reduction or elimination of pain but also helps with food disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders and other destructive behaviors.

Let me give you an example of how this works. About an hour after I had eaten dinner, I suddenly had the compulsive thought that I wanted to eat something. It came out of the blue, dominating my thoughts. I knew I couldn’t be hungry as I had just eaten dinner not an hour before. Rather than mindlessly wandering to the kitchen as I sometimes do, I stopped myself and asked, “What’s going on here? Think psychologically. What are you thinking?” At first I drew a blank. But then insight started to surface.

I had been reading an excerpt from Byron Katie’s book, Loving What Is. Her work is recommended by Dr. Schubiner and can be found at her website (Click Byron Katie in the blogrolls at the right side of this blog). She had stated that until you can forgive a situation 100%, you are not healed. If you have forgiven 99%, you are not healed. That is when I felt the urge to eat.

I dug deeper into my psyche. What came to light is that I had been thinking of my mother and condemning myself for not being perfect, for not forgiving a certain situation 100%. Furthermore, I held a deep seeded belief that good people don’t have anger toward their mother. My mother grew up believing that. She was sent away from the dinner table by her father the two days before she was to be married because he felt she had said something that did not respect her mother. When I was growing up, I got the message implied and spoken. The famous saying at our house was, “You do not sass your mother.”

The implied belief is that if I said or thought anything negative about my mother, I was a bad person. I was feeling guilty about having a negative thought in regard to anger and unforgiveness. Therefore, I was a bad person. The feeling I wanted to repress and submerge with food a few nights ago was guilt and the idea that I was a bad, bad person for having angry, critical thoughts.

MBS teaches that we all have two voices within us that want to be heard. These two forces are always struggling against each other. They are:

1. The Inner Child who is selfish and dependent and wants what it wants when it wants it.

2. The Inner Parent or Super Ego who is inordinately critical and tells us what we should and should not be doing or thinking. It’s the voice that booms loudly and clearly: You are a bad person because I said so.

I was told in my 20’s by a shrink that I had an overactive Super Ego. I was extremely critical with myself, always telling myself I shouldn’t do this or that, and living more for what someone else wanted or believed than for what I believed and desired. If I was good, very, very good, then people would like me.

There it was again. That super critical inner parent telling me I was a bad person because I dared to hold negative thoughts and was not 100% perfect. Aha. Then the MBS work began.

I engaged in self-talk, telling my brain that thinking I was a bad person and feeling guilty was simply wrong. Byron Katie suggests that we always confront a thought with the question: Is that true?

Believing that a mother is always 100% correct and you never questioned it was my mother’s belief that I integrated fully as a youngster. But I had a right to think differently. I told myself that I belonged to the human race (a very important concept for MBS people to get), and I had a right to feel or think the way I wanted. How could I not have a thought after I had already thought it? How could I not have a feeling after I already felt it? I certainly was not bad for being human. Everyone has those thoughts. And I certainly did not have to feel guilty for having thoughts we all have at one time or another.

The urge to eat completely disappeared. Often we use food, pain or other activities to push down or repress unacceptable emotions and thoughts, when, in fact, we need to look at them, sit with them until we understand them and where they came from, and then decide exactly what belief system, thoughts and emotions we want to adopt for ourselves.

The personality traits of MBS people don’t allow us to be human. We have to be perfect, we have to be good, we can’t have bad thoughts or say angry things.

No, the truth is, we must allow ourselves to have rage, guilt, anger, you name it. We have it anyway. We must tell our inner parent that we will decide what we will believe and that we will no longer blindly serve another person’s beliefs and ideas. It’s not that we want to go around with ugly. negative, thoughts. It’s that we make a conscious decision and a commitment to rejoin the human race and stop holding ourselves hostage to impossible expectations.

I can tell you, this work ended in total freedom. I totally let go of the desire to eat something I did not physically need. It is liberating to be true to your inner self. It allows you to accept yourself which is the end goal for all of us. And especially for those who have MBS.

The next time you want to overeat, drink too much, light up a cigarette that you know is harmful, get hit with pain, ask yourself: What’s going on emotionally in me? What was I doing just before this urge began? What’s going on psychologically right now? The more you stop these thoughts from automatically traveling down a repeated neural pathway in the brain, the easier it will become to stop them the next time and then the next time.

You are what you love, not what loves you.

Happy Easter

John 10:17-18
“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” (NKJV)

Hello Friends,

On this coming Sunday, crowds will flock to places of worship to honor the Christian tradition of Easter, believing Jesus died for your sins so you may have everlasting life.

Apparently, I have a very simple mind because even as a child, I did not understand that popular belief. If Jesus died on the cross for our sins, for all the ways we miss the mark from day to day, then why do churches continue to flog congregations with the idea of being a sinner? If we are still sinners, what did Jesus’s martyrdom accomplish? If Jesus died for our sins, then it is finished, is it not?

The label sinner takes you down. How much more alive, loving, and Christ-like you feel when you remember that you are a child of God made in his image and likeness. The association of being a child of God takes you higher. None of us is perfect, and we will make mistakes until the day we draw our last breath.

Personally, I believe that Jesus died to show us how to love like God wants us to love, and to show us that our spirits live forever. God’s spirit within us is who we are. You cannot destroy energy. It only changes form. Our spirits are eternal.

I find comfort in the metaphysical or practical application of Easter. The actions of Jesus exemplified God’s unconditional love and the assurance, conviction, optimism and possibility that you, too, can overcome the egocentric and salacious ways of the world. Jesus was born and died to give you hope, to show you that the Christ spirit lives within you forever. Since you will live forever, why not choose to go higher and higher rather than walk in the muck?

Times are tough right now. I suspect every one reading this blog knows someone who has been negatively affected by the greed, arrogance, egotism, and corruption of late. It has bought not only the United States but the world to its knees. We have been manipulated by the Judas code of ethics–lies, deceit, greed, self-justifications and self-denial.

Crucifixion is a horrendous form of death. Jesus was nailed to a cross, hanging there until he suffocated under his own weight. The Bible states he dropped three times. Many people today worked hard, saved money, thought they were investing wisely for their retirement only to find they lost their 401Ks, homes, vehicles and more to shrewd, unscrupulous people who seemed oblivious to what was right and honorable.

In other words, many feel they were harpooned by predators when they did nothing wrong. Does that sound like the biblical story of Easter? Yet, Jesus’ attitude was not evil-spirited but one of love and understanding. His first words uttered from the cross were, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). As you will read below, getting to that consciousness is essential if you want a resurrection. Nonetheless, wanting to understand, forgive, and let go of hurt and unfairness might feel like walking over the teeth of a saw until you are ready to shake it off. It’s an individual journey with no set time table.

But the practical message of Easter brings hope. It is your opportunity to let go of the old ways and launch a new beginning.

If you attended a worship service last Sunday, you probably received a palm leaf. In Rome palm leaves were a symbol of royalty. Wave that palm to remind yourself that you, too, are a child of God created from royalty made in his image and likeness with the potential to rise above the ways of the world. Let it symbolize that you have the potential to rise above those things that hurt others and yourself. In Christ you can become a new you and, thereby, model a better way for others.

Jesus fasted and prayed for 40 days to prepare for his Easter journey. I would suggest that you take this day to explore which old ways you need to release so that you can have a deeply personal resurrection. Some of these old, tired ways may reside on an unconscious or subconscious level.

I would suggest that many people don’t feel “good enough” or they think there is something wrong with them. If pinned down, they can’t tell you why they aren’t good enough or why something is wrong with them because these false beliefs are insidiously hidden in the self-conscious and/or unconscious. But your behavior reflects the belief. Your life will continually play out a theme that you aren’t quite good enough or there is something wrong in your life, leaving you feeling there is something wrong with you. Finding the heart of those negative, core beliefs, then letting them go will raise you to amazing heights of well-being. This takes work and determination. Ask God to reveal what needs to be revealed.

About 15 years ago, a boss abused his power, making my life so utterly miserable, I quit a great paying job to escape the abuse. The daily emotional battering took a grave toll on my physical health and body. I carried resentment toward him for about five years. Then one day I grew tired of complaining about him. I wrote on a piece of paper “I release and let go of ____ and all the ways he harmed me.”

I burned the paper on my patio in Phoenix. Remarkably, my anger evaporated immediately. It was a miracle. I felt so powerful to be released from those negative thoughts. His power over me really did go up in a puff of smoke. Later what intrigued me was how silly it seemed to have spent so much time ruminating about this unfair situation. I was set free. It was a resurrection to be sure. Now if I think of that person for even one second, I shake it off immediately. Truthfully, I rarely ever think of him any more.

A couple weeks ago I realized how much and how long I had been holding on to deep resentment toward an individual and unfair situation(s) that took place in 2006. This person was in a profession where people automatically trusted him. He was “expected” to be trustworthy, yet, he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He exploited many people, including me, and their finances. After everyone was drained dry, he skipped away without taking any responsibility for any of it. There were no apologies for the bad decisions, harm and injustice committed against so many disheartened souls. No monies were paid back or returned.

I had been so intensely angry about this situation, I didn’t want to forgive it. When I would try to, it was just head talk, intellectualizing. As a result and without my cognizance, my trust and faith in God withered over the years. Why pray, I would think. What good does it do? Why ask God for help. He didn’t help in that exploitative situation. It was all phony. Maybe the whole idea of God is phony. I believed in phoniness.

Last week the link between this situation and my former boss hit me hard. I was holding the bitterness, thinking about the unfairness, feeling helpless that I could do nothing to make it right just as I did with my former boss.

Once again, I wrote a statement on a piece of paper, “I release and let go of my anger and bitterness toward ______ and this situation. It has no place in my present or my future. Here and now I shake it off” I placed the paper in a metal pail, lit a match and watched it burn, curling and twisting as if working out the impurities of the situation. When all the embers died, there was only fragile, lifeless, grayish ash in the bottom of the pail. I was again set free. It was a wonderful Easter resurrection for me this year. Hallelujah.

The next day interest in prayer and meditation returned. I found myself starting the day with spiritual readings to set a positive tone, something I had not done in about a year. I was regaining faith in God again. I started to believe that things could work out for good in several areas of my life.

Ironically, several days later I heard an update about this person. He had remarried and once again in a power position over others. My anger blazed, then smoldered in my heart. Momentarily, the human condition in me didn’t want him to be happy. It wasn’t fair. And I felt concern for this new flock of unsuspecting souls who would be manipulated for his own gain.

As clarity evolved, I realized I held a deep belief that those who hurt and exploit others through manipulation and lies should be held accountable, and if not accountable, they should never have the right to happiness again. Then I laughed. This was a test. Had I really released and let go of this person and situation? If so, why was I reacting? Was my resurrection nothing more than a cheap umbrella that blew out of shape with the smallest gust of wind?

I thought of the gray ashes in the pail and laughed again. My resurrection was not only real but now it contained clarity. You are only as happy as the person you become. You choose your values and act on them. My happiness is not dependent on you and your behavior, and your happiness is not dependent on me and my behavior. The choices others make are not my responsibility. Whatever someone else does, it’s my choice to wallow in the rot or let go and move on.

I think this point of ownership is made very clear in the movie Adaptation when the character Donald Kaufman (played by Nicholas Cage) says, “You are what you love, not what loves you.” At that moment I knew I had resurrected that situation. The news was nothing more than a puff of wind. I shook it off and was free again. This is truly a happy Easter.

Only God can give you 100% reassurance. Happiness comes from trusting Him and believing that He wants only good for you. The world is full of people who use and abuse others and act from a devil’s heart for whatever reason. All choices are based on free will. But God can turn evil into good so no destruction need be forever. Evil will always extinguish itself, but that is not for you to worry about. To rise above a situation, all you need to do is ask for your Creator’s help. That’s what I had done about three days before my epiphany and resurrection.

What is it in your life that is bringing you down? What anger, bitterness or resentment might you need to release to feel happy again? Who do you need to forgive? If you want to do better today than yesterday, as your Creator for help, then have faith that God will help you. Do you need to trust the Universe more right now?

Make this Easter a true daily double. Be grateful and appreciate Jesus for showing you the way, and at the same time, honor the Christ spirit within you that can rise above all difficulty. As you spring into Easter this weekend, make it a time to let go of old ways and launch a new beginning.

Happy Easter. Love and resurrections to all.