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Health and Well-Being

 

From a talk by Pam Geyer at a workshop in Chicago, Illinois, USA, in June, 2006

 

 

We have fabulous bodies. They are wonderfully “designed.” With our fingers and hands we can manipulate many things. We are extremely mobile. We can see the world as our eyes communicate with our brains; we can view reality. We are amazing physical creatures.

At the same time, no one is immune from physical hurts. Even healthy people suffer damage— bruises, broken bones, surgeries, and so on. We need to work on those physical distresses, just as we work on emotional distresses, because they accumulate and affect our functioning.

Most of us don’t work on physical distress until we feel like we don’t have a choice, after our attention has been on it for some time. I encourage people to work on their bodies regularly and consistently.

People get tired and restimulated quite easily when working on physical distresses, so it’s helpful to have lots of sessions or mini-sessions. It’s not unusual for people to come to a workshop on health and get sick. It’s possible to bring up symptoms just by putting attention on conditions and symptoms from long ago. It’s helpful to get mini- sessions as needed.

Our minds and our bodies are in communication with each other. Unless there is distress to block it, our bodies work well. For example, if you burn a hand, the nerves send an urgent message to your brain saying, “Take me away from this heat.” So you immediately remove the hand. At this point, if you discharge the pain, the communication is restored. If you don’t, the memory of the pain gets mis- stored as a recording that includes

everything that was going on at the time. Remember the schematic from The Human Side of Human Beings? If you don’t discharge it, the next time you get physically hurt, the recording of pain can grow and add more memories to it. As time goes on and the hurts accumulate, pain can become chronic, and daily functioning is affected.

Physical distress causes our muscles to tighten and our faces to clench. You can often see people’s chronic patterns in how they hold their bodies and in their facial expressions. Our bodies often reflect how we feel about ourselves. When I take walks I try to hold myself tall and straight, and this helps me feel better about myself. If I’m experiencing back pain at the time, it generally improves.

If we had been relaxed at birth and allowed to discharge on physical hurts throughout our lives, our muscles would not end up distorted and tense. Our physical bodies are receptacles for undischarged distress. When we are prevented from discharging, the fear settles in our bodies. At some point our reactions to pain can become out of proportion to the immediate hurt.

CHRONIC PAIN

We can accumulate physical distress to the point that we feel like we cannot pay attention to anything but physical pain. We can then develop a victim pattern and think we don’t have a choice. We start to limit what we do and make accommodations around the pain. Victimization feelings can be discharged.

Those with chronic pain often lose perspective on reality. The undischarged pain can feel so real in the moment that it can also keep

us from discharging. Those around us may try not to pay attention to it, thinking (incorrectly) that if we stopped paying attention to it, we could function just fine.

I’m quite sure we can discharge chronic pain and eliminate it. I’ve done it myself. It’s not easy. It takes persistence and trust that it can/will happen. We may also need to change things in our lives that have been reinforcing the chronic distresses.

We‘ve received messages that we have to compromise, accommodate, or pamper our bodies to alleviate chronic pain. When we do this, our lives get smaller and smaller. When working on chronic pain, work early. Work on all that was happen- ing at the time of the early incidents. Don’t focus on the pain.

WITHOUT DISCHARGE, PHYSICAL DISTRESS KEEPS ACCUMULATING.

In the United States we pay more for pain medication than for any other medication—approximately $1.6 billion per year. We are bom- barded with ads that promise a “quick fix” to make it better. Pain medication does not remove the distress. It masks it, and pain will return in some form. (Discharge doesn’t always provide a “quick fix,” but in the long term there is a permanent change.)

People react differently to injuries. Studies show that some people walk around with severe back injuries and don’t feel any- thing at all, and other people with the same or lesser injuries feel pain to varying degrees—or not at all. Pain is greatly intensified by fear, so I suspect that those who don’t feel pain don’t have the same kind of accumulated emotional distresses.

If you work on pain (fear) sufficiently, you gain perspective enough to be able to pull your attention out of it until you can get a session.

Closeness contradicts isolation and allows us to discharge physical hurts. We get to be close and decide to trust people. We have to give up the common feeling that nobody can understand, that nobody will really get “in there” with us.

MY EXPERIENCE

In my early twenties, I was a passenger in a serious automobile accident. I had multiple injuries, including a compression fracture in my lower back. I was initially pronounced dead-on-arrival at the hospital. I was unconscious for three days and in the hospital for nine weeks.

Once conscious, I remembered something significant that hap- pened in the emergency room while I was unconscious. I remembered thinking, “I’ve got to get out of this.” The doctor told me later that he didn’t think I would survive. I’m quite sure that at some level I heard him express this, and, once brought to my awareness, I made a decision not to die. Later on during recovery, he told me that my back would get worse and worse as I got older. I said to myself, “No, that is not going to happen to me.”

A few years later, I started Co- Counseling. For the first ten years I didn’t work on the incident. This was in the early seventies and at the time there was not much work be- ing done on physical distresses.

My son was born during this time. The pain gradually increased as physical demands increased. I tried to ignore it. At the worst times, my attention and awareness felt like it was being sucked out of me.

About this same time, another Co-Counselor in the Community experienced an auto accident that was not life threatening, but she had a bad injury and did counsel on it. Aware of my growing pain, she said, “You need to work on your accident.” I did. I was on dis- ability1 pay for a while and had the opportunity to work intensely on it. The more I worked, the better able I was to think about where to get help in the wide world. I continued discharging over many years and gradually got better as the fear peeled off.

During that period, I had mini-intensives. A Co-Counselor set up three-hour one-way sessions for me with several of my regular Co-Counselors. One session was so memorable that I can still recall it twenty-five years later. I was lying in my bed during that session, working on anesthesia, and suddenly it was as if there was a memory of the smell the bone in my hip being cut.

That session was a turning point, and I started remembering details of the accident and the time during which I was unconscious. I kept discharging, deciding that I was going to figure this out. I set out to get help from the healthcare community. Each practitioner I went to was a little more helpful than the last, and I got smarter and smarter about clues in my body and what worked and what didn’t.

In the last five years I have not had chronic pain. I have episodic pain, usually when something is going on in my life that is bringing up fear, but it generally lasts a short period of time because I’ve figured out how to work my way out of it.

I’ve learned that our attention tends to go increasingly to re- stimulated pain. Just like any other distress, you can put your attention elsewhere, but you have to promise to come back to work on it. There is a big difference between ignoring the pain and keeping your attention off of it. We don’t want to ignore the pain and pretend it is not there; we just want to decide to put our attention on other things until we can get to a session.

As I look back on my early years of counseling when I was in chronic pain, I realize I was ignoring it and not taking time to discharge about it. This meant I had less attention for other things. I was absorbed in trying to function, trying to feel good, and trying to pay attention to others. It was like there was a cloud over me. I don’t have that anymore. My life is different now and my attention for other things is different.

Sometimes we aren’t aware of our emotions when we are expe- riencing physical distress. If you have chronic pain, ask the question, “What was going on at the time I first experienced the pain?” Don’t work directly on the pain.

People sometimes give up on ever improving and feel hopeless and sad. They may feel desperate about not being able to get the kind of help they expect. This is restimulation from early times when they were helpless. The restimulation can attach to other (present-time) people, and they feel disappointed that these people do not figure it out and give them the sessions they need, or needed, in the past.

We sometimes see discouragement on the faces of Co-Counselors who haven’t worked on their own physical distresses, yet are trying to “help” us. If both the counselor and client feel discouraged, we don’t get far. We have to fight discouragement. Patterns will pop up that say, “You don’t really want to work on this,” or, “Don’t you have some- thing more important to work on?” The counselor needs to discharge (usually with someone else) what gets in the way of being relaxed and delighted with that client.

As counselors, we tend to want to “fix” people, to get them out of their pain, to get them better soon, to do more than give them a good session. We may think we have the ideal solution for them based on our experience with some particular therapy or practitioner. We get invested in their trying it, too. The belief that we have the answer for them gets in the way of our counseling them well. There may be times when we can give clients information that they might find useful—but only after the session is over, with their permission, and without expecting them try it out.

CHRONIC ILLNESS

Chronic distresses intersect with chronic physical conditions (such as diabetes, asthma, as well as many other conditions that are generally considered incurable). Working on what was happening in your life at the time of onset of the condition may change the physical symptoms. At the very least, it will free your mind to think more clearly about your situation.

We can work on chronic distress- es until they are no longer chronic and our lives change. Working on those that are attached to physical hurts is one way to do this and of- ten offers us a new perspective. We notice that we are powerful when we see change.

We still don’t know all that is possible when we discharge distresses around a chronic condition. We do know that every medical condition, chronic or not, has emotional distresses attached to it. If we don’t discharge, that distress can keep us from healing to whatever extent it is possible to heal, and from figuring out good solutions.

There is often a fine line between hope and hopelessness. We get a little hope when we feel better, and when we backslide, we feel hope- less again. We go back and forth. We feel hope after discharge. If we can then act, for example, by doing something different, that will make us discharge a little more. It is self- perpetuating. Setting goals works better than just being hopeful. For something to change, we need to take action.

Sometimes what medicine calls “miracle cures” take place. Maybe someone simply decided (even unawarely) that they were going to heal. It may not always be necessary to discharge a lot. A lot is possible, especially with what we know. We have the tools to deal with it.

Question: How do I counsel on a headache?

Pam: When you are experiencing a recurring condition such as a headache or pre-menstrual tension, it’s best to get your attention out. Too much attention on the distress makes it hard to work early—you get sucked into the pain. The best time to counsel on recurring conditions is when they are not operating. Have a session on it when you feel great.

CURRENT INJURIES

For an old injury, talk about what was going on when the injury oc- curred and discharge the emotions surrounding that event. When you have a recent injury, work on what just happened.

A while back I fell and twisted an ankle. I elevated it and kept discharging. There wasn’t any swelling, and within a week it was healed. In my sessions, I talked about what was happening just before the fall. Then at some point the memory came in slow motion. I could think about what was going on and how I was feeling.

If we work on a new injury it will tend to lead to earlier physical distresses. When a fresh injury hap- pens, all the old undischarged dis- tress gets attached to the new hurt. Begin to work on the new hurt, and when that’s drained, go back and discharge the old hurts.

I had another fall recently. There was a bad bruise on my rib but no fracture. I had never had pain there before. It was sore but not painful. I also skinned my knee and my wrist and did not feel any pain there at all. I think this is because I have discharged a lot on early hurts and pain. It was good to notice the effect of having done this work.

ANESTHESIA

Work on anesthesia can have a big effect on one’s well being.

In the United States in the middle of the twentieth century, most mothers-to-be were given anesthesia while giving birth. Anesthesia at birth can set a person up for pat- terns of powerlessness, hopeless- ness, and victim feelings. When a mother-to-be is under anesthesia, the child is under anesthesia, too. Anything that is in the mother’s blood is passed through the umbilical cord. Being under anesthesia is the closest thing to being dead, without actually dying.

I’ve worked with people on addictions and substance abuse, and found that in doing so clients often recall and discharge an early experience of anesthesia.

If you are anticipating surgery, you need to discharge on any early experiences of anesthesia. If you are able to undergo surgery without having anesthesia you can usually discharge the pain immediately afterwards. However, it’s not al- ways possible to avoid anesthesia; many procedures require you to be absolutely still.

A few years ago I had a D&C (2.) I chose not to have anesthesia and my gynecologist agreed. It was important to lie still, so I brought a tape recorder with music. It was a painful but short procedure. I had someone with me, which helped me discharge. I didn’t have pain after it was over; however, if I had had anesthesia I would have had to deal with the effects of the anesthesia and the masked pain, as well as the surgery. I healed in half the time doctor expected. I had already discharged a lot on anesthesia before I had this procedure.

In the last few years a new class of anesthetics (called “amnesiacs”) has been developed that makes a person forget. I haven’t worked with anyone yet to see if they could discharge the effects of this. I suspect it will be harder to discharge. You will have to discharge ahead of time and tell the medical staff that you do not want the anesthesia that makes you forget. They do not ask if you want it; they assume that everybody will want it. You need to counsel to be in shape to handle any upset that may come at you. I suggest three-way sessions if you think you may need the extra attention.

Sometimes alternatives to anesthesia can be used. We can find out what might be available and strategize so that we can advocate for the alternatives.

After counseling on anesthesia for a while, you may experience a sleep-like state. You can’t keep your eyes open. It’s important at this point that the counselor not try to wake you. If they can just pay attention while this is happening, you will eventually awaken and feel refreshed. The experience is different than sleep. There are things to be sorted out from the anesthesia experience, and this is helpful.

When I first began Co-Counseling many years ago, I used to regularly fall asleep (as counselor) in sessions. It became clear that it was restimulation of early anesthesia distress. Now, when I’m tired, I can tell the difference between restimulation of the anesthesia, or if I am actually tired. It is qualitatively different.

Harvey told a story about a one-way client who had just had surgery that had gone well, but she was depressed. One day she got up from her session and walked out. A week later she came back for her next appointment and Harvey asked, “What happened to you last week?” She said, “I suddenly remembered something that had happened during the surgery. The doctor had said, ‘That ought to fix the old bag.’ I went back and told the doctor he must never do that again.”

When my son had surgeries I told the doctors to say good and reassuring things to him during that time.

HEALTHY LIVING Food and Eating

We need to figure out how to take care of ourselves before we get an illness rather than wait until we get sick. Lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and overeating have become an epidemic in the United States.

If you were born in the 1940s and ‘50s, in particular, you were probably fed on a four-hour feeding schedule. That meant that you could have been very hungry much before your “feeding time.” You may have developed patterns about being hungry and not having access to food. People of different generations have different distresses about food. Experiment with changing how you eat. See what comes up.

Good questions around food issues are, “What is your earliest memory connected to food in any way at all?” Or, “How were you fed as a young person?” (timing, quantities, kinds of foods, and so on), or, “What was going on in your family at mealtimes?” For some people, food may be the issue; for others, it may be other things, such as time or money.

We have all internalized fat oppression, no matter what our body size.

Exercise

Try to figure out what your pat- terns are around exercise, and then get sessions. Some people have heavy distresses around early ex- periences with exercise. Some are athletic and love it, while others avoid it. One thing to try, if you are someone who avoids exercise, is to find someone you can counsel with and ask them to pay attention while you try something new, or some- thing you’ve always avoided.

DEALING WITH THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM

Doctors and practitioners come into their profession with the best of intentions, and try their best to cope with training that is oppressive and dehumanizing. RC Physicians and Allies Workshops have been in existence for six years. At the beginning the physicians were isolated and untrusting. They couldn’t believe that anyone would want to be an ally, and many of the allies felt the same way. Over the six years the doctors have used this workshop to show themselves more fully and to risk trusting. Panels helped the doctors talk about the intensity and difficulties in medical schools, residencies, and internships. Conditions are harsh. It is useful to remember that.

Doctors’ office visits are often rushed; you are expected to be concise and not have any feelings. The visit may only last ten minutes. Doctors are not trained to pay attention to our feelings, and our dis- charge may distract them because they don’t know how to deal with it. Plan to get your sessions outside the office visit. Take a Co-Counselor or a trusted friend to help you re- member what was discussed.

Give doctors concise but thorough information about yourself and your problems. Get their in- formation; discharge later in a session on whatever the doctor thinks needs to be done and whatever drugs are indicated. Discharge to figure out what can change with or without the prescribed medications (sometimes it makes sense to take medications), and where you need extra assistance. We need to be smart, to think. We need to use whatever resources we can find and use the discharge process all the way through.

SUPPORT GROUPS

We all need a support team. As clients, we have a tendency to slip into isolation and forget to work persistently on physical issues. Our counselors forget, too. Making a commitment to each other and ourselves to work on physical distresses helps. Split time, share successes, be in contact with me. I encourage you to write for Well Being.

At a disabled people and allies workshop I noticed that many dis- abled people, especially those in wheelchairs, seem to handle their lives differently than “temporarily able-bodied” people. They seem to have figured out something about functioning that many other people don’t. Maybe it’s that they can’t afford to have victim patterns, having had to figure out how to live in this oppressive society as best they can. There is something to be learned here. And a lot of work still has to be done on able-body-ism to make a safe place for people who are disabled.

 


  1.  On disability is taking time off work for medical reasons and getting paid insurance benefits rather than wages.
  2. A D&C (dilatation and curettage) is a surgical procedure in which the cervix is dilated and the lining of the uterus is scraped for examination. This is a simple, but potentially painful procedure in which the uterus is scraped. 

Last modified: 2020-05-07 16:38:43+00