Traversing Rough Waters

Paradigm Shift

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paradigm shift
sometimes the impossible
is still possible
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depleted options
yet still crossing rough waters
perseverance
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There are situations where the impossible really is impossible.  But there are also times when the seemingly impossible is possible if we can look at those situations from a different angle or perspective.  We don’t always have to think of those alternatives on our own.  Sometimes a phrase, a comment, or a suggestion from someone else at the right time or place can get us to consider things differently.  One does not have to traverse rough waters in a boat if it is not available.  Sometimes “leaves” (metaphorically) will get us across.

A couple of examples:

Three years ago, when my doctors told me they “couldn’t do any more for me,” I hadn’t thought about alternative medicine as an option.  After hearing the doctors’ dreadful words, I was devastated and thought my situation was hopeless.  Was I to remain nonfunctional and debilitated forever?  My pain psychologist then suggested I try alternative medicine and said, “What do you have to lose?”  He said I needed to stop relying on doctors to provide answers for my undiagnosed conditions, because I kept running into dead ends.  He was right.  The alternative route has been better, gentler and healthier for those issues.

My fragrance and chemical sensitivities are a struggle because it has lead to increasing isolation and a significantly decreased social life.  Although it has made me appreciate nature more, and has resulted in doing more activities in nature, we still try to think of ways where I can get out into society and minimize my exposures at the same time.  We still need contact with other people where possible, and I don’t want to live in total recluse.  Here are a few ways we have adjusted:

  • My hubby and mother are fragrance free 100% of the time, and my two best friends are fragrance free when I’m with them.
  • We can have people in our home if they are fragrance free when they come.  I can visit friends and family if their home is fragrance free while I am there.
  • I can still go out to eat if the establishment isn’t using air fresheners or scented candles, and I am not seated next to others wearing heavier fragrance.  I have kindly asked to be moved to a different table before.
  • I can go to a movie theatre if it is a matinée (cheaper) and/or the theatre doesn’t have many occupants.  That way I can move to a different seat if I have to.
  • I can go into shops if they are not using air fresheners or other fragrances.
  • I can go to departments stores if I stay away from the perfume and fragrances section.
  • Etc., etc., etc.

As I’ve mentioned in previous postings, I still have a long way to go with my health and chronic pain, and I still have rough setbacks, but I have improved from three years ago.  I still struggle and get discouraged at times, but I have to remember that in reality, there is still hope and there are still options.

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What are some examples of where you are using “leaves” instead of “boats” to get across rough waters?

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Anxiety, Emotions and Opening To Them

The guidance in this posting was prepared and provided to me by my Craniosacral Therapist (CST, LMT).  She has given me permission to include it in this blog either in verbatim or paraphrased.  (FYI – I first posted about my initial experience with CST here.)

My CST has been treating me for many physical issues over the last couple of years including chronic pain in several areas of my body, and recovery from multiple surgeries.  Weekly craniosacral and massage therapy sessions from her, regular pain psychology sessions from a licensed psychologist, and periodic acupuncture treatments from a licensed acupuncturist, have provided me with the majority of improvements and answers concerning my recent health issues.

Since the body and the mind are connected, professionals and exercises in both areas are essential for my healing.  My CST said it is important to note that she is not a psychologist, and that her work includes how the mind and psyche (such as anxiety, emotions, thoughts, feelings) enter and affect the body physically.  Her expertise and treatments have been very helpful for me.  The information here is based on her personal experiences and materials she has come across over the years in bodywork trainings, meditation trainings, and teachings she has heard.  I thank her for allowing me to include her experiences here.  (This image below is a doodle I did to introduce her information.)

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When you feel a strong emotion arise:

1)  Focus on your breath.  Connect with the physical sensations of breathing in your body.  Do you feel your chest rise and fall, do you feel the breath rush past places in your sinuses or down the back of your throat?  Any place you can feel the breath enter and leave, focus there.  Your breath is your anchor to the present moment.  It’s impossible to breath in the past or future where your mind and/or body often want to go in their remembering or anticipating.  To invite yourself fully into the present moment, focus on your breath.  Note how your breath feels and what you notice.  After noting awareness, invite your breath to gradually become slower, deeper, more relaxed and more regular.  I often repeat those four parts to myself when I feel increased anxiety…slower, deeper, more relaxed and more regular. Give yourself several minutes of this practice to slow down.  Dr. Andrew Weil teaches this practice as a way to turn off fight or flight response in the body.  You may be able to find more information on his website or look for his Breathing: Master Key to Self Healing series.

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Pasque Flower

Pasque Flower
Pasque Flower, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

Recently, we visited at a local botanical garden where we saw these lovely, colorful Pasque flowers in it’s Medicinal Garden section.  The blooms and seed heads were mingled with each other creating a nice contrast to me.  As I was taking photos, we saw the following sign next to the flowers:

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Interesting.  I had not heard of Pasque Flower before, so later, I looked it up on Wikipedia.  Pasque refers to Easter, and the flower blooms in early spring.  It also states Pulsatilla have been used to treat reproductive problems, and that the plant “is highly toxic, and produces cardiogenic toxins and oxytoxins which slow the heart in humans…”  Also, Drugs.com refers to Pasque flower as “extremely toxic and should not be ingested or applied to the skin.”  Such a pretty flower, and it sounds like one needs to be very careful around this plant.

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Support and Encouragement

Friend
A Friend, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

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True friends and family fly to you when you don’t have the ability to fly yourself.  They support, comfort and encourage you physically and emotionally.  ~ Fergiemoto

Finch (right):  “I’m so discouraged.”
Junco (left):  “I’m there for you.  How can I help?  You can talk to me…I really mean it.”

Remember that close friends and relatives struggling with chronic/invisible illnesses or pain need us to be there for them.  Here are some ways to show support and encouragement:

  • Slow down.  Listen with your whole body and 100% of your attention.  Look at them and acknowledge you are truly hearing what they are saying.  To the person talking, this is more valuable than all the gold in the world.  Never underestimate the power of holding the space for someone who needs a listening ear. You may be their life-line.
  • Let them know you are truly there for them and that you are listening.  Silence when a person needs to know someone is really there can lead them to feel lonely.
  • Avoid interrupting them while they are talking.  Let them finish speaking before you respond.  When you are talking, you are not listening.
  • Allow the person to feel just as they are.  Avoid judgment, lecturing, criticizing, ridiculing, etc.  Telling them to tough it out, quit complaining, pull it together, they have a low pain tolerance, they’re crazy, it’s not a big deal, or threatening to stay away can lead to negative results.  Sometimes the pain inside is much more intense than the pain they are showing.
  • Be there with them, physically and emotionally.  Don’t try to fix it. More

“Celebrate The Small Successes!”

Baby steps…toddler steps…sometimes this is the pace we have to take to achieve our end goals and desires.  Overcoming any kind of struggle can be very daunting, frustrating and discouraging, and setting large goals can seem overwhelming.  They require patience that sometimes we don’t think we have anymore.  It’s easy to get over-ambitious and all too often, we are looking for an overnight success, which is understandable.  In the meantime, we overlook and neglect the small accomplishments that lead to larger victories.  Busy schedules can bog us down; pain can seem to overtake our entire waking moments that we wonder if there is ever an end; then we miss the chance to celebrate those wins.  Progress is good at any level because it means we are headed in the right direction.  I realize this is easier said than done.  Believe me, I’ve been there many times.

When you have a success, do you say a quick “yay”, move on as if nothing special happened, and then rarely or never give it another thought?  The next time you have a success, remember this:  Recognize…Reward…and Celebrate!  You are working hard to reach your goal, so don’t brush it aside.  The body and mind need the reinforcement and encouragement.  When you celebrate, you are helping to breed an attitude of “I’m successful” to your mind, which will then breed more success.  One success leads to another to another and hopefully you will accelerate the process of reaching your goals, i.e., the snowball effect.  Mental health affects physical health. More

A Short History of Medicine (Joke)

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A Short History of Medicine

“Doctor, I have an ear ache.”

2000 BC – “Here, eat this root.”

1000 BC – “That root is heathen, say this prayer.”

1850 AD – “That prayer is superstition, drink this potion.”

1940 AD – “That potion is snake oil, swallow this pill.”

1985 AD – “That pill is ineffective, take this antibiotic.”

2000 AD – “That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root!”

The source of this joke is unknown, but when I saw it on Magsx2 blog, it caught my attention.  (I can really relate to the last line of the joke!)

Addressing Emotional Pain #4 – Secondary Emotions

Knowing others is wisdom; Knowing the self is enlightenment; Mastering the self is true power.  ~ Lao Tzu

Recognizing our primary and secondary emotions helps us understand what our core emotions and issues are.  I talked a little about core issues in my previous post on body awareness.  Simply, secondary emotions occur in response to a primary emotion.  Eventually we may unknowingly bury our primary emotions until they are unrecognizable.  The problem with this is that we may think our secondary emotions are what we are really feeling, and address those, rather than addressing the true and primary emotions.

Anger is a good example of a secondary emotion.  Anger is usually a response to a primary emotion or situation.  When we get behind our anger, we may discover that there is a different emotion at the core, such as shame, fear, worry, guilt, embarrassment, regret, sadness, loneliness, etc.  Anger, although an intense emotion, is more acceptable and easier to admit to than showing vulnerability.  If a primary emotion is shame, people usually don’t want to admit to shame, so they may respond with anger instead.  Some will want to push back for safety, and get away from the true emotion with a few sharp words of anger.

Irritability can be a similar response to anger.  It is usually a secondary emotion (other than hormonal).  What about anxiety?  It could be a secondary emotion to fear.

If we don’t address our primary emotions, they likely won’t go away.  We may not express them for a variety of reasons, such as habit, upbringing, social situations, etc.  Therefore, secondary emotions may end up hindering us because we are not addressing the real issue, nor are we expressing them appropriately.  Also, we probably won’t be able to understand what our primary emotions are without understanding how to use self-awareness tools, some of which I have talked about in this blog.  Tools such as body awareness, mindfulness meditation, emotion focus therapy, guided imagery, downward arrow exercise, and so on, really help us listen to our bodies and feelings.  You may have a different tool that you have found to be effective for you.  Something to keep in mind is to keep asking yourself, “what am I feeling…what else am I feeling…what else…what else?”

It’s like deconstructing a recipe.  When you taste something, there is an interplay of ingredients that make up the overall taste.  But savor the flavors and notice the individual tastes and sensations.  What’s making up the taste?  For example, you may find that you taste cinnamon, pepper, lemon, etc.  So..…what’s really making up your emotions?  Try to deconstruct it and see what you find.

Don’t always be comfortable with your first emotion.  Try to find out what it is really about.  Recognizing deeper emotions can be very helpful part of a healing process!

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