Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The Return Of El Zorro

   Blogger TR (from In Bad Company) uses an expression about Ns that I think it expresses very well what they do. She says that "they don't do feelings, they do feelers - they put a feeler out to see what the reception will be" and we (ACoNs) end up offering "exactly what they wanted without them having to ask." This is very much my experience too. However, I'm quickly learning how NOT to "give them what they want without having to ask". I'm paying particular attention to how one of my friends (who is not an ACoN) handles people who do this and I'm taking notes. Here is how she handled El Zorro recently:
   Last week she got a text from him saying that he would be visiting the town where she lives, with a friend -his armour bearer, I presume ;)- (and btw, no mention of the "instant girlfriend" at all). Just that. Not: "I'm coming over with so-and-so and we'd like to meet up with you, etc, etc" but a simple "notification" that he's coming over. 
So my friend replied: "That's nice. I hope you both have a great time". Simply.Brilliant. Don't you think? ;)

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Being Jean Grey

          When I was in my early teens, my brother started collecting the X-Men comic book series from issue nr.1. I soon became hooked to the series too. I found the characters far more interesting and complex than the "classics" (Superman, Spiderman and Batman -but this was, of course, way before Batman was "revamped") My favourite character was Wolverine, though at the start, I didn't like him at all, but after a few issues, he grew on me. The one I identified with, though, was Jean Grey
            Now, looking back, I understand why I identified with her. On wikipedia, she is described as: "Jean Grey is a mutant born with telepathic and telekinetic powers. She is a caring, nurturing figure, but she also has to deal with being an Omega-level mutant (read: extreme manipulation of matter and energy, high psionic ability, strong telekinesis, and the potential to exist beyond the boundaries of the known physical universe.) and the physical manifestation of the cosmic Phoenix Force. " I remember the character being overwhelmed because in her ability of being able to feel the suffering of others she was feeling the pain of the whole world, and also her struggle with not letting her great powers turn her over to the "dark side". (Once I left home, I did not keep up with the series, and from what I read on the wikipedia article, she did become overcome by her dark side, though she managed to bring herself back eventually.) Anyhow, even though Jean Grey is a fictional character, I can see the similarities in what she has to deal with and what we have to deal with. (Makes me wonder where her creators got their ideas from, right? Since one can only write about what one knows) Many of us have spoken about the issue of picking up vibes in rooms full of people and how it can be so immensely draining to us. However, as I was thinking about this the other day, it struck me that if we managed to find a way of not "internalising" these emotions to the degree that we do, this "ability" would be quite an asset to have. These "vibes" give us a lot of information about people, we can "read" how people really feel about other people and whether they're an honest person or not. All of this info is really valuable, and it should help us. Instead, we berate ourselves because we feel that having a bad gut feeling about someone is bad. That somehow, we must be bad for thinking that about someone else. But I'm sure you know by now, that the gut is never wrong. At least mine has never been wrong, no matter how much I tried to talk myself out of it, or how long it took for the truth to emerge.
Another common theme, not just with Jean Grey, but actually, with most of the characters in the series, is their difficulties with learning to "harness" their powers once they realise they have them. Also their unhappiness at being "different". We can relate to that too. Still, maybe the lesson here is that, it all depends on how we look at these "cards" we've been handed. We can learn to use them to our advantage and for good, or we can use them to do damage and let them destroy us. The choice is ours. 

Friday, 18 October 2013

I-You Versus I-It

       For the most part, whenever someone would mention my sister to me, invariably they would say: "She ignores me" and I would respond:"Yep, that's my sister: if she has no use for you...she's not interested".
       I felt there was something intensely de-humanising in treating people this way, as if they were mere pieces of machinery. You always felt sort of lifeless after interacting with someone like that, whereas with other people I felt energised after spending time with them. I remember discussing this with various friends and acquaintances, but I seemed to be the only one who was aware of this "effect". Most of my interlocutors would look at me as if they hadn't the faintest idea of what I was talking about. I had started wondering whether I was "imagining" all this, when I found an explanation in the book ("When You're Falling, Dive" by Mark Matousek) that I was reading at the time. 
       It seems to me that certain books have a way of "finding" me instead of me finding them. At times when I was feeling really stuck and not being able to move forward, I would either be browsing in a book shop and some book would catch my eye, or someone would come along and lend me a book; and in that book there would be something to help me move along in the path. This was one of those books. (It is not an easy book to read. Some of the stories are brutal and Matousek does not shelter the reader from them, but although harrowing, it has a raw honesty that you don't find in many books. He tells you the truth that you don't want to hear: that there is no way around pain but through.)
        In one of the chapters in the book, "The Net of Indra", he interviews Dan Goleman, who discusses some points of his book "Social Intelligence". Dan Goleman explains that "the brain itself is social" and  "One person's inner state affects and drives the other person. We're forming brain-to-brain bridges -a two way traffic system- all the time. We actually catch each other's emotions like a cold". He then goes on to say that "If we're in distressing, toxic relationships with people who are constantly putting us down, this has actual physical consequences. Stress produces cortisol, a chemical that hinders cell health." So there it was: the explanation of why some people would make me feel ill, literally. It is so reassuring to the soul to be validated, and to realise that all those feelings that you had, you weren't imagining them: they were an actual process taking place. That was validation 1, now for nr 2... 
    As the chapter continues, Goleman goes on to describe two types of relationships: "the I-It and the I-YOU (first described by the philosopher Martin Buber). I-it relationships happen when we treat people as objects or functionaries because we want something from them. In I-YOU relationships, there's a human connection. There's feedback, a loop, because who the other person is, and what they have to say, matters."  

Monday, 23 September 2013

Small Talk

             I have a confession to make: I have not set foot in our local supermarket for at least over a year. I've shopped online or in the next town. Why? Because I just cannot bear the thought of having to make small talk with my sister's flying monkeys should I bump into them. And quite likely I would. We live in a very small town. Whereas I have been facing a lot of other situations pretty much head on, this one still beats me. It's turning out to be my Achilles heel.

             Blogger RTB has written a few posts about small talk recently ( that got me thinking as to why we all seem to struggle so much with this issue. After musing on it for a few days, the answer emerged: it's not small talk that is the problem. The problem is to have to keep doing small talk when you are well past the point of being at that stage with that person. It was RTB's realisation that sometimes there is something such as too much information, that made me think that small talk itself was not the problem. Let me explain:
            When you first meet someone (and/or in certain circumstances in public life) small talk is appropriate. But after a certain reasonable time of knowing a person, you should be able to move on to more open discussions. To have to keep doing small talk with people you have known for years isn't natural. It's like playing a board game where you never make it past square one, or like being invited to someone's house for dinner and only being given a starter but never a main meal. From those two scenarios you'd go away bored and hungry, and I think that's what happens at an emotional level when we have those sorts of interactions with people. In a way, it's also like being stuck in "Groundhog Day" (film), with people repeating the same things over and over like a protocol. It also reminds me of the Stepford Wives film. There is a woman I have known for years and both DH and I have noticed how, if we say anything that remotely strays from the "protocol", you can see in her eyes that you've lost her, her brain is starting to "malfunction" and you quickly have to "undo", so she doesn't spontaneously combust ;) Though we always have a laugh about this, I think it's very sad to live your life at that superficial level all the time...
           I was recently on a train trip and I took "The Tenant of Widlfell Hall" by Anne Brontë to read with me. I was blown away reading how the main character -Helen Graham- feels exactly how I feel about small talk:

(In this excerpt Helen is having a conversation with Mr. Markham) 

'Why have they left you alone?' I (Mr. Markham) asked.

'It is I who have left them,' was the smiling rejoinder. 'I was wearied to death with small talk - nothing wears me out like that. I cannot imagine how they can go on as they do.'
I could not help smiling at the serious depth of her wonderment.

'Is it that they think it a duty to be continually talking,' pursued she: 'and so never pause to think, but fill up with aimless trifles and vain repetitions when subjects of real interest fail to present themselves? - or do they really take a pleasure in such discourse?'

'Very likely they do,' said I; 'their shallow minds can hold no great ideas, and their light heads are carried away by trivialities that would not move a better-furnished skull; - and their only alternative to such discourse is to plunge over head and ears into the slough of scandal - which is their chief delight.'

'Not all of them, surely?' cried the lady, astonished at the bitterness of my remark.

'No, certainly; I exonerate my sister from such degraded tastes - and my mother too, if you included her in your animadversions.'

'I meant no animadversions against any one, and certainly intended no disrespectful allusions to your mother. I have known some sensible persons great adepts in that style of conversation when circumstances impelled them to it; but it is a gift I cannot boast the possession of. I kept up my attention on this occasion as long as I could, but when my powers were exhausted I stole away to seek a few minutes' repose in this quiet walk. I hate talking where there is no exchange of ideas or sentiments, and no good given or received.'

I wouldn't have been able to put it better myself...

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Those Who Dish It Out...

         On the day I met El Zorro, he said to us:  "When I was in my mid-thirties I started to tell the truth whether people liked or not, and it made me feel a lot better." We commended him for this, and agreed that this was the best policy. It wouldn't take us long to realise that he likes to tell the truth to others, but to have the truth told to him? Nah, no so much... 
          One morning after breakfast he was trying to wind me up about something (I can't remember what it was now. I'm really going to have to start taking daily notes on the things that happen...) Anyway, not only I'm not picking up his bait but I shrug my shoulders as if to say: "Whateva...". He then looks at me, not looking very happy, and says: "This dismissive gesture... I didn't like it at all". I smiled and said: "well, you did say you always wanted the truth, didn't you?" 
          It seems to me that a lot of people who make a big song and dance about truth, when it comes to the truth about themselves, well, that's entirely another story, and not one they're particularly keen to hear...

On another note, the weekend after this happened, my friend calls me and says: "Guess what? Don Diego has a new girlfriend!" Well, that's interesting, for someone who made such a noise about telling the truth, he didn't mention this "interest" of his, not once for the whole weekend. I said to my friend: "what? an instant girlfriend?  just add water...?  ;)"

Friday, 13 September 2013

If You're Not Nice To The Waiter...

        I had seen this quote in various places, but until this summer I had never met a person who was -literally- not nice to the waiter (not nice to other people, yes, but not nice to a waiter/waitress, never). The guy that I mentioned in previous posts -El Zorro- was absolutely horrendous to waiters/waitresses (or anybody in a position of service for that matter). It was not overt enough that you could pull him up on it, but appalling enough to make one cringe. I had never seen anything quite like it before, it was something I didn't think it existed anymore: he would treat them with an air of superiority, like they did in Victorian times, when people actually had servants, and with a horrible subtle snobbishness, arrogance, cruelty even... 
       To say that this guy had massive issues is an understatement: a psychiatrist would have a field day with him. Every evening he would have a two hour "mini-depression"; but I don't think it was real depression (people who are truly depressed don't go round advertising the fact to someone they've just met the day before), no, I think he was feeling bad about himself -and rightly so- because our bodies know the truth about ourselves, and if one is going around being so awful to some people -even thought they might be very charming to others- somehow it can't be entirely suppressed, at some point, it leaks out. 
     I felt really sorry for the guy -not in a compassionate way, but more in a "what a sad way to live" sort of way, because to live your life in that dimension, where it's all about looking good, making money, impressing people, and miss out on having true friendships, and kindness and love, is the worse life I can think of.       

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Mind The Gap

I guess it's only human that our words and our actions don't always match, and as long as we aren't too deluded, and we're trying, like Kitty put it once, "to match our insides to our outsides", we can cut ourselves and others some slack for that. But if the gap between what someone says and what they do is huge, that's when we seriously need to MIND THE GAP ;)

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Learning to Pick One's Battles

Dealing with "El Zorro" I had an opportunity to practise another valuable skill: choosing what "battles" to fight and which ones to let go by the wayside.

One evening we were talking about Van Gogh, (Don Diego paints as a hobby and has had his work exhibited.) I mentioned that I had gone to an exhibition of Van Gogh's letters and how I had been touched by a letter he wrote to his sister. He immediately butts in: "Van Gogh didn't have a sister! He had a brother, Theo, but no sisters. I've read two of his biographies and there was no mention of him having any sisters". Whereas ordinarily this had the potential of turning into one of those "yes, he did" "no, he didn't" obnoxious sort of argument, I thought to myself: let's go about this another way. I say: "Van Gogh DID have a sister, I'm not going to argue about it. Look it up" 
The next day he gets his phone out and starts typing. With a triumphant smile he says: "well, I'm typing it and it's not coming up right away." Then his face changes completely as he says, while sinking deeper into his seat: "Oh, Van Gogh did have a sister..."

Sometime later, he asks me what I do for work. I say: "I don't work." He says:"I don't agree with that" I was very tempted to bluntly say: "do you think I care what someone I met only yesterday thinks of what I do?" but instead I reply: "Why do you say that? What is your basis for thinking that?" He replies: "I think women should bring money home every month" I say: "But I do, I make interest from managing money" "No, that doesn't count" he retorts. "By all means, you're entitled to your opinion" I say with a unflinching smile and a tone that says "I am not at all bothered by your opinion" and I stop there. It is obvious that this is a gripe about his ex-wife and he's not interested in learning about my circumstances or reasons for not working, and that he just wants an excuse to have a rant. Which I did not give him ;) 

One evening after we get to the villa, he says he's going to jump in the pool before we go out for dinner.  I was not,  because by then the sun had gone in and my hair takes forever to dry and I didn't want to go for dinner with wet hair. I say as much and then he says: "oh, I get it, you women don't want us men to see you in a bikini because of complexes and all that" ( he includes my friend in this even though she's already said she's going to jump in the pool too- her hair dries in minutes). Both my friend and I look at him and say: "what kind of women do you hang out with? we're not like that at all." And I didn't feel like I had to go in the pool to re-inforce my point. I remembered that in the book The Gift Of Fear it mentioned how men sometimes use such statements as a form of manipulation. So I didn't fall for it. In the book it calls it "typecasting", it says: "a man labels a woman in some slightly critical way, hoping she'll feel compelled to prove his opinion is not accurate." "Not that it matters what some stranger thinks anyway, but the typecaster doesn't even believe what he says is true. He just believes that it will work."

While we're driving to dinner we start discussing books. He tells us a bit about the book he's currently reading and then he says ( in a way designed to impress us): when I finish this one I'm going to read a self-help book called "Your Erroneous Zones", have you heard about it? 
"Yeah", we say at unison, "we read it 20 years ago."

The next day, we were walking about in the town, and we see a Kiehl's shop. He looks at us all serious and says: "This shop makes bespoke perfume". I know for a fact that Kiehl's don't do perfume -at least in Europe they don't, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong - but by this point, I wasn't going to spend any energy in correcting him ;) 

Monday, 29 July 2013

Outwitting El Zorro

          While I was away visiting friends over the last couple of weeks, I met a guy -an acquaintance of one of my friends- who gave me plenty of opportunities to practice all these skills we've been discussing for the last few months. I have quite a lot to write about him -since he was such an interesting case- but for now I'll just tell you about this one incident.
          This guy joined us for a weekend away and made an entrance that reminded me of a man with a cape dashing in on horseback. Not that he literally did that but that's the image he conjured in my mind. I have noticed for the last year how new Ns I've met all seem to make this sort of entrance: noisy and creating a centrifugal force around them, almost like a tornado. I now think this is a trick designed to create a distraction so you believe their image of a "hero" when in reality they're a villain in disguise. 
          One day while we're all having breakfast he blurts out:  "There are no women geniuses, men can have that mixture of genius and madness but women can't".
          Remembering T Reddy's DH's tip of asking clarifying questions, I say:

"Why do you say that?"

He replies:"Women can give birth to children, so they couldn't have it all. So no, they can't be geniuses as well."

"Define genius" I say.

He fumbles with his phone and googles it. Then, looking ominous, he says: "you can't define genius" and then reads from wikipedia's article: "There is no scientifically precise definition of genius, and the question of whether the notion itself has any real meaning has long been a subject of debate."Still, I insist that there are no women geniuses."

I say: "How did you come up with this idea? Is this something that you've come to the conclusion of or have you actually read about it somewhere?"

Don Diego -we might as well call him by the name of el Zorro ;) - replies:

"Simone de Beauvior said it" 

I say: "Do you know why she said it? Did she do a study on it? Did she offer any backing for that assertion? Because really, unless you have any empirical proof, that statement is sort of moot."

He looks at me slightly confused and says:
"The only proof that I will give you is that if you think about it long enough you'll realise that it's true."

"That's not proof. In any case, you know very well that women throughout history have not had the same opportunities as men."

"They do now and there are no women geniuses"

"Nor there are men. Name a contemporary genius."

Silence. He can't come up with one. He's sinking lower in his chair. "But Simone de Beauvior said it."

"Just because someone says something, doesn't mean it's true, unless you have any real proof of this, it'll will just be your opinion but not a fact".

He goes back to insist that if I think about it long enough I'll change my mind but he's looking down and not at me while he says it. I realise that he's saying this more to convince himself than to convince me. I have disabled his argument and he knows it. 

A day later he pipes out: "I have to admit that you're the closest thing to a genius I've ever met in real life..." 

El Zorro -0, Kara and friends -1, and two, three, four... We lost count in the end of how many times we beat him. The guy didn't know what hit him. He's a good looking, well dressed, suave sort of guy who quite clearly impresses most women; he was not used to women who would challenge his assertions and not take his every word as fact.

And for the record, we weren't mean or horrible as we beat him: we simply counteracted his arguments fairly and squarely, which is more that I can say about the way he treated waiters... (and there's enough material there for a whole other post :P)

Saturday, 22 June 2013

A Different Take on "The Wizard of Oz"

Can you believe that until yesterday, I had never seen the film "The Wizard of Oz"? I was very curious to see it because of all the references that have been used by other bloggers in connection with Narcissism. However, what I took from the film was entirely different. As I was watching it, it dawned on me that the three elements one needs to fight Narcissism are also there: a brain, a heart and courage.

It's interesting that the characters needing those things appear in that order: because a brain is needed first, to work out what is going on, a heart second, to be able to feel what we have been numbing for so long and courage last, to be to stand up for ourselves.
You can't have courage unless you have a heart first because courage comes from the heart. 

courage (n.) Look up courage at
c.1300, from Old French corage (12c., Modern French courage) "heart, innermost feelings; temper," from Vulgar Latin *coraticum (source of Italian coraggio, Spanish coraje), from Latin cor "heart" (see heart) which remains a common metaphor for inner strength. 

Monday, 3 June 2013

What Self-Help Books Don't Tell You...

Kitty left a comment on one of my earlier posts so brilliant it deserves its own post:

"The vast majority of self-help books, IMO, not only don't tell how, but they gloss over the complexity of the process. I suppose that's because nobody can make any money saying "this process involves an entire sea change in how you view yourself, the world, your family, relationships, spirituality, personal growth, and everything you know to be true. You will have to get into the habit of questioning your self-identity, your assumptions, what you've been taught, how you've been taught it, and the emotional repercussions of it all. You will also have to learn some basic psychology, challenge your narcissism, work to increase your self-awareness, and deal with your fears, anxieties, and those pesky repressed emotions that are causing the problems in the first place." LOL! Nobody wants to hear that stuff!"

Boy, isn't this the truth...

Thursday, 23 May 2013


         Recently, a guy I know was telling me he'd been suffering with RLS (Restless legs syndrome) and that his doctor had told him not to have any foods rich in calcium, such as milk or tuna, indefinitely. I didn't tell the guy, but I thought that his doctor's solution was pretty lame. So when I went home, I researched how calcium is absorbed by the body. I found that the body uses magnesium as a vehicle to transport calcium to the places where is needed. So if there is insufficient magnesium in the body, calcium piles up in all the wrong places, like people turning up at a bus stop and no bus ever showing up to take them to where they are meant to go. When I saw the guy again I told him about my findings and to try to take some magnesium and see if it made a difference, and what do you know? A short time later he came to me and said that the problem was solved and he was sleeping again. ( I seriously don't know how his doctor couldn't have told him this, it literally took me less than 5 minutes to find this information. You'd think doctors would have a basic knowledge of how minerals and vitamins are absorbed by the body, but there you are...)
         Anyway, I hadn't given this incident any more thought until I wrote the post on supplements and reviewed my original post on the connection between magnesium and maternal neglect. And here's the thing: this guy's mother left him and his father when he was young. I don't really know all the particulars, but I doubt very much this is just a coincidence. According to wikipedia, RLS is a neurological disorder for which the exact cause is not known. It seems to me that there's a strong connection between neurological disorders which have no known cause and dysfunctional upbringing. All the people I know who suffer with autoimmune disease have a similar background: physical or emotional abandonment by one or two of the parents. It's like a blueprint, and once you know about it, it's not hard to find the common thread. 
     The first time I came across this idea was when I was doing research to find how to calm tense muscles and unexpectedly bumped into this:

in The Soul of Remedies Rajan Sankaran writes,

“The magnesium feeling is that the person doesn’t get the care, protection and nourishment that he needs. It is the state of an infant dependent on the mother for nourishment, care, security and support, but who has been abandoned by his parents. It is the feeling of an orphan...In most Magnesium carbonicum patients there is a total repression – they feel that they should not make any demands on anyone, should not ask anyone for help. In this way, they may seem to be independent...Another feature of the dreams of Magnesium is that in many of these, there is a feeling of being alone, of having to face a problem alone.
Among those homeopathic remedies made from magnesium compounds such as magnesium carbonate and magnesium chloride, one of the central themes of magnesium is repressed internal anxiety and insecurity. A second main theme of magnesium is the emotional desire for strong parental nurturing and protection, especially from the mother, in order to survive. Homeopath Dr. Rajan Sankaran in The Substance Of Homeopathy writes regarding the magnesium type: “These feelings in the adult seem so out of place that they have to be repressed, but they continue to be active in the subconscious, producing tremendous internal anxiety, the cause of which the patient cannot exactly pinpoint…The feeling is of being forsaken and alone, and very needy of protection.”
Magnesium individuals often have a history of being neglected or made to feel unwanted as children. They often have anxieties about being vulnerable, alone or abandoned although these emotions are frequently, but incompletely, repressed. The general link between blue chamomile and the central themes of internal anxiety and insecurity is the feeling of historically not receiving enough attention from those he is dependent upon.
In the compensated state, the magnesium individual may so effective repress the artifacts of these issues that they appear unaffected and self-reliant and display a competence in caring for others in a maternal nurturing way. However, the repressed anxiety and other feelings readily diffuses into the person’s dream’s manifesting as dreams of such things as dangerous situations, falling, feeling of aloneness, feeling of having to face a challenging or dangerous situation alone, children, being with dead relatives and the death of relatives.
Whenever using blue chamomile oil to help relieve anxiety, supplemental magnesium may prove to be a valuable synergist. In this reference, it is important to bear in mind that vitamin D is required for optimal assimilation of magnesium.
         I don't know why maternal neglect translates into magnesium deficiency, I wish there was more research into the physical effects of emotional neglect on the human body.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Red Herrings

    Dr. Wilson's book on Adrenal Fatigue tells the case of a woman who was finding it difficult to recover from it. This woman had "several energy suckers in her life, including her mother" and she felt guilty if she did not have regular contact with them. Sound familiar?  His prescription was to eliminate contact with these energy suckers and to absolutely minimise contact with the mother. She was not to speak to her mother for more than three minutes at a time and only twice per week. He then goes on to say: "Although these energy suckers were not the major factors causing her adrenal fatigue, until they were removed, she was not able to recover"

I strongly disagree with his statement. I am convinced that "these energy suckers" WERE the MAJOR factors causing the AF. 

   A family I know have a son and a daughter in their late twenties, the son is an alcoholic and has been off work for depression for the last couple of years. The daughter is very overweight and is constantly yo-yo dieting, losing the weight and putting three times more on when she re-gains it. As far as the parents are concerned, the son's problems are his doing and the daughter has a weight problem because she has "celiac disease". I know three other people with celiac disease, and lo and behold, they all have emotionally unavailable fathers/husbands. The father in the family mentioned above is also emotionally unavailable. My father also was (and is) emotionally unavailable. My conclusion is that all these issues that are blamed as the problem, i.e. alcohol, obesity, depression, allergies, food intolerances, psoriasis, and constant fatigue, etc. are not the problem but a consequence of the root problem, which is: dealing with pathological people who either make your life misery or constantly withhold what they should be giving naturally. While I am willing to allow for the "correlation isn't always causation" principle and concede that maybe not all cases of those problems mentioned above are caused by difficult family relations, in all the cases I personally know of, I can find this common element. Maybe the issue is cloudy for the professionals because every person's body reacts differently, i.e. as in the case of the family mentioned above, perhaps if both children struggled with alcohol, the source of the problem would be more obvious. It is also a lot more work for a doctor to try to put all the factors together to get the real picture. In all the years since my brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia, not once has any doctor asked to see any of the other family members. I guess it's a lot easier for them to deal with the symptoms that to try to get to the root of the problem...

Monday, 6 May 2013

The Cracked Vessel

While checking the link on Adrenal Fatigue that CZBZ put in her comment to the post On Supplements I came across this:
"Exposure to other people’s pathology (and the corresponding emotional, physical/sexual abuse) can, and often does, give other people stress disorders, including PTSD.  Our psychological and emotional systems are simply not wired for long-term exposure to someone else’s abnormal psychology.  Often the result is a conglomeration of ‘aftermath’ symptoms that include PTSD, which is described as ‘a normal reaction to an abnormal life event.’

The profound and long-term effects of PTSD create what I refer to as a ‘cracked vessel.’  The fragmentation caused by the trauma creates a crack in the emotional defense system of the person.  While treatment can ‘glue the crack back together’, and the vessel can once again function as a vessel, if pressure is applied to the crack, the vase will split apart again."
It shed light on why as soon as life gets too hectic or I am dealing with too many "arrows" at once, I crash. Badly. I lose all the energy in my body. I am unable to move. It's as if the body has "yanked" me out of life into a "repair workshop" and I am not allowed to move until the work is done. DH said to me yesterday that my problem is that I don't stop when I'm tired, and I had to agree. It makes sense that the inner compass in my body just takes the reigns and makes me stop whether I want it or not. One of the articles in the website discussed the need for people who have been through trauma to "live a gentler live". Can I live a "gentler life"? Looks like I'm going to have to learn how to. No point being so busy and then crashing so badly that you can't do anything for days. 
On this last crash I was so drained I couldn't even write but I was able to sketch a little. I was going to attempt to do a sketch inspired by the painting in the post on The Cracked Vessel, and in Modigliani's style for CZBZ -whose profile is a painting of Modigliani- for sharing the link. So I had one go and it was ok, but I wasn't exactly what I wanted. Then I had another idea: to sketch Jeanne Hébuterne  with her dress as a cracked vessel, and this is what came out:

Saturday, 27 April 2013

SALT and Other Food Issues

        When I was finally able to pin down my lack of energy to Adrenal Fatigue, I was surprised to find out that the book on the subject recommended salt for people who had low blood pressure. Of course, when you think about it makes sense that if salt brings up people's high blood pressure the opposite would also be true. However, the standard advice on food it's that everybody should stay as clear of salt as possible. And this is the fundamental problem with the advice we get on food: the idea that one rule fits all. The other big problem that I see is that there is no evidence whatsoever for a lot of the recommendations that are made. 
         Case in point: A few years ago I was having coffee with some acquaintances and I mentioned that the day before I had cooked a Nigel Slater recipe: cod fried in butter with lemon and mash. The two women I was talking to, who are roughly about 15 years older, looked at me with shock and horror and said -in a lamenting and snooty british accent (Think Violet in Downton Abbey): "Oh, but we haven't touched butter in years... " I looked at them and I didn't have the heart to reply with the thought that crossed my mind: "Well... it  looks like not having butter is not making any difference to your size..." 
        That was the beginning of my questioning any dietary advice given by "the food police" (like Nigel Slater calls them). What I couldn't get my head round was that: there they were, following all the "rules" of healthy eating and still being overweight and struggling to keep it down and there I was, paying not one bit of attention to any of those rules: eating what I liked and not exercising, and still being a dress size 6 (UK) (US size 2). It just didn't make any sense. Every single person I knew who was on a low-fat diet was overweight and every single thin person I knew didn't do low-fat . That couldn't be a coincidence. So, if what the medical profession was saying about low-fat food wasn't true, what else wasn't true? I started wondering about everything I knew about food and to investigate the matter further. In the end I came to the conclusion that most studies are flawed exactly for the reasons that Kitty explained in her comment on the previous post, that :
The complexity of controlling variables for nutrition studies must make it almost impossible to get good data."

So if studies are not a reliable source of information, what else do we have? Well, I my case, I have the history of my family. Let's start with my grandparents who lived to their mid 80s and my grandmothers, who died at 94 and 97 respectively. And here is the thing: in the village where my paternal parents are from, according to the dietary advice we get: they should all be dead. The amount of salt they put on their food is huge, well, put it this way: my aunt didn't just put a pinch of salt on the salad, she would chuck a whole fist full of salt. Their main meat was pork, which was preserved in olive oil in clay jars. Sometimes chicken and rabbit.  Occasionally lamb. Wild hare, partridge and quail while the hunting season lasted. No fish or seafood, or very rarely, since they are about 400 miles from the sea. They grew potatoes and vegetables. They ate white bread with everything. Deep fried everything. (My paternal grandmother didn't even own an oven). They didn't walk a lot: this village is so small, it takes just over 5 minutes to get to the furthest end. But there they were, unknowingly disobeying every rule of modern eating and defiantly living to their hundreds. As far as I know everyone from that generation living in the village died of old, not of disease or cancer or heart attacks. And except for one widow, everybody was thin. The next generation (my parents' generation) are not doing so great, but what's different? they all yo-yo diet.  They also all eat very fast. 
Now let's have a look at the other set of grandparents. Their diet was quite different. Where they lived was not right by the seaside but was close enough to have all sorts of fish and seafood available. They also lived in a area of green pastures so they had beef, milk and butter available. Lots of different types of cheese too. Stews with chorizo, pork belly, potatoes and collard greens. My maternal grandparents didn't stay in that village for the whole of their lives (unlike the other set, who did), they moved to a big city in their 40s. So for those who think that it was the quiet village life that made the difference... nope. This city is so noisy that people who are born in it have hearing damage by the time they get to their twenties, and the pace of life is so fast that when one of my cousins (on my father's side) visited for the first time (she must have been about 12) she asked me why people were running! They weren't running, they were walking, (similar to the NY pace) but to her, our walking was running. 
My parents diet is a combination of the two. My mother is a great believer of variety. They eat all types of fish and meats, plenty of vegetables, beans and pulses. Milk and yogurt. Lots of bread (my father will not eat a meal unless there's bread to go with it :P) Lots of fruit. Sounds healthy, doesn't it? Well,  let me tell you that they are both very overweight, even though they don't eat sweets or cakes or biscuits of any kind. On the other hand they are strong as oxen and are never ill (nor were my grandparents ever ill for that matter); well, my father gets a permanent cold every winter when he has the flu vaccine (he never had colds before) but that's a whole other story...

So quite frankly, my conclusion is that a lot of the issues that are blamed on food (such as hypertension, cholesterol, allergies, etc) have nothing to do with food. Weight gain is a lot more complex than the press makes it out to be. For most of history, lack of food was the main reason that people got ill and died before old age. My bet is that most of the medical conditions that are blamed on food are actually a result of emotional distress (subject for a whole other post really). 
Food does have a part to play in health, because what we eat becomes us, so to find good quality food it's important. The main thing is to have common sense. One rule does not fit all. People who live in cold countries need different food than people living in hot countries. I see people in the UK who diet during winter and  get continuous colds, and in the worse cases, chest infections and bronchitis. It makes sense to eat cooling foods -like cucumber- when the weather is hot, and soups and stews when it's cold outside. A lot of the time our bodies tell us what we need, if we listen carefully. If something doesn't taste good to you, it's probably not good for you. That goes for salt too. Your taste should tell you how much you need. Like Kitty, I don't like the taste of table salt, so I have sea salt.  (Jessie asked what salt extracted by traditional methods was. I found a video of traditional saltmaking in Hawaii, which is pretty much the same as the traditional methods in Europe.)

      While the press likes to go on about healthy foods and is continually praising the Mediterranean diet as the holy grail of health, the fact remains that most people have to make do with what's available where they live. Also, the Japanese and a number of other nations are just as healthy as people in Mediterranean countries, so I take the press' love affair with the Mediterranean diet with a pinch of salt (no pun intended). 
     In theory, if our diet is generally healthy we shouldn't need any extra supplements, but I have found that when I'm dealing with stressful situations, food doesn't seem to be enough. I'm not sure why this is. There is a line of thought in the UK that the soil is not as rich in minerals as it was decades ago. They say that to have the equivalent in the nutrition that a carrot had in the 1950s, you'd have to eat 7 carrots now. I have also read that some supermarkets irradiate fresh vegetables to give them a longer shelf life. I don't know if it's true, but I once had a bag of carrots in my fridge draw that was there for four months and still looked like I had bought it the day before whereas the carrots I buy from an organic supplier start shrinking within a couple of weeks if we don't eat them. So maybe there is something to it. Maybe if we're eating healthy, the food is enough to get us going in our daily routines (and to produce hair, skin and nails and all other regeneration and functions of the body that seem to be forgotten by the people who measure food just in terms of calories...) but not enough for when there is extra-stress. Maybe there aren't enough nutrients in modern food to be stored up as reserves. Obviously something has changed, because when you read what prisoners were surviving on in Nazi concentration camps while doing a whole day of physical work in the snow and still kept going, makes no sense at all that we have so much available food and yet, so many have no energy. 
(If anyone has any theories on why this is, I'd be very interested to hear them.) 

Thursday, 25 April 2013

On Supplements

In my previous post CS asked what supplements are most effective. So here is a list of the ones I have found made the most difference to me:

Vitamin C
Helps to counteract the effects of stress as is an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory (good for those of us who suffer with allergies)

Magnesium Citrate with B6
Calms the nervous system.

Vitamin D
You need it to be able to absorb the magnesium properly.

The book "Adrenal Fatigue" by James L. Wilson has this to say on Ashwagandha:
"Because of its anti-inflammatory action, Ayurvedic physicians use it as the treatment of choice in rheumatic pains, inflammation of joints and other related conditions that commonly seen in states of Adrenal fatigue.
Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen. An adaptogen is any substance that helps the body function more towards its normal level, for example if cortisol is too high, it lowers it, and if it is too low, it raises it. Studies have shown Ashwagandha is capable of normalising cortisol levels whether they are too high or too low."

A lot of us seem to suffer with low blood pressure. Unrefined or salt obtained by traditional methods (I avoid commercial salt like the plague, it tastes awful), helps to bring up you blood pressure.  Also when we suffer with Adrenal Fatigue, we have too much potassium and not enough salt in our bodies; taking more salt helps to balance the levels.  

Some side notes:
There is a lot of debate on supplements as to whether they actually work or not. My take is that synthetic vitamins (which are the ones normally sold at health stores) don't work because the body doesn't recognise them. Finding natural vitamins takes quite a bit of work and research, and they are also more expensive than synthetic ones I'm afraid. This also goes for essential oils, I had used oils before and they did not have the same effect as the ones I'm using now, which I get from a therapist and not from a shop. 

Monday, 22 April 2013

Healing Tools 2: Essential Oils


"It was only in 1989, that scientists discovered the amygdala gland plays a major role in storing and releasing emotional trauma and therefore called the "seat of our emotions." The amygdala gland is the gatekeeper through which all sensory data to the brain are processed. The sensory data first goes to the amygdala gland where it is determined if this data needs to be sent to the adrenal glands first, for fight or flight, or on to the brain for further processing. It essentially processes knowledge about stimuli and situations that are of special importance to our survival. The amygdala is programmed to react without benefit of input from the thinking part of the brain. So, when we experience a traumatic situation, fear or any other unpleasant circumstances this is recorded in the amygdala first and then sent to rest of the body (i.e. adrenal glands or thinking brain) to be processed. Studies at New York Medical University proved this gland does not respond to sight, sound or touch but does respond through the sense of smell. Through our scents we now have a way to release stored emotional trauma in the amygdala gland and the rest of our body." (from )

Not long after I started blogging, I found an article that discussed the relationship between maternal neglect and lack of magnesium, which mentioned how blue chamomile essential oil  combined with magnesium and vitamin D helped to relieve anxiety. I tried the combination and it did work: I no longer feel the "hole" of not having a supportive mother. I can't quite tell you how it happened, all I know is that, gradually, the feeling disappeared. I think that's the thing with oils, they're very subtle but powerful at the same time. 
The link above has a fair amount of information. I have found the oils to be particularly useful when dealing with stressful situations. 

Friday, 19 April 2013

Don't Panic : A Guide For ACoNs

Most of the time when we have amygdala hijacks it's because of having to deal with situations that are triggering, and for which we don't have the tools to manage. Our body sends us a message to run because it doesn't know any other way to deal with them. Here are some tools I've learned over the course of the last year:

This I found on a forum on BDP, which is what I thought my mother had until I found NPD:;wap2

Do Not Justify
Do Not Argue
Do Not Defend
Do Not Explain Yourself
to a Narcissist or anyone with N tendencies, or anyone who attacks you, accuses you or tries to smear your reputation. Actually, come to think of it, let's add nosy and gossipy people to this list too. Oh, and trolls, cyber or otherwise.

3) SAY TO YOURSELF: "THEY CAN THINK WHAT THEY LIKE" * when you start taking care of yourself and you know that they won't approve. Let's face it, when we were killing ourselves to keep them happy, they still wouldn't approve of us, so what have you got to lose? 
This really works, it's like Narc "kryptonite". I now could not care less what my FOO think of me, or what my sister tells people about me. 

 *(credit to blogger CS from Caliban's Sisters for coming up with the concept)

4) Be Ready to Walk Away.
After we bought the car we have now, I was telling one of my friends, who is a salesman, that I hadn't liked the car salesman at all. He said to me: "ALWAYS be ready to walk away". Even though the advice was a bit late for the car,  I think it's applicable to people too if you want to maintain healthy boundaries.

5) Quickly Change The Subject when talking to jellyfish, that is, if you have to talk to them at all. I try to avoid them like the plague myself. (Jellyfish is the term that the character Bridget Jones uses to describe people who love making stinging comments. Blogger T Reddy @ In Bad Company brought this term to my attention, and it has been really handy.)

6) Respond, Don't React. Easier said than done, I'm afraid. So learn everything you can about the Art of the Response. There's a lot of books and articles which deal with the subject. Also check Kitty's post on Reactivity.

(This post is going to be a work in progress. If you have any more suggestions for the tool kit, let me know and I'll add them to the list.)