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.

Playing Tennis and Even Squash

Time for a fitness update: for the last couple of months I’ve been having tennis lessons and playing regularly during the week. This means I can play for a couple of hours at a time without feeling exhausted. In fact, I feel pretty good after a game. One of the guys from tennis even invited me to join him in a game of squash, so last weekend I played squash for about an hour and a half too. Against two guys about 15 years younger than me. Their game was more strategic than mine, meaning that I spent a lot of time running all over the court. One of the guys remarked that I “had more stamina than both of them combined”. So all that morning exercise must really be helping.

I’ve also been going to the beach to go bodyboarding every day that I can, which tends to work out at about once a week. The weather is getting too cold now though, so I doubt I’ll be doing much more bodyboarding for the forseeable future.

When I’m not out playing tennis or bodyboarding, I’m often playing my drums or going cycling. So yeah, I’m pretty goddam fit now. Probably more fit than the average 45 year old.

That’s the good news. Of course there’s bad news too though; well, no bad than before but just not a whole heap better. I still have a tense feeling in my head most of the time, and feel anxious a lot… to the point where it becomes debilitating.

I’ve noticed during exercise that I’ll often suddenly feel kind of nauseous and start throwing up; but I’m not vomiting anything from my stomach. It’s all coming from my head. And it’s not like I’ve over-exerted myself when this happens; it seems to be just the movement of tension in my head and body that does it. The other day I felt really tense in my teeth, and found myself heaving while cleaning my teeth. Oddly enough I’d just had lunch yet nothing from my stomach came up. It’s like the nausea I used to feel when I’d get really bad migraines way before I had CFS; after throwing up the tension releases and the pain would subside. Never heard anyone else talk about this before. I wonder if it’s related to some kind of trauma release.

I wake up feeling pretty good these days; not as good as I feel in my dreams, but reasonably OK. Then at about 4pm it’s crash time; for some reason I just feel wretched around then: very anxious and tense more than physically tired, but I almost always feel like I need to just go and lie down.

I recall Leigh Hatcher talking about this in his book I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell… which, in a freaky coincidence, I read purely out of interest about a year before falling ill myself. But while he put it down to his body running out of fuel, I reckon it’s some sort of emotional/nervous/body rhythm thing. It seems to happen every day regardless of what I eat; but it doesn’t tend to happen if I’m around people I like doing something I find very engaging. Or perhaps I just don’t notice it then.

Yesterday it hit me particularly badly. I went to bed about 4pm and got up again feeling relatively OK around 7pm. Problem is, this really messes with my lifestyle. Perhaps I should just quit my whining given that I now have a relatively functional 12 hours of waking life each day, but last night I just lay on the couch watching TV thinking: “I’m fucked… I really am fucked”.

Not to get too philosophical about it or anything… no bugger that, I think I will: look, we’re all fucked anyway. Eventually we all die. Doesn’t matter if you have CFS/ME/Rabies/Whatever-your-chosen-form-of-suffering. The Buddhists are right: all living things suffer. It’s not meant to be a depressing realization but a compassion-inducing one. Everyone is struggling with something they wish would just hurry up and fuck the hell out of their lives. Mine just happens to be this, and I get all upset and annoyed when I think about the handbrake it puts on my potential future. So I try to live in the moment instead.

I promise to stop whining soon. My tennis coach has some weird physical and mental handicap like cerebral palsy or something, and he seems pretty happy. We’re both big fans of Anchorman, so we walk around joking about our glass cases of emotion. I’ve never seen anyone serve the way he does, with his back arched all over the place. It’s amazing he can get the damn thing over the net. He can sure hit the ball though!

I definitely suffer more when I dwell on how much I’m suffering. I don’t suffer when I’m bodyboarding and some huge wave comes up to scare the bejesus out of me; I’m too busy trying not to drown. Or when I’m engrossed in thrashing some tennis partner. Or playing drums. But then, it’s not even 2pm yet so I’m still in a relatively functional frame of mind. Ask me again in a few hours.

I’m also really bored shitless living where I’m living. I want to move closer to the beach for next summer. In order to do that, I’ll need an income of some sort. Becoming a famous comedian is unlikely to happen given that I’m wiped out in the evening when gigs are on, and I’ve lost my sense of humour lately anyway. I might be able to get some acting work… and like that’s not competitive or anything. There’s always engineering to go back to if I’m starving, but solving technical problems doesn’t grab me any more. Something is bound to come up… and if not, I’ll just do the deep breathing thing. Anxious… argh!

I’ve been trying to do that gratitude thing lately too, where you think of all the good things you’ve got going for you instead of the bad shit that’s going down. So I’m grateful for you reading this post, and even more grateful if you’d leave a comment so I don’t feel so goddam lonely here blogging away by myself.