The “C”quence of Healing Chronic Illness
Connecting to your past provides "neuroshment" for healing.
Posted January 24, 2023 | Reviewed by Hara Estroff Marano
- Connecting to every aspect of your life is difficult but is at the core of allowing your body to heal.
- Being with your past is necessary in order to learn and grow from it.
- Accepting your past is the opposite of pursuing self-esteem, which is connecting you to your "story" and counterproductive.
- The "C" quence is connection, confidence, and creativity. Creativity is where healing happens.
Living creatures have two basic biological imperatives. The first is to survive, the second is to pass their genetic material to the next generation. Threat physiology (flight or fight) consisting of stress hormones, increased fuel consumption, and inflammation is a necessary to maximize chances of survival while the whole organism goes on alert. What's variable are the intensity and duration of being in the threat state. Safety physiology (rest and digest) is necessary to regenerate to fight another day.
Humans have the unique gift of cognitive consciousness. Through language, elevated communication capacity, and cooperation, we have risen to the top of the food chain. However, there is also a curse in that we are wired to survive: Our nervous system is geared towards looking for trouble. Unpleasant thoughts are also perceived as threats, and we cannot escape them. So, we are all exposed to some of level of constant fight-or-flight chemistry. Not being able to escape the unpleasant aspects of our consciousness is a curse. Human cognitive consciousness may be the at the root of all chronic mental and physical chronic disease.
One of the most futile efforts to deal with this aspect of our lives is striving for self-esteem. Remember, satisfaction, contentment, and joy are sensations generated when you are in a state of safety physiology. Searching for self-esteem creates the opposite effect.
- First of all, it is a terrible mismatch of your conscious brain attempting to deal with unpleasant survival sensations arising from your unconscious brain.
- There are many ways to lower threat physiology, but working on creating a positive “story” about who you are and how you fit in is not one of them.
- It involves an endless judgmental process. You are judging yourself positively or negatively against others and societal standards. There is no endpoint.
- Your threat physiology also causes inflammation of your central nervous system, which increases the sensitivity to sensory input, which adds to the problem.
- Much of our self-esteem is based on cognitive distortions that become increasing powerful over time. The “story” that evolves about your place in life disconnects you from what is actually happening in front of you.
- Self-esteem may be the mother of cognitive distortions. Instead of connecting and learning from your past, you are connecting to the stories you have about it and disconnecting. How can you learn?
Confidence in yourself and your abilities is a much different energy. You are able to skillfully deal with adversity and keep moving forward. But you have to connect to your own internal resources to possess it. There is a necessary sequence.
How to heal
There is a much different process that allows healing. The sequence takes you from reactive to creative.
Being connected and confident allows you to move forward, and creativity allows you to regenerate and heal.
In order to reach higher, you must first dig deeper. Consider a tree as a metaphor for your healing journey.
The soil represents your entire past and is the source for learning and future growth. There is one major root in any tree, called the taproot. It grows straight down in search of water and nutrients. The trees with deepest ones are found in harsh dry environments. A tree may initially show little growth for a few years until the taproot is more mature. Roots grow relentlessly and will even grow through rock. The more developed and complex the root system, the better the chances for survival and growth.
All humans have experienced some degree of trauma. Our needs are not always immediately met even in the best of circumstance, and adversity never stops coming at us. Many people have suffered severe, even extreme childhood trauma, and there is plenty more to be had in adulthood. We don’t feel good about it and might feel ashamed of it.
As a result, considerable time and energy are spent on analyzing, fixing, covering up, whitewashing, or suppressing the past. Somehow, we feel that by spending a lot of time dealing with past, we’ll have a better life. The problem is that your attention is focused on the problems and not the solutions. And that attention influences where your brain will develop. Focusing on fixing the past also requires a lot of energy that could be used in dealing with the present, and thriving.
Specific skills are required to allow you to be with your past, as much of it may be unpleasant, painful, and difficult to be with. Digging in and being with your past is the opposite of seeking self-esteem. One patient who successfully broke free from 55 years of pain coined a term for using the past for future growth: “neuroshment.”
The trunk represents the confidence that emanates from being able to deal with every aspect of your past and not run from it. There are many ways to process the past that improve with repetition. You are grounded and can deal with even severe adversity.
The term for this set of skills is “dynamic healing.” It acknowledges the interactions between you and your circumstances that create flight-or-fight body chemistry. There are many tools in each portal, none of them are difficult, but it does require learning and mastering them.
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With a solid root system and trunk, the tree will grow branches of all sizes. You can tap into your creative self and train your brain to evolve in any direction. This is where the deepest healing occurs. You are moving towards joy and away from pain. Nurturing joy is also a learned set of skills that few of us are taught. Creativity requires awareness of choices, and you must see (“C”) first in order to know where you are at and then make ongoing decisions to move in a different direction.
Watch your life go from ReaCtive to Creative.