4 years ago

The Ethics of Therapy/Energy Work/NLP/Tapping/et al

My partner, Sarah, has a table at the Santa Fe Artist Market on Sundays. I often drop her off in the morning, and I pick her up in the afternoon. This most recent Sunday Sarah told me of her new acquaintance she’d met during the market – a woman who now uses a wheelchair to get around because of multiple sclerosis. This woman confided in Sarah that over the years she has been approached by numerous so-called healers who have duped her into using their services because they promised that they could heal her. And none of them succeeded. But all of them took payment for services rendered.

So here’s my message to those who claim to be healers and engage in this sort of unscrupulous behavior: STOP IT because you’re hurting people. And I’m not just talking about those who take advantage of people in wheelchairs, either. I’m talking about Reiki practitioners who are suggesting that they have special powers beyond simply offering some relaxing time. I’m talking about those who offer channeled healings from the Ascended Masters. I’m talking about anyone who oversteps the clear bounds of what they can actually offer.

I think much of the problem may come from the fact that many so-called healers are, frankly, clueless as to what they are doing. Some of them may get some hit or miss results with clients. But the fact of the matter is that placebo is powerful. Relaxation is powerful. Hope is powerful. And perhaps even in many cases it’s just a matter of luck or Divine Intervention – depending on your religious persuasion.

It just seems deeply unethical to seek out potential victims for your “healing art.” I understand that we’ve all got bills to pay. But there’s a more ethical way to go about it. You can still sell your Reiki services or your Ascended Master channeling or your tapping services or your NLP services – because these services all likely have some honest value. But it’s unethical to misrepresent your services and then charge people for something other than what you claimed. Instead of promoting yourself as a Reiki Master Energy Healer Who Can Cure Everything, maybe it would be more honest to suggest that you offer a deeply relaxing space and intention that can facilitate the client’s innate healing powers. Because that is probably true. Relaxation activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which means that healing potential is greatly increased. So that’s a valuable thing.

Or, let’s say you want to sell your tapping services. Well, no problem there. If you understand what you do properly then you can represent your services honestly and still offer something of genuine value. Tapping (EFT, etc.) creates a paradigm shift for most people not because of meridians or because of some special power in affirmations or even because of the tapping process itself. Rather, it offers a new way for a person to relate to their problems, and a new way for a person to understand themselves. Just by using a different strategy for a moment than one is used to can create profound changes. So a tapper could advertise that he or she uses a funny process to create changes in perspective than can offer the client unique insights that may result in profound changes in life. But, you see, that’s different than suggesting that you’ve got a cure-all for everything because of a special way of activating meridians and energy flow.

If you consider yourself to be a healer, then please take the time and invest the energy to truly understand your offering – not just a fantasy of your offering. And then represent yourself and your services honestly. Remember that these are real people you are dealing with. And how you treat them can have a lasting impact on their lives. And remember: do no harm.

4 years ago

Traumas Into Triumphs in Winnipeg

If you’re in Winnipeg, Manitoba and you’ve experienced any sort of trauma that is still burdening you in your life, then I’m happy to let you know of an event happening this November 13 in your city. My friend, Bernie Bowman, is holding an event called Butterflies by Bernie: Transform Your Traumas into Triumphs.

What makes this event particularly wonderful is that Bernie has transformed her own traumas into triumphs, and now she is sharing her wisdom. I have had the honor of working with Bernie, and I’ve seen the remarkable transformations in her life. She is the survivor of traumas in which she lost three family members to violent crimes. She suffered for years until she developed the skills and the insights to turn her life around. Her story is remarkable and truly inspiring to those who presently suffer from traumas. She stands as a testament to the possibility of true transformation and living a life of peace. Plus, she is now sharing not only her own experience and her own transformation, but also he recently-certified skills as a TFT practitioner.

So if you’re in the Winnipeg area and you want to change your life for the better, check out this event. It’s totally free, and Bernie promises that you’ll learn some skills to change your life.

You can learn more about the event, including contact information and RSVP details by viewing the flyer.

4 years ago

What People Think (About You)

Tell the truth. Raise your hand if you let your fear of what other people might think about you constrain you and limit you. Well, there you go. At least you’re not alone!

So lately I’ve been reflecting upon this. And then, in a very timely fashion, an acquaintance of mine shared with me some writing she’d found on the subject. And when I she’d read that to me, a light went on in my head: it’s not worth it to care what other people might think…not even just a little bit. Not even just once.

This, of course, may seem easier said than done. But I’m convinced that it’s actually much easier to be free than to live the rest of our lives in fear of what others might think. Or, at least, the latter sounds so awful that I wouldn’t even care how difficult it is, I’d do whatever necessary to be free!

I lived for twenty plus years without taking my shirt off where anyone could see me – even with lovers if I could get away with it. Why? Because I was terrified of what people might think. And then, I realized that the true pain wasn’t the fear – it was the layers of control and censorship and vigilance that I had grown to accept as normal.

In this article that my friend read to me, the author suggested that what we think of ourselves is more important than what others think of us. And, perhaps, I can see that there is some truth in that. Because, after all, if I can think good enough things about myself consistently, then it may give me courage to take my shirt off even if people laugh or point or snigger. But what about when I can’t muster up the positive self-thoughts? What about when the doubt creeps in? What about when I’m tired or having a bad day? Then will I have to shroud myself and run in shame?

But what about this instead? What about not giving undue importance to what anyone thinks – including yourself? In my experience this is the essence of true freedom.

So what are the ways in which we limit ourselves out of fear of what other people may think? And what do we hope to gain from that? Will it give us happiness? Peace? Love?

What is it that we really get when we live our lives according to our fears of what others may think? We get surrounded by people who “love” us for what we’ve projected. We get anxiety of being found out. We get loneliness. We may get anger or sadness that “no one truly understands us.” And we may feel that we’re missing out on life.

And what about when we live our lives according to what we ourselves may think? How we may approve or disapprove? We become both prisoner and guard in our self-made prisons. We are constantly watching ourselves. We are judging ourselves Condemning ourselves. Policing ourselves.

And what occurs to me is that when we give undue importance to what others (or ourselves) may think then we perpetuate this painful cycle of prostituting ourselves for the love and acceptance of others so that we subject posterity to more of the same.

Yet on the other hand, we have the possibility of being authentic in every interaction (or at least as often as we manage it…no reason to try and make it an all-or-nothing sort of thing) so that we begin a new cycle of true freedom and true love. Then our children and our children’s children and so forth get to be born into a world of more sanity. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful gift to give to them?

But mostly, truly, I just want to live fully – to be fully and completely alive in every moment, no exceptions. And if I give any of my attention to concerns about what anyone thinks about me then I feel that I’m missing out on the magnificent mystery of life. Of course, that’s not quite right. But then again, no words ever truly capture the essence of what is meant.

So let me try to say it again, although equally futilely. What I mean is that I’m certain that each and every one of us has unique and important gifts to share with the world – simply by being ourselves. We needn’t try to do that. We needn’t try to be ourselves. We are that when we let go and show up in life as we are – warts and all. There is no other you. You are needed. This is so obvious that it couldn’t be any more obvious.

Here’s my challenge to you (and to myself): be fearless. Be courageous. Trust that you are exactly as you should be – including the way you look, the way you talk, the way you act, and all that you are. Have the courage to be yourself without trying to be yourself. Just you, as you are, warts and all. No attempts to be better, more likable, more acceptable, or anything of the sort. Just you. And trust that this is enough.

4 years ago

New Videos About OCD

I’ve started a new series of YouTube videos about OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and how to recover naturally and fully for life. I’m passionate about this subject because I suffered tremendously from OCD for decades. It started out slowly and then grew worse and worse until by the time I was 30 I was performing rituals such as washing and counting (plus lots of strange mind games that are impossible to even describe) most of my waking hours.

I plan to keep adding more videos to this series, and I’ll post here when I do that.

Here are the videos I’ve just added:

What Causes OCD?

Is Recovery from OCD Possible?

Is It Possible to Stop Obsessive Thinking?

How Long Does Recovery from OCD Take?




4 years ago

Anxiety, Obsessions, and Compulsions Videos

This is just a heads up that moments ago I posted a new page on this site about anxiety, obsessions, and compulsions – namely, how to be free of these things. On the page is a series of 13 videos that I just recorded that walk you through some of the understandings and practices that I believe can help others who are struggling with anxiety, obsessions, and/or compulsions.

So please check it out. I welcome your feedback and comments. You can view the page here.

4 years ago

Berberine Herbs

Mahonia_aquifolium_NRMI have long been an amateur herbalist. I believe in the power of plants. I believe that plants are our allies; in other words, they can help us, but they cannot do everything for us. This is true of all medicines, whether plant-based or synthetic. They can help, but they cannot do it all for us. Of course, the same is often true of “mind-over-matter” therapies as well: they can do much for us, but they may not always be the entire solution. So often times the answer is in the balance of internal and external medicines – relying on external medicines to provide support and healing while also letting go of mental and emotional imbalances that have been provoking a chronic stress response. When these two “sides” come together, this is often where a lot of healing can take places.

This is the first post on this site (of which I am aware) about plant medicine. I intend to write more on this subject in the future. There are so many wonderful, amazing plants that it would be impossible for me to select one or even one group of plants to single out as my “favorite.” However, there are some plants that excite me more than others. And in this post I will write about a group of plants that I find to be very exciting – the berberine plants.

Berberine is a yellow, bitter alkaloid present in a many plants, but it is most concentrated in a handful of herbs that are used medicinally, including the well-known herb, goldenseal. It is also found in high concentrations in the barberry plant (particularly the roots,) the roots of oregon grape, as well as some other herbs that are used in Ayurvedic and Chinese herbal traditions and in folk medicine world-wide.

I like the berberine plants. I have long been attracted to them. My favorites are barberry (there are many varieties that grow wild and that are grown as an ornamental) and oregon grape (even though, to the best of my knowledge, I have never seen an oregon grape plant live and in person.) I’m not as familiar with most of the rest of the berberine plants. And although I typically prefer to work with whole herbs, I have also used berberine extract derived from Indian barberry.

Although every plant is unique, there is a long tradition of using some groups of plants interchangeably depending on availability. And so it seems that the berberine plants are, by and large, interchangeable when it comes to antibacterial and blood sugar regulation properties as well as the ability to improve impaired liver function.

The traditional uses of berberine plants tend to focus on the plants’ affinity for the digestive system. In modern scientific terms these plants can be said to possess antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, and hepatic qualities. But simply tasting berberine plants can tell you through intuition. Why? Because berberine is bitter, a taste which often imparts most of these qualities. Plus it has a clearly astringent taste that can cause a mild puckering sensation.

The antibiotic qualities of berberine plants are quite strong. The berberine plants are effective in treating infections or overgrowth of a wide range of organisms, including many strains of staphylococcus, strains of streptococcus, hepatitis B, strains of salmonella, and more. In fact, they are so effective that Stephen Buhner dedicates an entire chapter to the berberine plants in his excellent book, Herbal Antibiotics 2nd Edition. Yet it is important to understand what the berberine plants do and what they do not do when used as medicine for their antibiotic qualities. They work almost exclusively on the digestive system. They do NOT work on systemic infections. What this means is that berberine plants are wonderful for infections or overgrowth in the digestive system – things such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or cholera..

The benefits of the berberine plants are extensive, and certainly not limited to the (impressive) antibiotic properties. One of the traditional uses of berberine plants is for improving flagging liver function. I have read some studies that demonstrate that berberine (the alkaloid) is effective in various liver conditions, including liver cirrhosis, hepatitis, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Traditionally we can expect berberine to benefit the liver because of the bitter taste and the yellow color, but modern studies bear this out. One would presume that berberine plants increase the flow of bile. In addition, studies show that berberine decreases the fat content of a fatty liver and stabilizes the liver by preventing the production of cells that might otherwise lead to fibrosis in the liver.

As I’ve already noted, berberine plants have antibiotic properties and increase bile flow. But what is remarkable is that they also combine the astringent property, which makes them among the best plants for treating dysentery. They are active against many organisms that can cause digestive problems, and they increase the digestive power, but the astringent quality means that berberine plants also stop diarrhea.

The quality of berberine plants that has most recently renewed my deep admiration and respect for them is that they demonstrate the remarkable, unrivaled ability to improve and even reverse insulin resistance, including type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that the berberine alkaloid is at least as effective as the leading pharmaceutical drug for reducing blood glucose. The plants seem to not only prevent insulin resistance, but they can actually reverse it and increase insulin sensitivity.

There is even some evidence that berberine may be helpful for those with type 1 diabetes. Berberine has insulinogenic properties, and has a long (1400+ year) history of use for diabetes (presumably including type 1) that demonstrates its effectiveness.

There is even more research that shows other amazing results attributed to berberine. I cannot personally attest to any of these, but there are studies reporting berberine can help treat or prevent cancer, HIV infection, congestive heart failure, west nile virus infection, depression, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s!

As with all medicines, there is no one-size-fits all approach. Every person is different – with different bodies, circumstances, etc. – and therefore will respond differently. I believe that it is important to listen to one’s own body – biofeedback – to determine proper use of any medicine. Berberine plants and even berberine extract work really well for me. I like them. Sure, they are bitter. Sure they are astringent. But I really like them. The smell, the taste, the entire experience is pleasurable for me in a way that is difficult to describe. But I believe this is the nature of the experience of good medicine. Even if it is not pleasurable in the conventional sense, good medicine produces a desirable experience. So I cannot say that berberine or berberine plants are right for you or for anyone. Only you can know that.

The Mountain Rose Herbs profiles for some of the berberine plant herbs that the company sells state that one should only use the herbs for up to seven consecutive days at a time. I cannot substantiate this claim. I have never read this caution anywhere else. It is not mentioned in any of the herbals that I have read, whether old or new. And although I know of no studies that monitor the long term effects of berberine or berberine plants, I haven’t read that there are any short term results that suggest that long term use would be inadvisable. With that said, neither do I believe that it is advisable to use berberine or berberine herbs long term arbitrarily. There are some so-called adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha, for example, that seem to be well-suited to long term use. Berberine plants don’t strike me in the same way. Berberine seems more like a healer than a long-term, chronic use sort of solution. And I believe that this is evidence to support this view: berberine and berberine plants seem to correct imbalances and repair the body, returning it to within optimal functioning parameters. In other words, typically the need for berberine decreases over time. One does not become dependent on it, but rather berberine fosters independence and healthy functioning.

Mountain Rose Herbs also advise against taking supplemental vitamin B6 concurrently with berberine herbs. The reason given is that vitamin B6 may increase resistance of pathogenic bacteria to berberine herbs. I have seen this same caution reported elsewhere, though not often. So I cannot confirm nor deny this. The berberine alkaloid has been shown to affect B vitamin metabolism in the human body, which may support the claim that supplementing with certain B vitamins could be potentially antithetical to berberine effects.

Berberine and especially berberine plants (because they contain synergistic compounds) demonstrate the ability to increase the effectiveness of other medicines, including both plant medicines and pharmaceuticals. So if you use other medicines, particularly anything with similar properties to berberine, then it is highly advisable to closely monitor things if you choose to use berberine in conjunction with those other miedicines. For example, there are studies (and lots of anecdotal evidence) suggesting that berberine is highly synergistic with the the drug metformin (in fact, it may out-perform metformin when used alone.) As such, people who wish to use berberine at the same time as metformin need to closely monitor their blood glucose because berberine will likely greatly reduce the necessary metformin dosage.

Personally, I believe that berberine plants are unrivaled for treating infections in the digestive system as well as dysentery. I would whole-heartedly endorse the use of berberine plants or even berberine extract for these purposes. Many people diagnosed with SIBO report improvement with the use of berberine medicine. Also, as a note, Stephen Buhner mentions that berberine is effective against cholera only 50% in clinical trials, but that it is 100% effective against cholera when combined with geranium, pomegranate bark or peel, or bark or leaf of guava.

I am also very excited about the tremendous potential for berberine medicines in the treatment of insulin and glucose metabolism problems such as diabetes or pre-diabetic insulin resistance. My present working theory is that in many cases insulin resistance can be reversed in many cases by reducing dietary polyunsaturated fat (and possibly increasing saturated fat) in conjunction with berberine medicine, with the possible addition of resistant starch in some cases (raw potato starch, for example, has been shown to have powerful effects on glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity.)

So what is the best way to use berberine medicine? There’s no one-size-fits all answer to that. I can offer a few suggestions, however. For one thing, dose is important. In particular, too much of a good thing in this case can be quite unpleasant. Overdosing on berberine medicine isn’t really easy to do, so there isn’t a great danger of this. From what I’ve read, the toxicity of berberine medicine is extremely low. But eating large amounts could result in some symptoms resulting from too much drying out – nose bleed, eye and skin irritation, and indigestion. Personally, I am sensitive to overdrying, and in my “reckless youth” I experienced some minor indigestion from eating too much berberine medicine. But most people wouldn’t be able to stomach too much of the raw herb to achieve this. So for most people this is only even a possibility with encapsulated extracts.

So in terms of dosage, I’d say that if you’re using raw herbs (i.e. fresh, dried, or powdered) then taste is going to be your guide. And if you encapsulate raw powder you’re not likely to be able to overdose. Buhner suggets 25 “00” capsules for acute dysentery, to give you an idea of an extreme senario. That is probably the equivalent of more than a tablespoon of raw herb powder, and I highly doubt that most people would be able to get that much down unencapsulated. So there’s really no danger with raw herbs. And in most cases even less than a gram a day will be effective.

More or less, much of what I’ve written about raw herbs also applies to tinctured berberine medicine. it is unlikely that you’d want to take more than a small amount in most cases. The taste of a dropperful is likely to signal berberine-satiety in most people. And for extreme cases of dysentery Buhner recommends up to a tablespoon of the tincture several times a day.

With berberine extract my best recommendation is to use a relatively low dose to start. I have used 500mg capsules from Thorne with absolutely no problem, but I wouldn’t consider that a low dose. Thorne does have a 200mg capsule berberine extract as well, which may be more suitable for someone who hasn’t tried berberine before. (I mention Thorne because it is the only reputable producer I know of that has berberine extracts with no stearates or other objectionable fillers. They do use silicon dioxide, but I find that to be rather innocuous.) The studies that I’ve perused have used 500mg capsules twice a day, and that seems reasonable. That’s a lot of berberine, but it’s low enough that it shouldn’t pose a problem for most people. Those are the doses I have read for use in improving insulin sensitivity – typically one 500mg capsule 15 minutes before the two largest meals of the day.

Another important consideration for berberine medicine is to determine what form to use. Stephen Buhner offers some valuable insights into this in Herbal Antibiotics 2nd Edition. Because several important berberine plants are endangered in the wild, many herbalists, including Buhner, recommend against using the wildharvested versions of those endanagered plants. American goldenseal is particularly notable in being endangered in the wild. Buhner suggests wildharvesting only phellodendron (corktree), barberry, or oregon grape. If buying herbs, he recommends cultivated berberine plants – in other words, if purchasing, say, goldenseal, then look for cultivated (not wildharvested) roots. (I’ll add that organic is highly preferable when purchasing cultivated herbs.)

Personally, I prefer the whole herb to the extract because I believe that the whole herb has other synergistic compounds and an essential intelligence that proves beneficial. With that said, berberine extract seems to be a reasonable option with no side effects for most people of which I am aware.

4 years ago

Says Who?

I find it fascinating and saddening that so many people seem to have tremendous, perhaps overwhelming dislike (and in some cases hatred) of their own bodies. And furthermore, as a culture we try to shame others into thinking in this same way. I see why this might be – a society of people who dislike their own bodies provide an easy audience for promoting products, diets, routines, lifestyles, solutions, and anything else that can be sold or promoted for the purposes of supposedly improving people’s bodies. And if I’m right about some of the reasons for this phenomenon then it makes it all the more sad. But whatever the reasons, I am of the opinion that it is possible to exempt oneself from this trend.

It seems to me that nearly everyone can manage to find something they don’t like about her or his body. The cliche example is for someone to think themselves “too fat.” But there are countless other ways in which people dislike their bodies. Although “too fat” is more common, I’ve known people who perceived themselves as “too thin.” Various body parts can be “too big” or “too small.” Parts can be perceived to be misshapen. “Too tall” or “too short” is possible. Coloration of eyes, hair, and skin are all frequent targets. I’ve known people to dislike their hair texture. It’s possible for people to agonize over waist-to-hip ratio and eye placement. Basically, you name it and someone dislikes the quality about themselves.

But why? Who said that bodies should look a certain way and if they don’t then we should be ashamed and beat ourselves up endlessly? What I will suggest is that whatever the source of this idea, it is a completely baseless and mistaken idea. Now, I will grant you that there may be a biological basis for being attracted to certain traits and features in another. But this manifests differently in every person. So I don’t believe that it is reasonable to believe that cultural ideals for physical attractiveness are based in biology. And, more importantly, the preferences of others and even cultural biases are external factors, not intrinsic forces that mandate self-hatred if a person doesn’t happen to conform to those external ideals. In other words, even with tremendous social pressures and tons of propaganda that attempt to intimidate us to judge and condemn ourselves, there is not any force that truly forces us to comply. It is a choice.

And so too do we have the choice to accept and love ourselves. Okay, okay, I know that is a bit cliche. But in my own experience it is true. And what I’ve noticed is that life is SO MUCH BETTER when I choose to love and accept myself exactly as I am. That doesn’t mean I may not still have aspirations and goals. It just means that I don’t set goals because I believe that achieving those goals will add to my self-worth. Nor does failure to achieve goals mean that I have fuel for the self-hate machine. Because I realized that the self-hate machine isn’t me. It’s not the truth. And nothing good comes from it.

I’ve read the opinions of others that suggest that loving oneself is unrealistic for most, that it is far too lofty a goal, one that will never be reached. To which I say: hogwash. That’s just more of the same old thinking. Why stop short of love? What would the possible benefit be in that? And again, it is a choice that every person gets to make. There’s no reason that a person could not love himself or herself.

When I talk about self-love, I’m not talking about narcissism. I’m talking about the confidence and knowledge that you are valuable as you are and that your worth is intrinsic, that it is not and cannot be defined by arbitrary external beliefs or ideas. This doesn’t take a lot of practice. This just takes clear seeing. Because it is the truth.

So how can you discover this sort of clear seeing? I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I can give a few hints and suggestions. My own experience is that clear seeing is natural, and it is not something that you can achieve as much as you can simply uncover it. You can uncover clear seeing by removing the blinders. Just as you can see clearly with your physical eyes by opening your eye-lids or removing your hands from over them. The ability to see clearly is already present. So confused seeing is the result of mental and emotional clutter that obscures seeing clearly.

Much as muddy water clears as long as it is not agitated, allowing the sediment to settle, my own experience is that seeing clears naturally when it is not agitated. What I notice is that when thoughts used to come up for me, I often gave them more importance than they deserved. And when unpleasant emotions arose I gave them too much importance too. This resulted in a lot of agitation. I would feel anxious and I had a sense of urgency, a feeling that I must do something to resolve the whole mess. But the more I focused on that thought-feeling whirlwind, the more agitated I became – the less clear my seeing. I came to believe that my worth was determined by what other people thought of me, whether or not they approved of my body.

Seeing thoughts for what they are – thoughts and nothing more – was perhaps the only thing necessary for me to begin to see clearly. By seeing that thoughts are just thoughts I stopped giving them so much importance. And for me, what naturally followed was that I began to see that emotions and feelings are also just emotions and feelings, nothing more. Where I used to react to emotions and feelings with more thought – trying to figure it all out and make it better – I stopped reacting and just noticed. And little by little, my seeing cleared and my life became more vibrant and lighter. And love is the natural state that becomes clear as the agitation ceases and the sediment settles.

So really, ultimately, who determines your self-image? Is it “them” or is it you? And if it is you, then why stop short of complete self-love? Whether you are “too fat” or “too thin” or “too tall” or “too short” or too anything else (or not enough of anything else,) what happens when you let thoughts thoughts settle and fall away as they naturally do when you stop agitating your own mind and body?

I’ll tell you something that I’ve heard again and again from all sorts of people: confidence is attractive. Again, I’m not talking about egotistic or narcissistic “confidence.” I’m talking about genuine, easy, natural confidence that flows effortlessly from those who live and breathe and move from love – meaning meeting every moment and every experience with spontaneous curiosity. It’s not about liking everything. I’t just about being curious and not believing any thought to be the actual truth. And it’s about wisdom – the wisdom of recognizing that in life there are choices, and life is much more enjoyable and wonderful when we choose love. Again, I’m not talking about naivete or a sort of pollyanna worldview. I’m plenty cynical. But I’m also happy. I’m skeptical. But I choose love. And the truth is that I enjoy walking around shirtless in the summer sun. I enjoy the shape and appearance of my body. My body doesn’t conform to the cultural standard of beauty. But so what?

4 years ago

Time Is On My Side

341px-Safetylast-1This post is inspired by some reflections I’ve done recently based on a few different communications – all having to do with eating disorders. But the core insight that comes out of this is something that I think is widely applicable – applicable to disordered thinking of all kinds.

Undoubtedly you’re familiar with the phrase “hindsight is 20/20.” Right now, can you think of at least one example from your own life to which this phrase applies? I know I can. My teens, twenties, and my thirties so-far are all filled with countless examples. Of course, sometimes the 20/20 of hindsight is due to having more information. For example, if I knew in advance about the housing bubble that burst in 2008 then I could have profited from that (setting aside the questionable ethics of that…see Trading Places for an entertaining commentary on that sort of thing.) But on the other hand, there are situations in which the 20/20 of hindsight isn’t due to the addition of information. Rather, in those cases, is because of an relative improvement of internal conditions – specifically mental and emotional state.

So here’s why my recent thoughts about eating disorders have prompted this post: when a situation can only be improved upon by adding future knowledge then it is already a perfect situation. But when a situation can be improved by changing internal state then that is something that you can improve from where you are right now. And much of disordered eating, at least in my experience, fits into this second category of experience – it doesn’t necessarily require future knowledge to improve these experiences. Rather, improving internal state can work wonders.

When I was in the worst of my eating disorder, I was not thinking well. In fact, my experience is that much of what comprises the “disorder” of an eating disorder isn’t the eating (or lack thereof) as much as it is the thinking. Don’t get me wrong – the eating (or lack thereof) is plenty problematic in these situations. But in my experience it is the disordered thinking that is at the heart of it. And in my experience it isn’t the addition of information that turns things around for the better – it is a change in internal state from anxiety to resolve.

So now I want to share with you an exercise that I came up with that has been profoundly helpful for me during my own recovery from disordered eating (and thinking.) This exercise is remarkably simple, but can bring about significant changes. Here it is:

Imagine for a moment that you are flying into the future. Flying into the future to a point at which you are completely healthy, happy, and free. Now, imagine that you are this future self. Imagine yourself at this point in the future, in your future body, with all the wisdom and experience of your future self. You are completely healthy, happy, and free. As this future self with all the wisdom and knowledge of experience that you’ve acquired up to this point in the future, look back to the point in time in the past that is this present moment, the moment in which you experienced stress or anxiety or worry. And with all that wisdom and knowledge of experience, what do you notice as you look back? Now, retaining all that wisdom and knowledge of your future self, fly back through time, through all those intervening experiences, all the way back to now. Feel yourself in your present body. And with the wisdom and knowledge of your future self, what changes for you in your present situation?

For me, this exercise has the power to completely obliterate the anxiety that characterized my disordered eating days. I was chronically stressed about absolutely trivial things – about things that were completely irrational and paranoid delusions. The wisdom of my future self, the self I experience today, had the power to cut through all the anxiety and give me a foundation for positive change.

None of that means that I didn’t still have challenges. My challenge, once I had that wisdom, was to continue to tell the truth about it and not allow myself to get caught up in deluded thinking again. But once I had the experience that this sort of exercise gave me, I knew I could access that wisdom (and even greater wisdom) at any time. That alone was enough to greatly reduce my anxiety.

What I want to stress about this exercise is that it is not about positive fantasy or magic or anything of that sort as much as it is about realizing the internal resources that you already have but may not be using. When a person is stressed that person necessarily won’t be thinking clearly. Stress changes the way in which the human nervous system and thinking processes work, Panicked thinking is all about escaping a present threat at all costs. But panic is frequently provoked without a real threat. Often the threats are imagined. And so in such a situation people can (and do) make absolutely terrible choices and take crazy actions trying to escape imagined threats. By imagining yourself in the future with greater wisdom, knowledge, and clarity, you can activate these resources within yourself in the present moment. In other words, you awaken the ever-present capacity for clear thinking and rational action that is in your long-term best interest.

I sincerely hope that this exercise and these insights prove helpful for someone reading this. Please feel free to post comments with your experiences or with questions.