My Thoughts on The Lightning Process

A thunderstorm has just passed over my place, so maybe the universe is telling me to answer this question I got via email recently:

Hi, I’ve had this hideous illness since 1998. However, I enjoyed approx 6 years of feeling quite well but with symptoms at times. I could walk up to 3 hours a day and was extremely fit. Four years ago I went through some massive stress that’s still not quite worked out but getting there and relapsed. I’m devastated. The recovery is taking forever and I never saw this coming. One lady I did know very well with CFS claims she is healed by the lightning process. So much so that she’s become a practitioner herself. She says I’m choosing to be sick because I won’t do it too. I’ve read heaps on it and found lot’s of disturbing anecdotes along with positive. Just wondering what your thoughts are on this?

I haven’t done The Lightning Process myself, but a very good friend of mine who has almost completely recovered from CFS has, so I asked him for his thoughts. Here’s his reply:

It has been one of my main influences in a positive way.

Worth the money

And it nicely pulls together a lot of the other stuff I did that I value.

I would recommend it to anyone who feels called…

Between my friend and I, we’ve done just about every physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual therapy out there in order to get well. I’m convinced that the ultimate underlying cause of CFS is overwhelming stress compounded by emotional trauma, being expressed by our body and nervous system.

My understanding is that The Lightning Process is a collection of tools for breaking stressful thought and behavior patterns that led to chronic hyper-activation of our sympathetic nervous system; and all the weird-ass symptoms that result from that.

In previous conversations with my friend, the three things I’ve heard him talk about that appeared most valuable from his experience of The Lightning Process are:

  1. The concept of “positive editing”: reframing every experience that we have to see the beneficial side, and changing the language we use both externally and internally to reflect this. Our nervous system is listening to our thoughts, and some thoughts are more frightening than others. So rather than thinking of it as a “hideous illness”, try thinking of it as an opportunity to learn more about what is really important to you.
  2. Taking responsibility in our thoughts and language for the fact that we created the illness and the symptoms that go with it.
  3. Having a coach. My friend has consistently talked about the benefit of the ongoing coaching that he got after doing the initial Lightning Process training. In fact, my friend is now a transformation coach himself.

I don’t really want to say much more given that I haven’t actually done it myself. I know some people struggle with taking responsibility for their illness, and see this as blaming the victim. I think shifting out of victim mentality is one of the key ingredients to recovering, and for me that means taking action on the things that are important to me. If the Lightning Process helps you do that, then it’s probably a good thing.

Noting that one of the really valuable things to my friend was having a coach, I want to remind you that I’m currently offering 3 months free recovery coaching for people with CFS in return for you filling in 3 monthly surveys. While I’m not trained in The Lightning Process, I believe the tools that I can teach you for dealing with the emotions and stress of being ill are at least comparable, if not better.

I had a first conversation this morning with a new client who has been ill with CFS for 17 years, and immediately identified that she has been internalizing her anger most of her life. I taught her how to express anger constructively, and she’s already starting to see things differently. I also got to see that even though I’m not 100% recovered yet, I have something valuable to offer and can start helping people now.

Three people have already taken up the offer, so I only have 2 coaching slots left. Please let me know if you’re interested.

Cheers,
Graham

Where I’m At With Gupta’s Amygdala Retraining Program

I just had a question via email about where I’m at with the Amygdala Retraining Program, which is what motivated me to kick off this blog in the first place. The truth is, I no longer look at it, although I do still apply some of it’s principles. But I think the hypothalamus hypothesis behind Mickel Therapy is more likely than the amygdala hypothesis behind Amygdala Retraining.

That said, there is a lot of good wisdom about stress management in Gupta’s Amygdala Retraining Program. If you’re confined to bed unable to move, the meditation is likely to be helpful and what the program teaches about the nervous system is probably quite accurate.

I now believe that the key to recovery is listening to your body and doing things that make you feel good physically and emotionally. Lying in bed worrying about how to recover obviously doesn’t qualify as “doing something that makes you feel good”, understandable thought it is. The stop-stop-stop technique didn’t make me feel particularly good either, because it’s monotonous and boring. I suspect that physical boredom is one of the primary emotions that cause us to get stuck in the rut of CFS. We feel bored, our body responds with tiredness, we go have a lie down feeling anxious; which is not very interesting to our body. Then the social isolation this involves just magnifies everything.

If you must lie down, I recommend doing it in a bath so that your sympathetic nervous system gets the stimulation of the water. Just make sure the bath isn’t full enough for you to drown if you’re likely to pass out.

Come to think of it now, the reason Stop-Stop-Stop probably works at all is because you have to get up to do it, so it gets your body moving. I now believe that getting your body moving in more interesting ways is likely to be even more enjoyable, which is why I’m taking off now to play drums and go body-boarding. I’ve been sitting behind this computer long enough today!

Help Me To Help You, So We Both Recover Quicker

I’ve been busily knocking things off my “shit list” lately, and I have a big one that I need some help with: A few years ago, I did a Life Coach Training Course with Beyond Success. I was unwell at the time, and was drawn to the course because it had a large emotional intelligence component that I sensed would be important in helping me recover from CFS. I completed all the training (and then some!), but never actually finished the final accreditation process because it involved working with real live clients and getting their feedback; and I thought I was too sick and depressed to help anyone else. Who wants a depressed Life Coach?

As a result, this nagging sense of incompletion has been hanging around me for the past few years, and I reckon it’s precisely this sort of thing that leaves us feeling that we’re not moving forward the way we’d like. I had decided to focus on comedy in the future instead of coaching, but I don’t feel well enough to get up on stage doing gigs just now. I’m well enough to talk to sick people on Skype though, and they always seem to find that helpful. In fact, I have a hunch that helping other people get better is the final key to my own recovery.

So here’s what I’d like to offer you to help us both recover quicker: I’ll give you 3 months of free emotional-intelligence-based life coaching, if you promise to fill in a short online survey about the experience once each month. The coaching will consist of a conversation on Skype each week lasting up to one hour, focusing on dealing with the emotional issues in your life that are holding you back from being happy. Of course I know that being unwell is a huge issue, and I’ll be looking for the primary contributing factors that you might not be aware of; rather than just the secondary factors like how you feel about not being well. I’ll also be asking you to take action (within the limits of your energy resources of course) to knock things off your shit list, so that life doesn’t feel overwhelming any more. I’ll no doubt naturally incorporate what I’ve learned from the myriad of courses and therapies I’ve done, along with my experience living with CFS to help you focus on what you need to do to get well. The length of each call will depend on where you’re at, how long you feel able to talk for, and whether you’ve completed the tasks you set for yourself on the previous call.

It’s really important to me that you complete the online survey each month if you want me to coach you. It should only take about 10 minutes, and I’ll send you an email each month when it’s time to do it. I’m conscious that people with CFS don’t need yet another thing to have to do, but I believe you’ll find that the time taken to complete the survey is more than compensated for by what you get from talking to me. Look at it as a gratitude exercise.

At the end of three months, if you want to continue getting coaching from me, I will begin charging $100/hour. (See, Life Coaches are like drug dealers… they get you hooked on a free fix, and then start charging.)

I only have five slots available, so please contact me ASAP if you’re interested. Even if you’re just lonely and want someone to talk to (in return for filling in a monthly survey), it’s worth it.

Thanks,
Graham

CFS and The Law of Attraction

I’ve just finished reading the book The Law of Attraction by Esther and Jerry Hicks, and it has some interesting ideas that I believe are relevant to anyone wanting to recover from CFS. I had to get past the New Age business about channeling messages from non-physical beings in order to access the wisdom in the book, but with that done:

The first idea is that you get what you focus on in life, rather than what you want. Now given the intensity of the symptoms associated with CFS, it’s natural that we end up spending a lot of time focusing on our symptoms. After all, the whole point of physical symptoms is to get our attention. But I found that focusing on my symptoms simply set up a vicious cycle of anxiety that probably just made the symptoms even worse. Better to focus on activity that ultimately makes us well than on symptoms that just create more suffering.

The other idea from the book that resonates with me is what they call our Emotional Guidance System. The idea here is that our unconscious mind sends messages about what is important to us via our emotions. If the emotion is pleasant, it tells us that were on the right path. If the emotion is unpleasant, that tells us that we are headed in the wrong direction and need to turn around.

This is very similar to the idea in Mickel Therapy that our symptoms are simply trying to tell us something important, and that we need to start paying attention to what they’re saying if we want to get well again. It’s just that as highly sensitive people, the messages appear as debilitating physical symptoms rather than just as emotions.

Most of my life, I considered my emotions to be an inconvenience at best, and a massive problem to deal with at worst. So the idea that they could actually be a useful guidance system is intriguing to me. It seems obvious when you think about it that our emotions are telling us important information, but I have to admit that most of my healing journey has been about trying to get my challenging emotions to go away by expressing them, rather than to listen to what actually trying to tell me.

Much of the book talks about creating the life we want by imagining a future associated with positive emotions rather than focusing on negative emotions associated with our current reality. Now there’s nothing new about the idea of imagining being well when you’re feeling unwell, but an interesting point that they add is that if what you imagine is too different from your current reality, it’s likely to be associated with unpleasant emotions rather than pleasant ones; because it seems unachievable.

For instance, if you can’t even imagine being 100% better, you’re likely to feel unpleasant feelings when you think about it. In that case, they would suggest that you imagine feeling just a little bit better, but perhaps not 100%, so that what you imagine still seems realistic enough to have positive emotions attached to it. Think a constant stream of thoughts that have positive emotions attached, and your find yourself feeling better and creating the life you really want.

This sounds blatantly obvious once you’ve heard it: Of course all of us are motivated to have more pleasant emotions and less unpleasant ones. And I have to admit that I wonder how the role of past trauma factors into this, where we’re left with emotionally charged memories that leave us with a distorted sense of reality. Conventional emotional healing wisdom says that you have to be willing to feel the unpleasant emotion in order to heal it. I think Hicks would say to just continue thinking thoughts that generate pleasant emotions, and don’t worry about all the trauma in your unconscious mind. Maybe I’ll ask her when she visits Sydney in September.

The other interesting point from the book is what they call The Art of Allowing, which is very similar to the Buddhist notion of acceptance. They’re particularly big on allowing other people to be who they are, to do what they do, and to have the experience that they currently having, rather than trying to fight with other people all the time. I can see how much of the stress in my life has come about by not accepting that other people are the way they are.

The other aspect of allowing, is allowing yourself to have what it is that you want: the health that you want, the vitality that you want, the fun that you want, the energy that you want, the relationships that you want. In short, the life that you want.

The final idea in the book is what they call Segment Intending, which is the idea of breaking your day down into small segments each of which have an achievable positive emotionally charged intention; rather than trying to tackle everything in one hit. A bit like clearing things off your To-Do list one at a time to avoid overwhelm. Every time you have a small segment of your day with positive emotions, you’re heading in the right direction.

The Pros and Cons of Tai Chi

I recently took up Tai Chi as part of the never-ending quest for better health. Tai Chi seems like the perfect exercise for someone with CFS, because it doesn’t feel like exercise. It’s just a series of slow graceful movements that don’t exactly get your heart racing.

Initially, I started by learning from a video on YouTube. But then I decided to take a course with the Sydney Tai Chi society, so that I could get feedback from an instructor and also hopefully meet some other people who are interested in learning Tai Chi.

I’ve been attending the course for six weeks now. The routine that I’m learning is different from the one in the video, but the underlying concepts are all the same: release stress and tension in the body, and your life force will begin to flow again.

I’ve been practising almost every weekday morning for the past six weeks, down at the southern end of Bondi Beach where there are always people practising yoga, meditation, and tai chi every morning. I almost always feel better after my morning practice.

However, this week I started to notice a growing sense of irritation at the fact the Tai Chi is, well, kind of boring. In a sense, it’s just another thing that I’m trying to do in order to “fix myself”, rather than getting out there and living the life that I would really love to be living right now. And frankly, always trying to “fix myself” bugs the shit out of me.

So while practising Tai Chi this Thursday morning, I started thinking about the Mikel therapy concept of doing what your body seems to be asking for. I was there standing by the ocean doing my slow and graceful movements as the waves rolled in, and I thought to myself “you know, I think what I would really like to be doing right now is going body boarding”. But the water is way too cold for me right now since it’s still winter.

I’ve been meaning to go and buy a wetsuit ever since moving near the beach in Bondi, so that I can still enjoy body boarding in the ocean even on cold days. Another concept I learned from nickel therapy was the idea of doing the things that you’ve been putting off, so I decided that instead of continuing to practice my Tai Chi that morning, I would go to the surf store and buy myself the wetsuit that I wanted.

I came home with a brand-new, top-of-the-line wetsuit which is both flexible and warm, picked up my body board, and headed back to the beach. I had a great time body boarding in the waves, and with a snug fitting new wetsuit, barely noticed the cold water.

Conscious of not wanting to over do it, I also stopped and came home before the shark alarm went off that day. I went back for more body boarding on the Friday, And again came home shortly before the shark alarm went off at Bondi for the second day in a row.

I’ve still got a couple weeks to go before my 8-week Tai Chi course ends, although it doesn’t really end at that point: the instructor says that it takes about 18 months to learn the routine that he is teaching us, and I’ve only done six weeks so far. Frankly, I’d like to do something more exciting with my time.

I get that Tai Chi is great for dealing with anxiety and stress, which I think are key components of CFS. But it’s also a bit of a distraction from living the life that I really want, which I think is the ultimate cure for CFS.

I’ll probably continue to practice Tai Chi from time to time even after the course ends, but rather than doing it religiously every day, I’ve decided to practice it when my body seems to be asking for it.

Otherwise, I’ve adopted body boarding as my daily spiritual practice. Sharks not withstanding.