Posts Tagged ‘fear’

The Healing Power of Time Travel

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

I bet you didn’t know that time travel can be healing. But by the end of this post, you will.

Let me say here that I’m not talking about the time travel described in books like H.G. Wells’s book The Time Machine or Edward Page Mitchell’s The Clock That Went Backwards. In those books, there is a machine or a device that can take people forward or backwards in time.

To the best of my knowledge, clocks or machines that can do that don’t exist.

But you can still travel in time – in your mind. And as the title of this post says, you can use that ability to heal.

Here’s how: think about a traumatic or painful event in your life. It could be when you were diagnosed with your illness. It could be when a person, such as a parent or a sibling, or a pet that you loved, died. It could be when your family moved away from the neighborhood where all your friends lived.

Those kind of events can have negative effects on us for the rest of our lives, even if we don’t realize it. They can instill an unconscious fear that keeps us from going for what we want. They can also affect our health and cause or contribute to illnesses that may occur many years later.

One of the main reasons events like the one you remembered were so traumatic was that we rarely had the support we needed when they happened, and because we didn’t, we felt alone and abandoned even if our siblings and others were going through it with us.

But with time travel, as I like to call it, we can go back to the person we were back then, whether that was a little boy or girl, a teenager, a young adult, or even a middle aged or older adult. Because we were that person earlier in our lives, we know what she or he was feeling. By letting that person know we understand their fear and anxiety, by letting them know we are truly sorry, and by reassuring them that they will get through the experience okay, we can be a huge help in their healing process. And when traumas and pain from our past are healed, that helps us in our healing, both physical and emotional, today.

I encourage you to give time travel healing a try, and post a comment here about your experience.

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Tom Robinson is The Turnaround Coach for people with chronic illnesses. You can sign up for his free 7 day e-course, Learn How to Raise Your Energy and Your Spirit – and Say Goodbye to Feeling Hopeless and Depressed here.

An Exercise to Help You Withstand Harassment

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

What I’m going to tell you in this post may not seem like it can help you live better with a chronic illness. But as I will explain shortly, it can. And between now and when I tell you how, my intention is to entertain you with a story.

Here it is: I’ve been by myself for almost a year. I’ve been looking for a woman to spend the rest of my life with, but so far haven’t found her. Maybe it’s because I and the women I go out with are more picky than we were when we were younger. Whatever the reason, this search is taking longer than I hoped it would.

To increase my chances of finding the love of my life, I signed up for a six-week online dating course. I am enjoying it and am learning a lot.

The man who developed the course had previously co-led a workshop to teach men many of the same things I am learning, and he told us about the following exercise from it: a man who was afraid of women for any reason would be brought to the front of the auditorium where the workshop was being held. Then 30 women would be brought in, and they would be told to scream the most hurtful insults they could think of at him for three minutes.

What would always happen, and it would usually take about 30 seconds, is that the man would start laughing, because he would realize that the women couldn’t hurt him. He would see that there was no substance to the fear he was holding on to: the worst that could happen was that 30 women would keep screaming and telling him what a piece of shit he was. But he realized that he was still standing there and was fine.

This exercise sounds like an excellent one to help men who are afraid of women. But I told you at the beginning of this post that what I was going to write about could also help you live better if you have a chronic illness.

Here’s how: when you have a chronic illness, you (probably) don’t have a bunch of women screaming insults at you. But if you’re like almost everyone else, you have a bunch of voices inside your head that are criticizing you,and very likely calling you names.

And just like the man standing at the front of the auditorium listening to those insults and voices realized that the insults didn’t change who he was, you have the opportunity to realize that the critical voices inside your head don’t change who you are. You’re the same person you’ve always been.

If you want to take this a step farther, you can tell the voices to go ahead and insult you. And they will! But when they do, you will realize and know that the worst that can happen is that they will tell you what a piece of shit you are (or whatever words they use). But them doing that no longer needs to hurt you or upset you!

I have been writing for many years about how the voices inside our head very often make our illness worse, often a lot worse, than it already is. And you now have a way to stop your voices from doing that.

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To learn about other effective ways to heal your pain, I invite you to sign up for my free E-Course: Learn How to Raise Your Energy – and Your Spirit – in Just 21 Days.

How to Make Good Decisions When You Have a Chronic Illness

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Every day, all of us have lots of decisions to make. When you have a chronic illness, many of those decisions involve which providers to see, which treatments to try, and things like that. So they can affect whether you get better or worse and many other aspects of your quality of life. So you definitely want to make those decisions good ones.

But it is often hard to make good decisions, especially when you’re struggling with a chronic illness. However, no matter what you’re struggling with or what is going on in your life, it is still possible to make them. In this post, I’m going to share with you a way to do that which works well for me.

I have found, both in my own life and from coaching hundreds of people during the past 10 years, that one of the main things that makes it hard for us to make good decisions is our feelings, especially the unpleasant ones, such as sadness, rejection, fear, etc. We don’t like having those feelings, so without even thinking about it, we automatically make decisions that allows us to avoid them. But those automatic decisions can often have a negative effect on our health and our quality of life.

Knowing that, one of the ways I make better decisions is to think of my mind as a room with windows at both ends and think of my feelings as scents in the air that blows through it. Looking at feelings that way, I’ve found that if I just notice and observe them coming into my mind—the way I would notice and observe scents–without getting caught up in them, the window at the back of the room stays open, and they pass through. But when I get caught up in and dwell on those feelings, the window at the back of the room closes. And I end up making more and more bad decisions in an attempt to either avoid them or pretend they’re not there.

So as I’ve said, I make much better decisions when I just notice and observe my feelings. I know you will too. But there is another benefit—a very big one–that comes from allowing the unpleasant feelings to pass right through the room rather than reacting to them. The more we practice allowing those unpleasant feeling to pass right through, the more our ability to do so increases. I have found and seen that as it does, the more confident we become that we can handle the many challenges that we all experience in our lives. And with that confidence comes a deeper and deeper sense of peace.

Coaching People Who Have the Deck Stacked Against Them

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Coaching those with chronic illnesses has been very rewarding. I’ve gotten to work with people who haven’t been able to find the help they need, and the suggestions and ideas I give them continue to make a positive difference in their lives long after their last coaching session with me.

But while it’s very rewarding, the coaching I do is often difficult. The hardest thing about it is facing the reality that health-wise, some of my clients don’t get better, and some of them continue to get worse as time goes on.

So far, a client I’ll call Jason seems to be in that latter group. He has amyloidosis, which is the formation and buildup of an abnormal protein. While the sites of the buildup vary depending on the individual and the type of amyloidosis he or she has, the buildup causes cell toxicity and organ damage that can result in its failure.

The type of amyloidosis Jason has is called familial. He inherited it from his mother, who died from it when she was 47. Jason is 34, and he is understandably afraid that he will die at a relatively young age. And at times he is consumed by feelings of helplessness, especially when starts or attempts to work on a long-term project. He often thinks, “What’s the use?” and abandons the project.

I gave Jason some suggestions to help him manage his feelings of hopelessness and fear. Then, because my blog readers (that’s you!) also have many of years of experience living with a chronic illness, I told Jason I would write a blog post about him. I said I would ask you for your suggestions about what he can do to stay with his projects and have a satisfying and fulfilling life, in spite of having a life threatening illness.

Thank you for your suggestions and comments!

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Tom Robinson, who has Crohn’s disease himself, helps people with chronic illnesses mend their broken spirits and then he helps them find inspiring dreams – and achieve them!

How to Feel Better Instantly

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Today I want to tell you how to feel better instantly. It’s something I learned from my ex-wife.

Here’s how the lesson came about: When we were married, we had more than our share of heated arguments, and sometimes when we in the middle of one, the phone would ring. My ex would answer it in a completely normal voice. And if it was a friend of hers, she would have a conversation that often included smiles and laughter. There would not be even the slightest indication that up until the moment when she picked up the phone, she was furious or upset.

A friend of mine recently shared with me another example about feeling better, although the change didn’t happen as quickly as it did for my ex-wife.

What happened was that her ex-husband had told her that he was going to have her declared an unfit mother and take her young daughter away from her. As you can imagine, she became very upset, anxious, and afraid. She could have stayed that way, but she consciously made the decision to change. What she did instead of dwell on those feelings was to ask her five-year-old daughter what she wanted to be for Halloween. Her daughter responded that she wanted to be a waterfall. My friend used her ingenuity, creativity, and sewing skills to create a wonderful waterfall costume, and experienced a lot of happiness and aliveness as she did. And her ex-husband’s threat to have her declared an unfit mother went nowhere.

In case you’re wondering what these stories have to do with people with chronic illnesses, the answer is a lot. That’s because dealing with the feelings and emotions that come with having a chronic illness can be as hard as or even harder than dealing with the illness itself. And as the examples I’ve described have shown, there are things we can do so that negative feelings get replaced by positive ones – sometimes in an instant.

So I strongly suggest that when you’re struggling and feeling upset, anxious, or overwhelmed, that you not dwell on those feelings. Instead, have a conversation with a friend or find something to do that you enjoy and find engrossing.

If you would like more ideas for how to live well when you have a chronic illness, I invite you to get my free report: Do You Hate Having a Chronic Illness? You Can Live Well Anyway – Here’s How!

It’s Never Wrong To Be Upset Or Scared

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Even though I have Crohn’s disease, I belong to support groups for people with other diseases. I joined them to learn more about what life is like for people who have different illnesses and also to give suggestions that I think will help others in the group. One group I belong to is for people with Still’s disease (Still’s is an inflammatory disease that can affect the joints, tissues, and organs).

A woman in the group  wrote that she had recently been diagnosed with Still’s. She said that she was familiar with that illness because a cousin whom she was close to had it for many years and died from it in his early 30’s.

Karen, as I’ll call her, wrote that some of her family members responded in a belittling way, saying that “Still’s is just a fancy name for plain old arthritis.” She said she felt hurt because those family members were dismissive of her year-long struggle to get a diagnosis for her night sweats, rashes, and crippling pain. (As an aside, “just plain old arthritis” can be very painful, and I would feel very hurt if I had it and didn’t get any compassion or understanding from my family.) Karen asked the others in the group if she was wrong for being upset and scared.

I hear that question from time to time from people with chronic illnesses, and my answer to Karen is always the same: No. Make that a very loud and clear NO!!

Having a chronic illness often makes our lives difficult and unpredictable, so it’s very understandable that a person who was diagnosed with one would become upset and scared. And given the fact that Karen’s cousin died from Still’s disease, I would be very surprised if she wasn’t scared when she learned she had the same illness he did.

So the answer to the question: Is it wrong to be upset and scared after being diagnosed with Still’s disease—or any other chronic illness—is no. But a much more important question for Karen to ask is: How do I deal with my feelings of being upset and afraid, and how do I take care of myself?

While she didn’t ask those questions directly, she asked for support from other members of the group, and she received several supportive replies. She was given the reassurance that Still’s disease is different for everyone who has it, so the fact that her cousin died from it was not an indication that she will too. She also received some good ideas for educating her non-supportive family members (who very  likely responded the way they did because of feelings of helplessness and discomfort that they weren’t aware of).

But one thing she didn’t receive were any suggestions to give herself lots of compassionate hugs because of all that she had gone through, because of how little understanding she got from her family, and because of how painful and difficult her symptoms were. I’ve seen “self-administered hugs” make a very big difference for lots and lots of people (as it has for me). So I hope Karen heeds my suggestion to do that. I hope you will too. And to learn about some other ways to take care of yourself when you have a chronic illness, I encourage you to read my free report: How to Have a Chronic Illness – Without Letting Your Chronic Illness Have You.

Imagining what it’s like to have your illness

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

In my post last week, I suggested that you use Bill Clinton’s campaign phrase “I feel your pain” for yourself, by saying it to yourself in the mirror. People have asked me questions about that post, so I want to elaborate on what I wrote. But first I’m going to share a couple of things about what’s been going on for me, one of them frightening and the other fun.

I live in Goleta, California, which is only a few miles from Santa Barbara. As you may know from watching the news recently, we’ve just had another bad fire – our fourth in less than two years. I was out of town the night that, as the firefighters put it, all hell broke loose. And I’ve been very fortunate because people in the area where I live did not have to evacuate, although we were told to be prepared to do so. I have a lot of empathy for those who did have to evacuate, and my prayers go to the 80 families who lost their homes.

In spite of being relatively safe myself, I found that I was much more stressed than I would have expected. After getting off the phone with someone who faced the real possibility of losing her home, I started missing exits while driving. It took me a while to connect my difficulty driving with that phone call. But now that I have, I think that many of us are very likely more stressed than we realize by our fears about what may happen to us. When our performance is less than we think it should be, stress or fear from an unidentified source may very well be the reason why.

On a much more positive note, last Sunday I took a very enjoyable trip to San Luis Obispo, which is about 120 miles north of here. I took it because I’m training to be a National Park Service volunteer guide on the Amtrak Coast Starlight. From the train we saw a deer, several dolphins, and dozens of pelicans flying in formation close to the train. It was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Getting back to my post about saying to yourself “I feel your pain,” one woman said she had tried talking to herself in the mirror, but it didn’t work no matter how long she spent doing it. I’m pretty sure I know why. Although she told herself, “I feel your pain,” I don’t think she really let her pain in and felt it. Doing that is the most important part of the exercise.

Here’s another way to look at it: Let’s say that a good friend was just diagnosed with cancer. The first step in supporting and being there for them would be to put yourself in their place and imagine, as well as you could, what it would feel like to have the same thing happen to you. We normally do this automatically. If we didn’t, the empathy and compassion we felt for our friend would be very shallow.

In the same way, what I’m suggesting is to put yourself in your own place and imagine, as well as you can, what it would be like to have your illness. I know this sounds paradoxical and strange, because you really do have that illness. But if you’re like most people, even though you do have it, you often don’t let yourself fully feel what having it is like.

When you do let yourself fully feel what it’s like to have your illness–and the reason I keep making this suggestion and ones like it–is because once you do, you will naturally and without thinking about it be kinder and gentler to yourself. And that’s what I want for you.