A couple of days a go I posted a couple of new pages on my blog about the coaching that I offer, and published it to a wider audience on Twitter in the search for my first paying coaching client. I had been holding back on doing this until my existing clients were up and running, and now that they’re making great progress, I feel even more positive about having something really valuable to offer other people struggling with CFS.
Almost immediately, a couple of vocal critics on Twitter jumped into the fray with some hostile, negative tweets about me. I won’t publish them all here, since one thing I recommend is avoiding negativity and it would be counter-productive to infect you with negativity aimed at me, but here’s one example:
— LindyB. (@notafreebird) October 19, 2015
Not the ideal response that I was looking for. I get triggered when I receive criticism from other people since it taps straight into my critical mother core wound, so I found responses like this deflating. Nevertheless, I believe I have something to offer that could help alleviate their suffering, and I can tell from the anger implied in their communication that they are suffering; so I didn’t want to just ignore them. I attempted to engage the hostile tweeters in a conversation about what they’re struggling with, in the hope that I might be able to at least help them deal with the stress of their illness with some compassionate human connection.
None of the hostile tweeters wanted to talk to me; which isn’t surprising given their initial responses. Accepting my invitation would mean dropping the defences that they’re using to protect themselves, and for all they know I could be some nut-case out to force them into something they don’t want or waste their time and money with yet another treatment that doesn’t work. How are they to know that the strategies I teach will improve many aspects their life; not just their physical health?
The other side of looking at this is that talking to me might mean letting go of the belief that the situation is hopeless. I can certainly relate to the challenge of letting go of negative and limiting beliefs. Beliefs can be particularly hard to change when they’re linked to the need to be right, which was a survival strategy to avoid conflict in my family of origin. Our need to be right is also linked to our underlying need for approval and acceptance; but it’s a distortion. When we didn’t feel loved and accepted as kids, we can end up with a very strong sense of righteousness as adults. Ironically, the need to be right often gets in the way of us getting other important needs met, like the intimate human connection that helps us so much in times of stress.
One of the most powerful ways to shift negative or self-limiting beliefs is new experiences. Now that I’m actually working with other clients, I get to have the experience of seeing the way that my coaching impacts the lives of people who have been ill for a very long time. I’m talking up to 15 years here. I have a lot of respect for my clients because they have all tried pretty much everything, and yet they were open to the possibility that talking to me might still make a difference. Taking that risk takes a lot more courage than tweeting that I’m a snake oil saleman does.
I find it exciting to see my clients stepping up to the challenge of being assertive, learning to say “no” to situations that don’t work for them, replacing complaining with action-taking, expressing their emotions clearly, dealing with overwhelm, and making their well-being their top priority. It re-inspires me to keep do the same. I suggested to one client this week that she adopt the mantra: “Everything is perfect” when she found herself complaining, and I ended up taking it on the same afternoon. It led me to a deeper sense of peace about my situation than I’d had in years. Everything really is perfect; and when I’m feeling unwell and starting to doubt this myself, I remind myself that my body is reacting exactly the way it’s supposed to. It’s all perfect.
Other people’s negativity can trigger my own limiting beliefs and insecurities, but I don’t have to listen to it. This is why I haven’t hang out on CFS forums for years, and only ever subscribe to really positive sites like CFSUnravelled.com. I teach my clients to avoid situations where they routinely get triggered when they can, and to deal constructively when it happens unavoidably.
Another thing I teach is to focus on what’s working, rather than what isn’t. One of my clients pointed me to this great site during the week called The One You Feed, based on the old American Indian parable that there are two wolves inside us, a good wolf and an evil wolf, and the one that grows is the one we feed. It’s a great reminder to me that we get more of what we focus on: When we focus on what’s not working, and complain, protest and criticise others; we generate more stress and negativity inside our personal boundary. When we focus on what is working, we open ourselves up to new possibilities; like the possibility that CFS might be easily treatable once you understand what’s going on.
I don’t listen to other people’s negativity because it doesn’t help my recovery. I may be ill, but I still have choices. I can scream abuse at the powers that be, like the medical system that let me down, or the family that wasn’t there to support me when I fell ill, or the parents that let me down by being emotionally unavailable when I was a kid; and I’ve certainly done all these things in spades. Now I choose to express and harness that anger constructively as creativity and assertiveness to assist me in strengthening my boundaries against other people’s hostility next time it comes my way.
I believe that once we learn to stop stress, hostility and overwhelm from the outside world from entering our emotional boundary and quit generating it within ourselves, our nervous system can begin to calm down, the hypervigillance switches off, and our body begins to heal. I may end up being wrong, but I’d rather take a constructive approach to my recovery than sit around waiting for a miracle cure while raging at the medical/research/government institutions and attacking other people who are offering help, support and hope to people who are suffering.