Healing work: differentiating factors that initiate, maintain, and support healing from the illness

 

When we work on healing, it can be helpful to differentiate factors that initiate the illness, maintains it, and supports healing from the illness.

These three groups of factors sometimes overlap and sometimes are different from each other. For instance, if we identify healing factors, it doesn’t mean those are the same as the ones initiating or maintaining the illness (although they may be).

Simple vs complex illnesses

When the illness is simple, acute, and relatively well understood, the three types of factors may be more or less the same. I get an infection. It’s maintained by the bacteria. And the healing comes from eliminating the bacteria – either through allowing the body to take care of it or using antibiotics.

When the illness is more complex, chronic, or less well-understood, differentiating the three may be helpful. The maintaining factors may be different from the initiating factors, and we may need to address both. Also, we’ll often need to take a holistic approach and focus on supporting our body in its healing process in any way possible, independent of the specific initiating and maintaining factors.

Not jumping to conclusions

I sometimes see people working in alternative healing modalities confuse these. For instance, with a complex and chronic condition, it can be helpful to work on any emotional issues that create stress and this is one component in supporting the body in healing itself. That, of course, doesn’t mean that any one emotional issue created the illness or was even a (major) component in the onset of the illness. It may be, but it also may not be. We often don’t know, and for healing purposes, we may not need to know.

Similarly, if we know what caused a chronic illness, it doesn’t mean that addressing other things isn’t helpful for the healing. Often, we need to take a holistic approach in supporting the system in healing itself.

My own experience

I am perhaps especially aware of the importance of differentiate these three types of factors because of the chronic fatigue (CFS) I have had at varying levels since my teens.

In my case, the initiating factors may be a combination of genetics, mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr virus), teenage stress (social anxiety), and possibly mold (I lived in a basement apartment). When the CFS returned strongly some years ago, it was likely triggered by another infection (pneumonia) combined with mold and possibly stress.

I am not sure what the maintaining factors are although stress, an overactive flight/fight/freeze (FFF) system, diet, and climate are likely to each play a role.

When it comes to the factors supporting healing, some address possible maintaining factors and some support the body in healing itself.

In the first category, a priority is to remove any Epstein-Barr virus still in the system, reducing stress and supporting the FFF system in normalizing, changing the diet to (mostly) avoid processed foods and foods I have an intolerance to, and – as much as possible – spend time in a sunny, dry, and warm climate.

In the second category, I have found the following helpful: herbal medicine (mostly large doses adaptogens), get plenty of rest and sleep, learn to listen to and take seriously the signals from the body, supporting and strengthening my energy system, and working on any emotional issues creating stress and possibly preventing healing. One of the things I haven’t wholeheartedly focused on yet is detoxing.

What’s the purpose of trauma?

 

What’s the purpose of trauma?

There are several answers to this question, partly because meaning is something we create and add to life.

Creation & Maintenance of Trauma

What’s the purpose of the creation and maintenance of trauma?

At an individual level, the main purpose of trauma may be protection. The pain of trauma is an incentive to avoid situations similar to the one initially creating the trauma.

At a collective human level, it’s probably the same. Traumas serve a survival function for our species. When a situation is overwhelming and we feel we can’t cope with it, we create trauma and the pain of the trauma helps us avoid similar situations.

Healing from Trauma

What’s the purpose we find through healing from trauma?

At an individual level, we may get a lot out of exploring and finding healing for our traumas. We obviously learn from the process, we learn how to heal from trauma and perhaps emotional issues in general. We may find we are more mature and humanized. We may be more raw and honest with ourselves and others. We may find ourselves as more real, authentic, and perhaps in integrity. We may have reprioritized and found what’s genuinely important in our life. We may discover the universality of human life and that – even with our individual differences – we are all in the same boat. We may have found a different and more meaningful life path. Our life, in general, may be more meaningful to us. We may have found a deep, raw, and real fellowship with others on a healing path. We may have learned to be more vulnerable with ourselves and others. We may have discovered how the path of healing from traumas fuels, leads into, and perhaps is an integral part of an awakening path. We may discover the deep capacity for healing inherent in ourselves, humans, and life in general.

At a collective level, it’s similar only scaled up and with the extra illumination and richness that comes from the interactions of people with different backgrounds, viewpoints, and experiences. Collectively, we learn about and from healing from trauma. We realize the universality of it, and of our profound capacity for healing. We see that healing from trauma is something we do together and not just individually. We discover that much of what we thought were individual traumas are actually more universal and collective traumas. We discover that culture is not only what gives us much of what we love about human life, but the painful unquestioned assumptions inherent in our culture is what creates much if not most of our pain.

Bigger Picture

What’s the purpose of the experience of trauma in the bigger picture?

If we assume there is something like rebirth or reincarnation, then the experience of trauma provides food for our healing, maturing, and eventually awakening. It’s the One locally and temporarily taking itself to be a separate being going through a reincarnation process and through that healing, maturing, and eventually awakening to itself as the One. The One the adventure always happened within and as.

Traumas seems an important part of the dialectical evolutionary process of humanity as a species and – by extension – of Earth as a whole. The aspects mentioned above and much more go into this.

And it’s part of the play of life or the universe or the divine. It’s lila. It’s life exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in always new ways. It’s part of the One temporarily and locally experiencing itself as separate.

Note

When I use the word trauma, I mean the traditional one-time-dramatic-event trauma, and perhaps, more importantly, the developmental trauma that most of have from growing up in slightly – or very – dysfunctional families, communities, and cultures.

In a wider sense, any emotional issue, any painful belief, any identification, is a form of trauma and comes from and creates trauma. It’s the trauma inherent in the One temporarily and locally taking itself to fundamentally be a separate being.

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Central vs peripheral issues

 

I saw someone ask: is this a core issue for me?

What is a core issue?

For me, I think of them as central issues. Issues that are central to who I take myself to be. Issues that have a general impact on my daily life. Issues that are often tied into many other issues – they are networked, have branches, roots and so on. And they are often universal. Shared by many or most humans and ingrained in our culture one way or another.

Some examples of typical core issues in our culture: Fear of rejection. Low self-worth. Define ourselves by our actions and accomplishments.

In contrast, peripheral issues are less central to who I take myself to be. It has less of a general impact on my daily life and tends to be triggered only in specific situations. And they appear more isolated and less tied in with other issues. Although if we explore them, they often lead to more central issues.

Of course, the separation into central and peripheral issues is mind-made and imagined. It’s fuzzy. It’s a matter of definition. It’s there just as a general guide. Sometimes helpful, sometimes less so.

For me, the distinction is mostly helpful in prioritizing what to work on. I’ll generally choose to work on more central issues, although sometimes it’s important to work on the more peripheral ones as well.

I should also mention that if I notice I am reluctant to work on one of my own issues, and it’s difficult for me to do so when I finally get to it, it’s more likely to be a central issue. The peripheral ones are usually easier and more enjoyable to work on. So if it’s a central issue for me, I may get someone else to facilitate me in inquiring into it, or do Vortex Healing for it.

This is also why we often end up working a lot on our peripheral issues and put off working on the central ones. It’s easier to work on what’s less central to who I take myself to be. And that’s another reason why being aware of this (mind-made) difference between central and peripheral issues can be helpful.

Which category do I tend to work on? Perhaps I need to acknowledge my fear of working on the more central issues? Perhaps it will be easier for me if I ask for help to work on them?

So what about the initial question: is this a core issue for me? Only you will know. But if it’s central to who you take yourself to be, colors your daily life, seem tied into other issues, and it’s difficult for you to get to know or work, then it may be a central issue. If so, and you want to explore it, it may be good to ask for assistance.

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Chronic Fatigue and three forms of rest

 

Since I am exploring chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) more these days, I thought I would write a few posts on it. This and other topics are mentioned in my article on the CFS retreat.

With CFS, there are three forms of rest: after, before, and extra.

Resting after an activity is the after rest. This usually takes care of itself. I do something. Feel tired or exhausted. And need to rest. Often, I don’t have a choice.

Resting before a planned activity is the before rest. I rest for hours, days, weeks, or months before a planned activity so I’ll be able to do it. I rest a lot anyway so this is on top of the baseline rest.

Resting on top of these two types of rest is the extra rest. This is the rest that allows the body to heal and restore itself. It’s the rest I do when I could do something else but know that this extra rest is vital for restoring my body and allowing it to heal.

As I mentioned, the after rest usually takes care of itself. I don’t have much choice but to rest after activity. The before rest is something I have learned and it feels relatively ingrained now.

It’s the extra or healing rest I want to pay more attention to. This is the one I want to program myself to do more of. I notice I have energy to do something, and I still chose to rest. I chose to not spend the little energy I have right away. I chose to invest it in allowing my body to build up resources to heal.

A while back, my herbalist told me to spend only half of the energy I feel I can spend. That’s very good advice and something I am still learning.

Chronic fatigue retreat in Norway

 

After being officially diagnosed with chronic fatigue (CFS) in Norway, I was offered to participate in a four-week course for CFS. I think of it more as a CFS retreat, and I thought I would share a few impressions from it here.

THE SETTING

The retreat is held at a rehabilitation center in southern Norway specializing in, among other things, chronic fatigue. The location is by a lake in a peaceful and beautiful valley. Everything was paid by the government, including transportation to and from the center. (I like that we collectively in Norway contribute to these things and decide it’s important.)

We have our own rooms (spacious, clean, quiet), four healthy and delicious meals a day, and there are several common areas. For those with food intolerances – which is most of us with CFS – they prepare special meals. They also have a quiet room for those who needed peaceful meals.

The CFS staff is professional, personable, kind, and with a very good understanding of CFS and its challenges, and what typically helps people with CFS.

The schedule is gentle. Four meals a day. A class (workshop) three times a week following breakfast. Mindfulness. Mindful movement. Some gentle activities in nature.

We can have the food delivered to our room if we feel it’s too much to do it ourselves. And we can ask to have someone change our sheets and towels.

I had special meals (without wheat or dairy). And I prioritized the classes and sometimes rested instead of participating in the mindfulness.

There will be a follow-up two-week retreat sometime next year.

OVERALL IMPRESSION

When I looked into the different locations for CFS-courses in Norway, this one stood out. Past participants gave it almost exclusively positive reviews. And I have to say I am very impressed by the staff, the place, and what I have gotten out of it. I am very grateful for having been given the opportunity to be here.

AVOIDING WORSENING

I know some people experience a worsening after participating in a CFS course, although I suspect it happens less often here than other places. The staff call potential participants in advance to screen them and make sure (as well as they can) that they have a high enough capacity to participate and get something out of it without worsening. (Or, at least, not more than we can recover from relatively quickly.)

During the course, the staff strongly encourage us to pay attention to early symptoms of doing too much and stay within what we are able to do without risking crashing. We are encouraged to create a schedule for ourselves we are comfortable with. (I am on a reduced schedule.)

And whenever we say no to an event because we need to rest, we receive strong positive reinforcement for doing so. After all, learning just that is one of the reasons we are here. And by resting instead of overdoing it, we set a good example for the other participants.

WHAT I GOT OUT OF IT

For me, what I appreciated the most was to be understood – by the staff and my fellow CFS participants. So I felt normal. I didn’t have to explain. I didn’t have to worry I wouldn’t be understood. I didn’t have to worry about what they would think when I had to choose to rest instead of participating in an event or social activities.

Most of the content was familiar to me, but it was very helpful to go through it, have conversations about it, and have the importance of it reinforced.

In the long term, I hope to learn to stabilize better and avoid frequent crashes, especially since this is essential for giving my body enough rest so it can gradually heal itself.

MAIN EMPHASIS

The main emphasis is to learn and use strategies that improve our quality of life and give our body the best opportunity to gradually heal itself.

Stay within a level of activity so we avoid crashes. (Taking the elevator down to the basement.) Sometimes, we may choose to do a little more, but in general stay within a range that gives stability. This gives the body an opportunity to gradually heal instead of frequently having to use resources to recover from crashes.

Notice the early signs of needing to rest and take these seriously. If we had diabetes, we would take insulin as soon as we needed to. It’s the same for CFS. As soon as we notice we need our medicine, which is rest, then take it. Prioritize it.

Reduce stress, including in the following ways:

(a) We learned to recognize stressful thoughts and what they do to our emotions, symptoms, and behavior. And replace these with more realistic thoughts that are more kind, calms down our system, and lead to behavior that helps us rest and take care of ourselves.

(b) We found and prioritized our personal values (what’s important to us), and learned how following “shoulds” create stress while following our values calms the system.

(c) We learned basic mindfulness and noticing and allowing thoughts, emotions, and sensations, and that we are not any of those. And that fighting discomfort and reality create stress while noticing, allowing, and befriending discomfort and the reality of our situation calms our system.

(d) We explored that we are all 100% valuable independent of what we can or cannot do, and what we think and feel about how valuable we are. We all agree that babies are 100% valuable even if they can’t do much and create work for others, so when do we lose that value? It’s only in our thoughts and feelings we reduce our value, while in reality, we keep our 100% value.

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Healing = willingness to heal > lack of willingness to heal

 

I think there is a relatively simple equation for whether we heal from emotional wounds or not.

The simple version is this:

Healing = willingness to heal > lack of willingness to heal.

When we want to heal more than we fear the discomfort of the process, we tend to find healing. It may take time, but there is healing.

We can add a few more components to the equation:

Healing = willingness face discomfort + trust in the process + right tools & good guidance > fear of discomfort + lack of trust + not so good tools

We not only need to be willing to face the discomfort, we also need to trust in the process, and we need the right tools and guidance. We need to trust we can find healing, that the tools are right, and that we have good guidance. And the trust needs to be based on reality.

We can add even a few more things to the initially simple equation: sincerity, honesty (with oneself), receptivity, and doggedness, a willingness to stay with the process.

Of course, if there are no results after a few sessions, it may be good to re-evaluate the process and perhaps find another tool and/or guidance. In my experience, if it works, we notice it relatively quickly.

The issue may not clear right away, but we notice it shifts and perhaps lightens and opens up. Smaller and more isolated issues can be cleared relatively quickly, but it takes longer for the more core and interwoven issues, perhaps even a lifetime, even if these too can shift, lighten, and be much easier after some sessions.

I am talking from my own experience here so I am open for this changing as I discover new tools and approaches.

Issue work: chopping the top off the mountains

 

Most of us have innumerable emotional issues and too little time to work on all. We basically have everything in ourselves we see in the world. We see it because we recognize it from ourselves. And we have them in us since we are a genetic and cultural child of humanity.

So a practical approach is to find the central issues and work on them more thoroughly, and take the bite out of the rest, unless they keep cropping up and obviously interfere with my life.

This is a guideline that applies for whatever approach we use.

For me, it’s especially clear when I use Vortex Healing.

With core issues, I want to take them through the whole protocol even if it takes many hours. I sometimes ask someone else to do it for me since that’s easier for me than working on my own core issues. (I am more identified with them so it may be difficult to get started, or stay focused, or wanting to go through the full protocol thoroughly.)

With the rest, I often just do the main and most impactful parts of the protocol. This reduces the charge of the issue and makes it easier to relate to it consciously and it interferes less with my daily life. That may be enough, at least for the moment. If the issue keeps coming up in daily life, if it obviously interferes with my life, or if I am drawn to it, I can always do more.

How do I know if something is a core issue? It’s more likely to be a central issue for me if it’s been with me since early childhood, if I see it in my parents, if it’s a thread through my daily life, or if it’s a charged projection (if I keep seeing it in others and am bothered by it). Universal issues are also, almost by definition, more likely to be a central issue for me.

So the efficient approach is to be thorough with central issues and do just enough to take the edge off the rest. And if an issue keeps cropping up, treat it as a central issue.

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Addressing fear of healing: a detour that can speed up the process

 

When we work on deep-seated issues, there is often a fear of not only entering it but also of healing from it. This fear is a guardian of the treasure that’s there when we enter it, get to know it, and find healing for it. It’s a big part of what holds it in place.

The fear is also innocent, natural, and very understandable. It’s there to protect us. The protection is partly wise and partly a bit misguided. It’s wise since entering the issue without proper guidance can further traumatize us and make it worse. And can be a bit misguided since entering it with some guidance is what allows it to heal.

So when I work on deep-seated issues in myself or others, I often address this fear as well. If it’s strong, I may treat it as its own issue.

In a sense, this is a detour and slows down the process. In another sense, it’s what allows for a more real and deep healing of the issue. Slow is sometimes faster. What’s slow in the short run can be faster in the long run.

I often address this fear when I work with inquiry, Vortex Healing, and parts work (Big Mind process etc.).

You don’t have to fix everything

 

This video from The Optimum Health Clinic is about chronic fatigue (CFS) and it’s something I very much relate to.

Since we don’t know exactly what causes CFS and we often need to take a comprehensive and integral approach to manage it and perhaps heal from it, it’s easy to think that we have to fix everything to recover.

I am just like the client in the video. I know it’s probably not true, but I still often feel and act as if it’s true. I keep working on emotional issues, nutrition, diet, herbal medicine, regulating my activity levels, mindfulness, prayer, heart-centered practices, energy healing, being honest with myself and following my guidance, and much more, in order to see if I can recover from the CFS. At one level, it’s a wise, comprehensive, and integral approach. At another, for me, it sometimes has an element of compulsiveness.

It can be the same with healing from trauma since it’s often a set of emotional issues tied together, and we can always find additional related and underlying issues to address. We may have the idea that we need to fix everything before we are OK and can relax and enjoy life again.

And it can be that way with awakening as well, in whatever way we understand awakening. We keep going at it, perhaps from many different angles, and don’t feel we are OK or can relax until we “arrive” at some imagined place or state.

We may know – and perceive in immediacy – that all is the divine and perfect as is. We are also aware that there is room for improvement in terms of befriending our experience, clarity, healing, maturing, and living from our experience of all as the divine (Big Mind). And we may be genuinely drawn to keeping exploring all of this and deepening in it.

And for some of us on a spiritual path, it can feel a bit compulsive and we have the idea that we have to fix everything about ourselves before we are OK and can relax.

It’s very natural and understandable if we have some compulsion in our healing or awakening work. It’s even helpful. It creates an extra needed momentum and especially early on in the process.

And yet, at some point, it’s helpful to address the compulsion itself. Where does it come from? Is the voice in me driving the compulsion true?

Often, the compulsion is a reaction to believing that we are not OK and not enough as we are. We try to improve ourselves in order to get somewhere or get something we believe we don’t have. We may also have a belief that we need the compulsion in order to get anywhere and fear that we’ll stagnate without it.

None of that is really true, and as the compulsion relaxes, we may discover a few different things. We may find that it’s OK to take time to relax and enjoy our life as it is, and we may find we are more able to relax and enjoy it. We may also find that we are still moved to explore and invite in healing and awakening, and that there is a deeper calling or curiosity that’s not dependent on compulsion, a sense of lack, or (unquestioned, unbefriended) fear.

So the compulsion itself is not good or bad. It can be helpful in certain phases of our process. And it is driven by something in us that’s out of alignment with reality, so at some point, life invites us to notice and address it.

By doing that, we may find a deeper sense of contentment and OKness as we are. And that from here, we are more free to enjoy life and even to keep exploring and inviting in continued healing, maturing, and awakening. We lose the compulsion and we gain deeper contentment.

I should add that if our exploration was largely driven by compulsion and a sense of lack, we may let the exploration go after we resolve this sense of lack. We may be very happy to just enjoy and live our life without this element of exploration. And that’s more than OK too.

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What if healing and awakening is endless?

 

The truth will set you free in any area of life. And so also with healing and awakening. Not only is truth what allows for healing of emotional issues and awakening, but the reality about healing and awakening is also freeing.

As far as I can tell, one of these “truths” is that healing and awakening both are endless. There is always one more issue to heal. There is always another layer of what we think we are that falls away. For all practical purposes, it’s endless.

If I think there is an end to healing and awakening, I’ll likely try to get to that end. I have a goal in mind. I get impatient. I may set aside other sides of my life so I can get the healing and awakening done with, and then I can address the others sides of my life again. I may get frustrated. Disappointed. Having the idea that there is an end to healing and awakening creates a lot of additional stress and struggle.

If I see healing and awakening as endless, it frees me up. It allows me to weave it into daily life as one of many strands. It becomes normal. It becomes one part of my life among many. There is less urgency and compulsion around it. There is more balance between healing and awakening and the rest of my life. (And everything – any activity, experience and situation – can still be food for healing and awakening.)

It’s perhaps obvious. I assume most of us already see healing and awakening as endless. But somewhere in us, there may be an idea of a goal or endpoint. I know I have had both the knowing of it as endless, and parts of me wanting an endpoint. It can be one of those hidden or unspoken beliefs in us. As with so much, it’s good to notice. And if we are drawn to it, we can explore it further through inquiry or other approaches.

A benefit of seeing healing and awakening as endless is that we know there is always one more step, and one more. We are less likely to think we have “arrived” and less likely to see ourselves as inherently better (or worse) than others because of it, or to go stale because we think there is nothing more to explore or discover.

Another benefit of seeing it as endless is that we all are in the same boat. We may be at different places on the path on all the different strands of development, healing, awakening, and maturing, but we are all on the path. There is always further to go. Always one more step, for all of us.

And it’s not a problem at all that it’s endless. It just means the exploration continues. What’s revealed is fresh and new. We see more and different patterns and connections. We find more underlying patterns and dynamics. As humans, we continue to heal, mature, develop. As this local expression of life, we continue to see more about ourselves and what we are.

Of course, that it’s endless is an idea, it’s my imagination. I don’t really know. It’s just what seems most likely within my current horizon. And it’s the view that seems most helpful to me now.

When I said “truth” in the first paragraph, it’s not meant in the sense of any absolute or final truth. It’s just what seems most real and accurate for me right now, and also most helpful in a practical sense. It may well change.

A cosmology footnote: To me, it seems likely that this universe will expand and then contract, and the energy will form another universe. A “heat death” as current science sees as most likely wouldn’t allow for a continued dynamic exploration, so it seems more likely that the universe is inherently pulsing. Of course, I don’t know. This too is an imagination. And again, it’s one that seems helpful to the extent any overarching abstract idea like that is helpful and relevant to anything.

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Mother and father issues

 

When asked about what our depression, or anxiety, or troublesome behavioral pattern is connected with, most of us will answer with immediate triggers. It has to do with our work situation, or the world situation, or current relationships.

And yet, as Freud pointed out and has become a bit of a cliche, the real answer is often in childhood. 

We may not feel ready to go directly there. Sometimes, it can be helpful to explore more peripheral or immediate issues. We get to learn and trust the process, and we get to see that it’s safe to meet it and that it can heal.

We get to see that we can learn to meet what comes up with presence, kindness, patience, respect, and gentle curiosity. We see that we can find healing for our relationship with it and how much relief is found here. And we may get to see that the issue itself can find healing and resolve. 

And yet, it’s good to relatively quickly explore if the issue does have roots in our childhood. After getting to know how the issue is experienced here and now, one of my favorite questions in inquiry is “what’s your earliest memory of feeling that way?”. It often brings the client (which sometimes is myself) right back to early situations that tell us something about how the pattern was initially formed. We get to see that it – whether it’s anxiety, depression, a compulsion, or something else – made sense in that situation and was a way of coping with a difficult situation. It was the best we could do in that situation as a child. 

We find understanding and empathy for ourselves, and perhaps even for the issue itself. We see it came from wishing to protect ourselves. And we are in a position to address the biographical roots of the issue, and that may allow for a more thorough, effective, and efficient healing.

Efficiency isn’t neccesarily a priority in a healing process, but we do have limited resources – in terms of time, money, and attention – so it is good to keep at least half an eye on efficiency.

I should also add that by addressing more peripheral and immediate issues, we do actually address parts of the the more central issues. The core issues are expressed in these peripheral and immediate issues. So by working on these peripheral issues, we do make inroads in the core ones. We prepare the ground for addressing them more head on, and it makes it easier – for many reasons – to address the core issues more head on.

We learn about the process, we learn to trust it’s safe to meet our emotional issues, we learn they can find healing, and we do – indirectly and in parts – address the core issues and find some healing for them. 

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