In which Amanda reflects on the way language is adapting to reflect the changing landscape of health and wellbeing thinking and practices.
I have been noticing a few tendencies emerging in the world of alternative health practitioners - and there’s one right there, the word ‘healer’ is on the outer, it’s about as fashionable as flares. Alternative health practitioner sounds good: utilitarian and unthreatening; a sensible language to stand with the reigning medical model. Maybe even worth its own acronym. AHP? And maybe we could simplify this to health practitioner, HP, to show that all the modalities have come of age and cease to be apologetic addendums to the dominant health system.
‘Complimentary’ treatments? How does that sound? Still a bit weak when in many cases they have become the only or the main game if the medical treatments on offer have become too toxic to the body to be useful in the control of disease, as is the case in many cancers.
I heard a snippet on the radio the other day. A woman said that a disease had gone too far to be dealt with by traditional medicine, they were calling in the Doctors. This is it, the Doctors are the SWAT team of medicine. The symptoms have revealed themselves: the lump is visible, the orifice is clogged, the beat of the heart uncomfortably fast or slow, time to call in the big guns. The knives, the chemicals, the stents, the strong interventions.
Before the symptoms become visible there might be indications: the owner of a body has a sense that something is not right, or at least that something is changing: the cells are dividing too fast or too slow, a familiar pain starts to become more insistent?
At these early stages, doctors are a scary choice. They are trained for war. They are trained for the worst.
For all its wonderful inventiveness and usefulness the allopathic system doesn’t do ‘preventative’ well. The common experience in the doctor’s office when you present with a symptom is to be at the receiving end of a schedule of tests: the justification is to make sure there is no pathology lurking. On the surface a reasonable investigation, but undeniably fear-based, definitely a drain on the public purse and all very cookie cutter in that the tests can override the patient’s sense of their own health.
It is not necessarily the job of a HP to make a diagnosis – a diagnosis can be a curse in the sense that they can lock people into fear. To treat the body as a collection of dynamic systems that are constantly in flow and connection with each other is potentially a healthier, less stressful way to approach both preventative measures as well as actual dis-ease. Thus the language might be: if talking say, of an organ (in the body), that it is ‘compromised’ and needs attention; more open-ended, hopeful language that allows some wriggle room for health options.
As the word healer has got on the nose, the verb to ‘heal’ has given way to neutral, less ego-based verbs like ‘to integrate’, ‘to balance’ and ‘to reconnect’. Within this approach is a built-in notion that the body has the capacity to heal itself – much like it a cut will heal – and the practitioner is there to assist the body to return to its natural balance rather than to focus on the symptoms of the dis-ease or illness.
Practitioners of alternative modalities are quick to deny they need the ego rush the word ‘healer’ implies and are eager to hand the accolades over to the client themselves in the face of a successful session. ‘You did the work – I merely facilitated your body to heal’ is the disclaimer. Note the ‘patient’ is now the ‘client’ – implying a value-free exchange of energy: a fee for service rendered rather than a power relationship handed down from the ‘well’ to the ‘sick’.
While it must be a buzz to make a positive difference in someone’s life, HP’s aren’t about claiming responsibility. Alternative therapies can go deep but the practitioner doesn’t have to ‘know’, as in know via the mind, to get there. It is possible to tune into and assist nature’s innate tendency to return to balance - however that is manifested in the body, mind and spirit, without the knowing. BodyTalk practitioners tell stories of inexplicable and positive treatments that go beyond their comprehension.
I was speaking to a friend recently in Perth who had just had a client in for a PyschK session – more of that later. She emerged looking puzzled. ‘I have no idea what just happened in there, ‘(the treatment room), she confided, ‘ but something shifted and the client’s over the moon’. After she was done shaking her head in bemusement she decided to simply accept whatever happened and join the client in her elation at a breakthrough.
As a quick aside to thinking about the sidelining of the word healer – it is intriguing to notice how language changes as the culture evolves. I have been listening to the footy, the AFL – where did the word ‘stoppages’ come from? I am sure I didn’t hear it last season, now I can barely think what we said before this word flooded in – ‘ball up’?, ‘boundary throw in’? and now we have ‘stoppage structure’, ‘stoppage work’ and other language that has arisen to describe a new looking game. I am not even sure I know what it means. William Burroughs said it first: Language is a virus.
Some HPs are about encouraging the dissolution of barriers that might be standing in the way of the body’s efforts to restore balance. And one of the major barriers is belief systems – which brings me to another tendency … the term BS known to me as a polite shorthand for BullShit, is now interchangeable shorthand for Belief System in some circles.
Belief Systems are receiving a lot of attention in the wellness world. Bruce Lipton, a scientist who is helping to transform the practise of medicine, is one of the pioneers of epigenetics, defined in the dictionary as a ‘study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself’. Simplified: epigenetics is the study of biological mechanisms that will switch genes on and off.”
His book the Biology of Belief explains that genes are not the foundation stones of existence they were once believed to be. Environmental factors influence genes, and one of the main influencers that causes the on/off buttons in genes to behave in ways that don’t serve the organism is the old BS – belief systems.
Science and medicine are now entering a space in human evolution where we are understanding that perception – as is what is evident through the filters of our senses, beliefs and assumptions, is what controls our behaviour. And sitting above perception are the beliefs that control perception. In this way of thinking there is no distinction between mind and body – you literally become what you believe.
So the question is, how do you shift or change beliefs that do not serve you anymore, especially if you struggle to recognise that you are even holding these beliefs, so seemingly ‘natural is your behaviour in reaction to them….?
The theory is that most humans run on about 5% free will, which is their conscious self – the other 95% is handled by the subconscious. So says Rob Williams, creator of Psyche-K (the Pysche is for psychotherapy and the K for Kinesiology). He describes the 5% of consciousness as being the time-based part of self that likes to live in the past and future as much as it does in the present, that loves what is new and challenging, that makes things happen, that handles abstractions and has a limited processing capacity. Well it actually has an incredible, a miraculous, processing capacity – but to put it in perspective, this is dwarfed when compared to the vast ocean of expanded processing capacity that is available in the realm of the subconscious self.
In this unknown realm, he explains that what is habitual, familiar and literal is preferred … a massive library of data is stored – and all these events/memories/feelings neatly filed can be easily brought to hand and readily streamed into the ‘real’ world by what have become known in psychological circles as ‘triggers’.
We have all had the experience where powerful emotions, fully fledged and charged up, are launched in reaction to a stimulus in a present-day situation. These reactions, so real, so deeply felt, seem to belong to the real-time situation…. But there is plenty of evidence to suggest that this is not so.
Michael Brown, author of The Presence Process, reckons that 99% of reactions are not in response to a scenario playing out in real-time – what is happening is that what looks like a response to a real-time scenario, is the mind reaching into the library, finding the charge that matches what seems to be going on and launched a reaction.
The subconscious knows no time, it lives in the eternal now, so a strong reaction to a perceived threat to self, even if it occurred 50 years ago, can be hauled out of the filing system and blasted into real-time experience in nanoseconds, in the face of the right trigger.
This is not a new thought, consciousness work from other thinkers and writers will take their readers to the same conclusions. But knowing that this is how the psyche operates intellectually, is very different from experiencing it yourself….and the real kicker to consider is that the experience that triggers the reaction is something that you might have manufactured yourself to bring forth the emotion that is familiar and known – but this is something for another podcast….
My eyes were opened to my own behaviour when I was drawn to take myself through the 10-week process outlined in The Presence Process as a self- propelled consciousness expanding program a few years ago…. In about Week 8 of the process I ended up in a huge argument with my then partner, but something clicked, and it dawned on me that I was fighting a mirage – that the man in front of me had nothing to do with my anger – he was, to use Michael Brown’s term, the messenger. This was when I truly started to comprehend that in a very real way, I was the creator of my own emotions and experiences.
The subconscious only lives in the Present, the now, then the next now, then the next now – meaning it is not time-based, and it is in this space Psych-K and other modalities say that anyone can accomplish shifts that completely transform their world.
Forget the old new age affirmations. But will-power and self-discipline will still play an important role in this story, as will the that old ever-green: positive thinking. Remembering Einstein’s oft quoted line: No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. if you can connect to the emotional charge stored in the subconscious, the idea is that it is possible to access the event/trauma whatever you want to call it, in this sphere, to literally rewrite the programming. And in case one of your beliefs is that beliefs, especially crusted on ones, can’t be changed quickly, Rob Williams and others challenge this:
Beliefs, if tackled in the space where they live, can be changed. The subconscious because it lives in the now, has no resistance to changing beliefs because if they are able to be experienced in all their pain and trauma, the mind makes no distinction from living this experience as, say, a 6 year old or a 60 year old. If it is able to be felt, it is able to be observed – and if it is able to be observed, then the distinction between the situation of being a 6 year old experiencing something and a 60 year old experiencing something can be looked at.
Computer analogies work here – especially relevant as computers remove the emotional charge from the situation. If you can bring up a file from the hard drive and open a document, then it is entirely possible to change the contents of that document, no matter the circumstances that led to the construction of the original document or how long ago in earthling years it was created. And all this works for the good feelings that we welcome as well– we aren’t going there simply because there is never any sense that happy reactions to stimuli need fixing.
But there’s the rub, how do you access this mysterious unknown aspect of yourself that the wise ones tell us can be directly experienced but is beyond the everyday mind’s capacity to ‘understand’? Especially when the portals to this – I’ll call it a ‘space’ for want of a better word – I don’t know what it is! This space of potentiality and spaciousness is not known by the self, the self we have constructed through living through our senses and gifted to us by our culture, friends, lovers, family, environment and all the myriad of experiences entailed in being alive – in short, all the glorious peculiarities of our personal life situation.
This self, experiencing the world through the senses, uses the data it receives to cobble up a bunch of stuff to live by and has a pretty firm grip on what it perceives as reality; it has neither the desire nor the capacity to explore beyond what it knows.
The pointy end of wellness practices often includes BS’s. These beliefs are the (mostly) hidden hand that twitch the strings of your puppet self, the self that is and isn’t you, the self that hopefully is in tune with a deeper, more authentic self (or, you can start to see the difficulties, how can you be in tune with something you aren’t sure exists?...and something that you are pretty sure exists but can’t really explain). I could easily disappear into metaphysical land here – and get hopelessly lost, so to get back to what we could call consensual reality.
What seems to me to be happening is that the planets have aligned around the necessity for humans to challenge their BS’s to effect any real and lasting change in their physical, mental, emotional or spiritual states.
The fast track to belief blasting offered by some practitioners is a breakthrough idea – right up there with the ziplock bag to my way of thinking. Before, we had the talking cure, something that could be expected to involve many appointments over time, painful dredging up and focusing on trauma so as to get every detail of the event that is triggering the problem in real time ie now.
Dredging up the story and examining it from all sides to understand the trauma can send you deeper into the damage – if whatever you focus on grows, you can see the trauma growing. It also cements the notion that damage and trauma is the issue, when the real problem is more likely the expression of trauma through the body/mind complex that is still playing out way past the time it was implemented.
Consider the possibility – and this is an inviting phrase I learnt from Peter Ralston - that it might be more effective to take your eyes off the problem and focus on what is flowing, what is working and what feels good.
And I can’t resist the soil analogy: this is like the soil regen people who want to support the presence of the 95% of good nematodes rather than devoting money and time to the destruction of the 5% that are considered problematical – people are getting results from accentuating what is working rather than dwelling in the zone where they feel stuck.
With Pysch K the client is considering the possibility that someone can apply a simple muscle test to see if you register strongly for or against a self-belief. The reason for the belief – the incident or series of events that has lead to you holding the (by now unhelpful belief) as a truth to be acted on – need not be important or even necessary to know: the subconscious has no opinions on what your mind tells you, its job is just to maintain equilibrium and organise itself around what you believe is true for you.
That means the process to unlock a self-belief, while inevitably painful, has the potential to be relatively short– instead of feeling as if you are drilling into bone it is possible to appraise something as a story that has passed its used-by-date and decide – as the saying goes – that it no longer serves you.
This story is often something put in place in childhood when your options for survival were much narrower than they are now. So, you ask the body if it is alright to put another belief in its place and test for the strength of that new longed-for belief, embellishing the incoming belief with attendant thoughts and desires that buttress the change until it looks like it is ready to hold – and Bob’s your uncle. A ‘shift’ – another commonly used, possibly overused word in the AHP lexicon – is possible.
I have made it sound so bloodless and easy. Is it possible to identify and reverse a belief, say:’ I feel worthless’, to ‘I am a person of value and authenticity’ without occupying the annihilating sense of the first option? No, it is essential to go there, and essential to experience the anger/anxiety/depression or sadness - whatever is the way you habitually react to ameliorate or conceal that belief from your conscious self…and of course, there is trauma and trauma.
But the engagement with these feelings you have been producing to avoid a deeper truth does not have to be a life sentence. It needs to be recognised for what it is to the degree that it is deeply felt and therefore real in itself – and then challenged by its opposite. Simply by noticing that you are running on thoughts set in place in circumstances that have long gone can be enough to shift emotions and subsequent behaviour in the present day.
It helps not to get too hooked on the story….one, because it doesn’t matter and two, because it might not be true. I have spent many years mesmerised by the story I have constructed about the Making of Amanda. Even having had experiences, moments of extreme clarity that have convinced me that my memories are not to be trusted – that they have been constructed by my self-serving mind to show me to myself or the world in a really good light, or diminish responsibility or even shift responsibility so I can enjoy victim status…none of which is particularly noble, but it is human and as such I am pleased I have had the chance to recognise myself as a work in progress, a shifting mass of protoplasm that can be massaged in directions more in tune with a wider world and a deeper experience of life than my ego will ever recognise. The baby steps of consciousness work.
I’ll leave you with this last word on my continuing adventures with BodyTalk, the health modality I studied in March – the practice of which has triggered this podcast. At the heart of BodyTalk is the ability to get clear Yes/No answers effected by a simple technique of applying pressure to the client’s arm to establish responses as the body’s guide to what is going on. It’s like that game Animal, Vegetable, Mineral – you keep asking questions, eliciting the yeses and nos to find the direction to go in.
The breakthrough came in a moment of complete frustration when I decided I was just going to go with the answers I got and not second guess myself. Bingo…that’s what it took. Self-belief, at last. Who knew? By the simple expedient of deciding to trust the responses I get when in contact with a client, the more trustworthy my responses have become. I might well be deluded – but as my grandmother once said to my father during a bridge game as he hesitated over a discard: Barry, she advised, It’s best to make your mistakes quickly….
I can still lose heart and direction during a session, but have found that the process is sometimes so intriguing that it is possible to follow the pathway opened up by the questions asked– and when you are hot on a trail that weaves through the body/mind/spirit in step with the person on the table, it is possible to forget to doubt, to be in the flow and make some useful and rich discoveries.